A biography of Niccolò Machiavelli: The Inspiration of the Renaissance

Introduction biography

Below, we give a look at the life and work of Niccolò Machiavelli, the great Florentine statesman and Renaissance thinker. This biography delves into the mysterious life of a person whose contributions to politics, philosophy and literature have had a lasting impact.

History and early education

Although little is known about Niccolò Machiavelli’s early years, he was probably born on 3 May 1469 in Florence, Italy. As a young man, he studied with the famous Latin teacher Paolo da Ronciglione, who gave him an excellent humanist education. Although it is not entirely clear where he received his education, there are indications that he studied at the University of Florence.

The diplomatic activities of a florentine’s statesman

Book cover for Machiavelli A biography of Niccolò Machiavelli: The inspiration of the Renaissance

Read his extraordinary work. ‘Florentine Histories’ is a comprehensive account of the history of Florence in the early 16th century. You can find our English translation here.

In 1498, Machiavelli entered public life when he was appointed second chancellor of the Republic of Florence. For the next 14 years, he worked tirelessly in diplomatic circles, representing Florence at important Italian courts, the French royal court and the court of Emperor Maximilian. His insightful evaluation of the key figures and institutions of the time illustrated his astuteness as a statesman.

The fall of the Roman Empire

After the Medici family was deposed in 1494, a republican government took over in Florence. Machiavelli’s career flourished thanks to the support of Florentine gonfaloniere (city magistrate) Piero Soderini. However, the Medici’s return to power in 1512 marked a decisive change. After the republic’s army was defeated, Machiavelli was forced into self-imposed exile in the country. In 1513, he was falsely accused of plotting against the Medici and subsequently imprisoned and tortured.

Retirement and devotion to the arts

After his release, Machiavelli went to live on a farm outside Florence and devoted himself to writing. He wrote plays, poetry and short prose, as well as the 1521 book “The Art of War” and several historical and biographical sketches. His name is most commonly associated with “The Prince”, his most famous work, which he wrote hastily in late 1513 or early 1514.

Discourses on the ten books of Titus Livy

“Discourses on the Ten Books of Titus Livy” is Machiavelli’s other major contribution to political thought besides “The Prince”. Written between 1514 and 1519, this commentary on the works of the famous historian serves as an exposition of the principles of republican government. It is widely believed that this magnum opus grew out of informal discussions sponsored by Cosimo Rucellai (host of the Florentine intelligentsia) on the art of war with prominent Florentine intellectuals and political figures.

The road to redemption and the end of time

Later in his life, Machiavelli tried to regain the favour of the Medici family. His “History of Florence”, written in 1520 at the behest of Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici (later Pope Clement VII), was completed and presented to the cardinal in 1525. Machiavelli’s full rehabilitation was cut short by his death on 21 June 1527, despite receiving further commissions from the Medici government.

Termination: the lasting impression

Although much of Niccolò Machiavelli’s life is shrouded in mists, there is no doubt that he was an integral part of the Renaissance as a statesman, philosopher and man of letters. The complexities of governance, leadership and the human condition continue to inspire scholars and leaders who have been inspired by his ideas. The world is invited to delve into the mysterious life of this remarkable Florentine thinker through this examination of Machiavelli’s wisdom and insights.

Florentine Histories by Niccolò Machiavelli

 

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