Niccolo Machiavelli. 1513

Discourses on the First Ten Books of
Titus Livius.

Written: 1513;
Translated: by Christian E Detmold, 1882;
Source: The On-Line Library of Liberty;
HTML Mark-Up: Andy Blunden.

Greeting, Niccolo Machiavelli to Zanobi Buondelmonte and Cosimo Rucellai


Chapter I. Of the beginning of cities in general, and especially that of the city of Rome.
Chapter II. Of the different kinds of republics, and of what kind the Roman republic was.
Chapter III. Of the events that caused the creation of tribunes in Rome; which made the republic more perfect.
Chapter IV. The disunion of the Senate and the people renders the republic of Rome powerful and free.
Chapter V. To whom can the guardianship of liberty more safely be confided, to the nobles or to the people? And which of the two have most cause for creating disturbances, those who wish to acquire, or those who desire to conserve?
Chapter VI. Whether it was possible to establish in Rome a government capable of putting an end to the enmities existing between the nobles and the people.
Chapter VII. Showing how necessary the faculty of accusation is in a republic for the maintenance of liberty.
Chapter VIII. In proportion as accusations are useful in a republic, so are calumnies pernicious.
Chapter IX. To found a new republic, or to reform entirely the old institutions of an existing one, must be the work of one man only.
Chapter X. In proportion as the founders of a republic or monarchy are entitled to praise, so do the founders of a tyranny deserve execration.
Chapter XI. Of the religion of the Romans.
Chapter XII. The importance of giving religion a prominent influence in a state, and how Italy was ruined because she failed in this respect through the conduct of the Church of Rome.
Chapter XIII. How the Romans availed of religion to preserve order in their city, and to carry out their enterprises and suppress disturbances.
Chapter XIV. The Romans interpreted the auspices according to necessity, and very wisely made show of observing religion, even when they were obliged in reality to disregard it; and if any one recklessly disparaged it, he was punished.
Chapter XV. How the Samnites resorted to religion as an extreme remedy for their desperate condition.
Chapter XVI. A people that has been accustomed to live under a prince preserves its liberties with difficulty, if by accident it has become free.
Chapter XVII. A corrupt people that becomes free can with greatest difficulty maintain its liberty.
Chapter XVIII. How in a corrupt state a free government may be maintained, assuming that one exists there already; and how it could be introduced, if none had previously existed.
Chapter XIX. If an able and vigorous prince is succeeded by a feeble one, the latter may for a time be able to maintain himself; but if his successor be also weak, then the latter will not be able to preserve his state.
Chapter XX. Two continuous successions of able and virtuous princes will achieve great results; and as well-constituted republics have, in the nature of things, a succession of virtuous rulers, their acquisitions and extension will consequently be very great.
Chapter XXI. Princes and republics who fail to have national armies are much to be blamed.
Chapter XXII. What we should note in the case of the three Roman horatii and the alban curatii.
Chapter XXIII. One should never risk one’s whole fortune unless supported by one’s entire forces, and therefore the mere guarding of passes is often dangerous.
Chapter XXIV. Well-ordered republics establish punishments and rewards for their citizens, but never set off one against the other.
Chapter XXV. Whoever wishes to reform an existing government in a free state should at least preserve the semblance of the old forms.
Chapter XXVI. A new prince in a city or province conquered by him should organize everything anew.
Chapter XXVII. Showing that men are very rarely either entirely good or entirely bad.
Chapter XXVIII. Why Rome was less ungrateful to her citizens than Athens.
Chapter XXIX. Which of the two is most ungrateful, a people or a prince.
Chapter XXX. How princes and republics should act to avoid the vice of ingratitude, and how a commander or a citizen should act so as not to expose himself to it.
Chapter XXXI. Showing that the Roman generals were never severely punished for any faults they committed, not even when by their ignorance and unfortunate operations they occasioned serious losses to the republic.
Chapter XXXII. A republic or a prince should not defer securing the good will of the people until they are themselves in difficulties.
Chapter XXXIII. When an evil has sprung up within a state, or come upon it from without, it is safer to temporize with it rather than to attack it violently.
Chapter XXXIV. The authority of the dictatorship has always proved beneficial to Rome, and never injurious; it is the authority which men usurp, and not that which is given them by the free suffrages of their fellow-citizens, that is dangerous to civil liberty.
Chapter XXXV. The reason why the creation of decemvirs in Rome was injurious to liberty, notwithstanding that they were created by the free suffrages of the people.
Chapter XXXVI. Citizens who have been honored with the higher offices should not disdain less important ones.
Chapter XXXVII. What troubles resulted in Rome from the enactment of the agrarian law, and how very wrong it is to make laws that are retrospective and contrary to old established customs.
Chapter XXXVIII. Feeble republics are irresolute, and know not how to take a decided part; and whenever they do, it is more the result of necessity than of choice.
Chapter XXXIX. The same accidents often happen to different peoples.
Chapter XL. Of the creation of the decemvirs in Rome, and what is noteworthy in it; and where we shall consider amongst many other things how the same accidents may save or ruin a republic.
Chapter XLI. It is imprudent and unprofitable suddenly to change from humility to pride, and from gentleness to cruelty.
Chapter XLII. How easily men may be corrupted.
Chapter XLIII. Those only who combat for their own glory are good and loyal soldiers.
Chapter XLIV. A multitude without a chief is useless; and it is not well to threaten before having the power to act.
Chapter XLV. It is a bad example not to observe the laws, especially on the part of those who have made them; and it is dangerous for those who govern cities to harass the people with constant wrongs.
Chapter XLVI. Men rise from one ambition to another: first, they seek to secure themselves against attack, and then they attack others.
Chapter XLVII. Although men are apt to deceive themselves in general matters, yet they rarely do so in particulars.
Chapter XLVIII. One of the means of preventing an important magistracy from being conferred upon a vile and wicked individual is to have it applied for by one still more vile and wicked, or by the most noble and deserving in the state.
Chapter XLIX. If cities which from their beginning have enjoyed liberty, like Rome, have found difficulties in devising laws that would preserve their liberties, those that have had their origin in servitude find it impossible to succeed in making such laws.
Chapter L. No council or magistrate should have it in their power to stop the public business of a city.
Chapter LI. A republic or a prince must feign to do of their own liberality that to which necessity compels them.
Chapter LII. There is no surer and less objectionable mode of repressing the insolence of an individual ambitious of power, who arises in a republic, than to forestall him in the ways by which he expects to arrive at that power.
Chapter LIII. How by the delusions of seeming good the people are often misled to desire their own ruin; and how they are frequently influenced by great hopes and brave promises.
Chapter LIV. How much influence a great man has in restraining an excited multitude.
Chapter LV. Public affairs are easily managed in a city where the body of the people is not corrupt; and where equality exists, there no principality can be established; nor can a republic be established where there is no equality.
Chapter LVI. The occurrence of important events in any city or country is generally preceded by signs and portents, or by men who predict them.
Chapter LVII. The people as a body are courageous, but individually they are cowardly and feeble.
Chapter LVIII. The people are wiser and more constant than princes.
Chapter LIX. Leagues and alliances with republics are more to be trusted than those with princes.
Chapter LX. How the consulates and some other magistracies were bestowed in Rome without regard to the age of persons.


