niccolo machiavelli: history

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March 12th 1507: Cesare Borgia dies

On this day in 1507, the Italian nobleman Cesare Borgia died aged 31. His parents were Rodrigo Borgia, who went on to become Pope Alexander VI 1492, and his mistress Vannozza dei Cattanei. Due to his high birth and rank, Cesare Borgia held multiple prominent positions throughout his life, including positions as Duke of Valentinois, Vatican cardinal, and general of the church’s armies. Often portrayed as a vicious man notorious for womanising and cruelty, Borgia was hungry for power and had numerous people assassinated to secure his position. After his father’s death, he lost the protection of the Vatican and was arrested for refusing to cooperate with the new Pope. Spending some years evading papal forces, Borgia was eventually killed trying to storm a castle in Viana, Spain. Cesare Borgia features heavily in Niccolò Machiavelli’s famous 1532 work ‘The Prince’, which discusses the nature of political power. Machiavelli admired Borgia, and in ‘The Prince’ advised politicians to follow his example.

“Here lies in little earth one who was feared by all, who held peace and war in his hand”
- inscription on Borgia’s tomb in Viana, which has since been demolished and his remains moved by bishops who were horrified by his sins


Da Vinci, Machiavelli, and the maniacal plan to destroy Pisa

Niccolo Machiavelli was a famous Italian Renaissance writer, philosopher, and politician who was a powerful high official in Florence.  Today, Machiavelli is most famous for his political beliefs, which many see as advocating manipulation, duplicity, lies, intrigue and deception when conducting politics.  Often, the actions of many scuzzy politicians are referred to as Machiavellian in nature.  In 1503, Machiavelli would come up with one of his most Machiavellian schemes.  At the time, Pisa was a great rival of Florence, and the two city states were almost constantly in a state of war.  Pisa is located along the Arno river, downstream from Florence.  Because of it’s position, Pisa could prevent Florence from accessing the sea.  Thus, Machiavelli came up with an audacious, if not maniacal plan; to redirect the Arno River away from Pisa.  Without water, Pisa would wilt away into oblivion while Florence would become a major Italian port city.  Of course, redirecting the flow of an entire river was no simple task. One needed the expertise of a genius engineer, and only one Renaissance mind was up to the task.

Leonardo Da Vinci is most popularly known as an artist, painting such works as the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.  However Da Vinci was a true Renaissance man, working in many fields such as anatomy, architecture, music, mathematics and engineering.  In one of his roles, he was a military engineer, designing and building weapons and fortifications for the highest bidder.  In Renaissance Italy, warfare was rife among the Italian kingdoms and city states, and business was booming for weapons designers.  Thus in 1503 Machiavelli hired Da Vinci to bring his doomsday plan into creation.

Da Vinci’s solution was to redirect the Arno River by building a series of dams, levees, and canals.  Work on the project began in the spring of 1503 and lasted throughout 1504.  It was a great undertaking by the Republic of Florence, with thousands of men employed in building the earthworks and digging the canals.  Unfortunately, Florence was desperate to get the project done as quickly as possible, and hence many corners were cut.  The canals were dug too shallow while dams and levees were built from substandard materials.  As a result, they were unable to change the course of the river.  Efforts to deepen the canals were made, but then a massive storm hit Florence.  The dams and levees made from substandard materials collapsed and were washed away.  Whatever was left standing was quickly destroyed by the Pisans.

The fiasco of the Arno River project would sound and end for Machiavelli’s  Two years later, a Spanish army defeated Florence and installed Guiliano De Medici as ruler, Machiavelli spent the rest of his life in exile.  In the meantime Da Vinci spent the rest of his career painting, sculpting, and inventing things until his death in 1519.


June 21st 1527: Niccolò Machiavelli dies

On this day in 1527, the Italian thinker Niccolò Machiavelli died in Florence aged 58. He was born in Florence in 1469 and became a central figure of the Renaissance that coloured Florentine life during the 15th and 16th centuries. Machiavelli was involved in city politics, especially during the fourteen years when the powerful Medici family were exiled from power when he was a diplomat. Upon their return Machiavelli was dismissed for his opposition to their rule and thus occupied his time writing what has become considered his magnum opus: The Prince. This book is often considered a kind of handbook for ruthless politicians, as it detailed how one must be prepared to use any means to preserve political power. However some scholars have suggested that the work was more of a satire than prescriptive guide. Machiavelli died in 1527, and was buried in the Church of Santa Croce in Florence.

“Since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.”

Niccolo Machiavelli, given his history, sure was an interesting Assassin. Given his many political ideals and some of things his written in his book “The Prince, some of which seem kinda of unlike something you expect an Assassin to write about. Though despite how unorthodox he was, I still think he was a good Assassin.