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In fact, this apparently narrow military chapter mentions both republics and laws more than ever in the Prince: XII, far more than in any other.
The word laws [legge] occurs only nine other times in the book, including three times in V; republic or republics only seven other times. The Prince does not say whether good laws are also necessary for good princely arms; perhaps no laws are needed to regulate captains, if the prince himself is captain?
Machiavelli mentions the difference between methods suitable for princes and republics in passing, but does not directly discuss the obvious next question: In republics, good military orders have built-in procedures for changing incompetent or overambitious captains.
But what if a prince who makes himself captain proves incompetent, overambitious, or otherwise unworthy? Security will depend on the good luck of having a prince who is a highly competent captain, and of his remaining good over time.
And if by rare chance one man meets these criteria throughout his own life, the chances that his successors will do so are miniscule.
Republics, by contrast, can select the best men for the job out of a wide pool of able citizens, and replace them if they step out of bounds, or if changed circumstances call for a man of different humours and talents D I.
The Swiss are very well armed and very free.
Their absence here reinforces the impression that Machiavelli wants to drive home the special military merits of republics. His examples suggest that good arms and political freedom go hand in hand; you are unlikely to maintain one for long without the other.
Republics have better arms partly because of the primacy they give to laws over the special claims of individual men, including princes, and partly because citizen soldiers are more willing to die for their leaders. Not wanting to offend princely readers, Machiavelli does not spell out these implications; those who draw the consequences of what they read can work them out for themselves. The irony of anyone using all their industry and virtuoso ordering powers to avoid hard work would be laughable — if the results were not so devastating.
These qualities give security and firmness to the products of virtuoso actions. Here Machiavelli tells us that mercenaries have used what they had of these qualities to produce a situation of instability, disorder, and poor discipline, with the aim of avoiding trouble and dangers — that is, avoiding industria.
This raises serious questions about what actions and qualities deserve to be called virtuoso. This philosophical theme will be further developed in the next two chapters. The first, Cesare Borgia, began to conquer Romagna with French auxiliaries. Machiavelli concludes the chapter with an apparently simple solution to all the military problems he has mentioned.
Are the four examples all equally good models for new princes to imitate?
Machiavelli prefaces his discussion of both with a general statement: As ever in the Prince, such general statements should be taken seriously and applied to evaluate particular cases, even those that Machiavelli seems to praise.
This was suggested in the earlier Hiero-Borgia juxtaposition in chs. VII that it managed to hold for a whole month afterward in Romagna, as if a month without serious revolt could count as evidence of firm foundations! In the former they are subject to the whims of individual monarchs who may decide to dissolve them; in republics they are founded on independent laws and orders that underwrite their longevity, and protect them from corruption.
The chapter ends with a final puzzle: The only other mention of Philip in the Prince occurs in ch. XII, where he was presented not as an example of military self-reliance, but as a foreign captain who took the liberty from the Thebans who enlisted his aid.
More promising clues as to why he adds Philip are found in the Discourses.
By the end of his prematurely shortened life he only went out flanked by a private armed guard of a thousand men — a classic hallmark of a prince-turned-tyrant who cannot trust his own people. Despite his fearsome retinue, Philip was killed outdoors by a mere youth.
They lack firm foundations because the industry and discipline that produces them is used to strengthen one man alone. The examples of Philip and Cesare Borgia underline the need for princes to discriminate carefully before they rush to imitate what looks impressive on first appearances. At first glance, so does the content. Perhaps the best princes are first and foremost military leaders? It opens with a series of egregious overstatements: Such exaggerated emphasis on military priorities makes one wonder why Machiavelli bothers to discuss any of the wider political themes broached in the Prince.
Then there are the platitudes, which fly at the reader thick and fast: Such oddities should not be passed over in haste, but taken as an invitation to pause and consider possible reasons why Machiavelli put them there.
Readers can already start this kind of exercise by reading the works Machiavelli alludes to here, following the hints given in this very chapter.
A prince should always be out hunting: His remarks about the advantages of gaining detailed knowledge cognizione of sites are even more puzzling. The Discourses make a nearly identical, paradoxical claim about the general military value of knowing one site in III. A first key to a solution might be found in ancient texts that treat hunting and knowledge of sites as complex metaphors, linking them to military and other forms of knowledge.
Here the initial military purpose of hunting is subtly expanded to include exercises in serving the public good, and careful self-examination. If so, he may have wanted to signal that his advice in this chapter treats good military defences as inseparable from good civil orders and the kind of deep, critical self-knowledge that the ancients called philosophical.
Like Plato a student of Socrates, Xenophon also treats hunting as an extended metaphor in his deceptively practical essay On Hunting. Well-armed with these mutually supportive kinds of knowledge, they protect fellow citizens against any wild human animals who refuse to stay within the bounds of law and justice — the tyrannical individuals who threaten cities from inside as well as without.
The best huntsmen and huntswomen are able to check tyrants before they grow too strong to control, because through constant reasoning with others they have learned not to trust appearances when judging whether men and actions are virtuous. The essay ends by saying that huntsmen should include huntswomen.
If so, this might account for the otherwise unusual repetition of cognizione, a word Machiavelli always uses for highly reflective forms of general knowledge, not for know-how skills or the understanding of particulars for which he tends to use notizia and the verb intendere, to understand, rather than conoscere, to know. His example of a leader who practised hunting to good military effect, Philopoemen, strengthens the suspicion that he wants to draw attention to the intellectual and ethical benefits of hunting.
If we consult some of the writers who Machiavelli says praised Philopoemen, we soon discover more such echoes. Some are military in the narrower sense: As Machiavelli had done a few years earlier for Florence, forming his citizen militia despite hostility from many patrician ottimati.
Other implications are political. The League BC was a confederation of Greek cities and kingdoms formed to defend the independence of each against encroachments by aggressively expanding empires, notably the Macedonian and Roman. Tellingly, in D II. Polybius praises Philopoemen as the last Greek statesman to stand up to Roman bullying.
Again, the overt emphasis is narrowly military: Caesar, Alexander; Scipio, Cyrus. In all these fields, the highest virtue consists in self-control; the well-educated hunter learns when to stop pursuing his game as well as how to capture it. As ruler, he continues to show an obsession with chasing game, only now the human kind — expanding his empire far and wide, and neglecting matters close to home.
In his own lifetime Cyrus was so skilled in the arts of persuasion that his subjects seem secure and happy. Il Principe.
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