Chapter I. The greatness of the Romans was due more to their valor and ability than to good fortune.
Chapter II. What nations the Romans had to contend against, and with what obstinacy they defended their liberty.
Chapter III. Rome became great by ruining her neighboring cities, and by freely admitting strangers to her privileges and honors.
Chapter IV. The ancient republics employed three different methods for aggrandizing themselves.
Chapter V. The changes of religion and of languages, together with the occurrence of deluges and pestilences, destroy the record of things.
Chapter VI. Of the manner in which the Romans conducted their wars.
Chapter VII. How much land the Romans allowed to each colonist.
Chapter VIII. The reasons why people leave their own country to spread over others.
Chapter IX. What the causes are that most frequently provoke war between sovereigns.
Chapter X. Money is not the sinews of war, although it is generally so considered.
Chapter XI. It is not wise to form an alliance with a prince that has more reputation than power.
Chapter XII. Whether it is better, when apprehending an attack, to await it at home, or to carry the war into the enemy’s country.
Chapter XIII. Cunning and deceit will serve a man better than force to rise from a base condition to great fortune.
Chapter XIV. Men often deceive themselves in believing that by humility they can overcome insolence.
Chapter XV. Feeble states are always undecided in their resolves; and slow resolves are invariably injurious.
Chapter XVI. Wherein the military system differs from that of the ancients.
Chapter XVII. Of the value of artillery to modern armies, and whether the general opinion respecting it is correct.
Chapter XVIII. According to the authority of the Romans and the example of ancient armies we should value infantry more than cavalry.
Chapter XIX. Conquests made by republics that are not well constituted, and do not follow in their conduct the example of the Romans, are more conducive to their ruin than to their advancement.
Chapter XX. Of the dangers to which princes and republics are exposed that employ auxiliary or mercenary troops.
Chapter XXI. The first prætor sent by the Romans anywhere was to capua, four hundred years after they began to make war upon that city.
Chapter XXII. How often the judgments of men in important matters are erroneous.
Chapter XXIII. How much the Romans avoided half-way measures when they had to decide upon the fate of their subjects.
Chapter XXIV. Fortresses are generally more injurious than useful.
Chapter XXV. It is an error to take advantage of the internal dissensions of a city, and to attempt to take possession of it whilst in that condition.
Chapter XXVI. Contempt and insults engender hatred against those who indulge in them, without being of any advantage to them.
Chapter XXVII. Wise princes and republics should content themselves with victory; for when they aim at more, they generally lose.
Chapter XXVIII. How dangerous it is for a republic or a prince not to avenge a public or a private injury.
Chapter XXIX. Fortune blinds the minds of men when she does not wish them to oppose her designs.
Chapter XXX. Republics and princes that are really powerful do not purchase alliances by money, but by their valor and the reputation of their armies.
Chapter XXXI. How dangerous it is to trust to the representations of exiles.
Chapter XXXII. Of the method practised by the Romans in taking cities.
Chapter XXXIII. The Romans left the commanders of their armies entirely uncontrolled in their operations.


Chapter I. To insure a long existence to religious sects or republics, it is necessary frequently to bring them back to their original principles.
Chapter II. It may at times be the highest wisdom to simulate folly.
Chapter III. To preserve the newly recovered liberty in Rome, it was necessary that the sons of Brutus should have been executed.
Chapter IV. A prince cannot live securely in a state so long as those live whom he has deprived of it.
Chapter V. Of the causes that make a king lose the throne which he has inherited.
Chapter VI. Of conspiracies.
Chapter VII. The reasons why the transitions from liberty to servitude and from servitude to liberty are at times effected without bloodshed, and at other times are most sanguinary.
Chapter VIII. Whoever wishes to change the government of a republic should first consider well its existing condition.
Chapter IX. Whoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.
Chapter X. A general cannot avoid a battle when the enemy is resolved upon it at all hazards.
Chapter XI. Whoever has to contend against many enemies may nevertheless overcome them, though he be inferior in power, provided he is able to resist their first efforts.
Chapter XII. A skilful general should endeavor by all means in his power to place his soldiers in the position of being obliged to fight, and as far as possible relieve the enemy of such necessity.
Chapter XIII. Whether an able commander with a feeble army, or a good army with an incompetent commander, is most to be relied upon.
Chapter XIV. Of the effect of new stratagems and unexpected cries in the midst of battle.
Chapter XV. An army should have but one chief: a greater number is detrimental.
Chapter XVI. In times of difficulty men of merit are sought after, but in easy times it is not men of merit, but such as have riches and powerful relations, that are most in favor.
Chapter XVII. A person who has been offended should not be intrusted with an important administration and government.
Chapter XVIII. Nothing is more worthy of the attention of a good general than to endeavor to penetrate the designs of the enemy.
Chapter XIX. Whether gentle or rigorous measures are preferable in governing the multitude.
Chapter XX. An act of humanity prevailed more with the faliscians than all the power of Rome.
Chapter XXI. Why hannibal by a course of conduct the very opposite of that of scipio yet achieved the same success in Italy as the latter did in spain.
Chapter XXII. How manlius torquatus by harshness, and valerius corvinus by gentleness, acquired equal glory.
Chapter XXIII. The reasons why Camillus was banished from Rome.
Chapter XXIV. The prolongation of military commands caused Rome the loss of her liberty.
Chapter XXV. Of the poverty of cincinnatus, and that of many other Roman citizens.
Chapter XXVI. How states are ruined on account of women.
Chapter XXVII. Of the means for restoring union in a city, and of the common error which supposes that a city must be kept divided for the purpose of preserving authority.
Chapter XXVIII. The actions of citizens should be watched, for often such as seem virtuous conceal the beginning of tyranny.
Chapter XXIX. The faults of the people spring from the faults of their rulers.
Chapter XXX. A citizen who desires to employ his authority in a republic for some public good must first of all suppress all feeling of envy: and how to organize the defence of a city on the approach of an enemy.
Chapter XXXI. Great men and powerful republics preserve an equal dignity and courage in prosperity and adversity.
Chapter XXXII. Of the means adopted by some to prevent a peace.
Chapter XXXIII. To insure victory the troops must have confidence in themselves as well as in their commander.
Chapter XXXIV. How the reputation of a citizen and the public voice and opinion secure him popular favor; and whether the people or princes show most judgment in the choice of magistrates.
Chapter XXXV. Of the danger of being prominent in counselling any enterprise, and how that danger increases with the importance of such enterprise.
Chapter XXXVI. The reason why the Gauls have been and are still looked upon at the beginning of a combat as more than men, and afterwards as less than women.
Chapter XXXVII. Whether skirmishes are necessary before coming to a general action, and how to know a new enemy if skirmishes are dispensed with.
Chapter XXXVIII. What qualities a commander should possess to secure the confidence of his army.
Chapter XXXIX. A general should possess a perfect knowledge of the localities where he is carrying on a war.
Chapter XL. deceit in the conduct of a war is meritorious.
Chapter XLI. One’s country must be defended, whether with glory or with shame; it must be defended anyhow.
Chapter XLII. promises exacted by force need not be observed.
Chapter XLIII. Natives of the same country preserve for all time the same characteristics.
Chapter XLIV. Impetuosity and audacity often achieve what ordinary means fail to attain.
Chapter XLV. Whether it is better in battle to await the shock of the enemy, and then to attack him, or to assail him first with impetuosity.
Chapter XLVI. The reasons why the same family in a city always preserves the same characteristics.
Chapter XLVII. Love of country should make a good citizen forget private wrongs.
Chapter XLVIII. Any manifest error on the part of an enemy should make us suspect some stratagem.
Chapter XLIX. A republic that desires to maintain her liberties needs daily fresh precautions: it was by such merits that Fabius obtained the surname of maximus.