Machiavellian Wisdom

Most controversial and misunderstood author of 15th century ambassador and statesman is Machiavelli. Even though his concepts are ethically divisive, for common good and safety of citizens some are inevitable but the cruelty is still debatable. One example is the North Korean case where the accusation is the state has master-minded the assassination of current leader’s step-brother. In Machiavellian ethics, it may be allowed but the cruelty and atrocity in my opinion is still unacceptable – may be a middle ground is to devise ways that removes total threat and incapacitates that threat whatsoever without any harm to both the country and the individual – is what needed than total eradication but in extremes where annihilation if perpetrated by an individual as in cases of terrorism requires a befitting reply in similar kind to protect innocents – no doubt there.
Philip Bobbitt argues in his book ‘The Garments of Court and Palace’ about the general misunderstandings of Machiavelli’s masterpieces in the light that he was the first to foresee the advent of republic from monarchial to fiduciary to constitutional democracy as an evolvement to princely states to a modern era country-hood hinged on republican values.

Some excerpts:


Princely Morality of State

  1. It is the nature of man that he’ll behave badly in order to get what he wants
  2. As a consequence, sometimes this will create a situation in which necessity – the necessity of preserving the sate – requires that a prince depart from the customary virtues in order to to cope with adversaries who are deceitful, greedy,n etc.
  3. Therefore, it is a prudent rule that the prince who governs a state must do unto others as they would do unto him.

Imagine you wish to train yourself to be poker player.Part of the training must be learning all the trick of the cardsharp, dealing from the bottom of the deck, palming a card, marking a deck, etc. You must learn these things so you can spot them when someone is trying to cheat you. But must you practice these tricks yourself? I suppose it depends on how good your game is, and whether the person with whom you are playing will enforce the rules once you have exposed the cheat. To the question. ‘Must it be this way? Can’t we do better?, the answer does not lies entirely within your power.

It is instructive that Machiavelli was thoroughly honest in his public service and dealings. When accused of corruption by jealous courtiers, an investigation cleared him of all charges. And despite the fact that he was chronically underpaid. There’s something appealing, to the present world about the misleading portrait of Machiavelli to which we are accustomed. It is consistent with our current contempt for bureaucrats, for politicians, for lawyers – the superstitious reaction of people who are frightened by the forces that they identify with those who are trying to master those forces, rather like blaming a volcanologists for a volcano eruption. Perhaps it was always so, at least since the birth of state that gave us the bureaucrats, lawyers and politicians that are its creation.

Statecraft as Stagecraft

The idea that the perception of a prince’s acts and qualities are an important elements in his ability to govern is a persistent and subtle theme of Machiavelli’s. In other words, the promises that the obligations of love impose on others, on which we rely, can always be unilaterally broken, because we can always break the commitments love exact from us without the consent of the loved one.
by contrast, the fear and dread imposed by another person, a person with power to execute his threats, creates habits and responses it is not in our power to dissolve unilaterally

The book also addresses the dichotomies like:

  1. The Prince is mirror book
  2. The Prince advocates autocracy, while The Discourses endorses a republican form of government
  3. The Prince separates ethics from politics
  4. Machiavelli both asserts and contradicts the claim that man can control his fate
  5. The Prince, with its flamboyant exhortation to liberate Italy, is a dramatic departure from the rest of the book


A wise and enlightening read on politics and its machinations. Staying in power and doing good and reining the masses to ensure goodness should prevail in spite of human tendencies to topple, wreak havoc and endanger welfare schemes – requires a thoughtful study of masters to adopt a humane yet powerful approach to statecraft that embodies common and progressive goodness at heart while providing stability and growth for a nation especially at its infancy from a 3rd world to an advanced nation.


Augustus Caesar–The First Emperor of Rome

I had the opportunity earlier to read the biopic on Julius Caesar by same author and this is a great follow on. Of course Cicero’s biography (which I also read) lends interest to know more about Augustus – as to what happened aftermath to Caesar elder’s assassination. And this book throws a good light on the story of what happened leading to Augustus takeover. The triumvir – Lepidus, Antony and Augustus ruled Rome in the immediate aftermath of brutal murder of Julius Caesar. How Augustus out manoeuvred and luck helped Augustus is the story and how in later years he judiciously administered his kingdom till his seventies – recaptured by Adrian Goldsworthy is a fantastic historic page-turner. Some thing to remember – jotted for posterity from the book…

  • Proscriptions, mass murder, rule by force and coercion were the rules for civil war era of Rome after Julius Caesar’s attempt to be a dictator – slowly the Rome was descending from democracy to dictatorship – as it wasn’t working well as before.
  • Augustus married Scribonia – Antony’s daughter to maintain the triumvir intact but he divorced her to take another senator’s wife Livia. His only daughter Julia was born to Scribonia.
  • Jesus was born during his reign of Rome and surrounding provinces which include Judea
  • Agrippa was the second hand man and loyal to Augustus – a great coliseum still stands under his name in Rome – An able administrator and warrior, built numerous structures in the 30 – 20 BC during Augustus reign. He married Augustus daughter Julia and had 2 sons who died in battle campaigns
  • Augustus depended on Livia’s son (from an earlier marriage) Tiberius as his heir but only to abandon all duties and to go on exile due to unresolvable differences and was out of the kingdom for a decade, meanwhile Augustus was eagerly waiting for the two grandsons – Caius and Lucius (sons of Agrippa) to come of age and take over the kingdom in future. They too perished.
  • Augustus again recalled Tiberius to announce him as his heir and he died in his 70s when Tiberius assumed power smoothly
  • Virgil created Aeneid – masterpiece in Latin – to be preserved for centuries – similar to Homer’s Iliad
  • Mausoleum of Augustus, The Temple of Divine Julius, The Curia Julia (senate house – converted to church), The Forum Romanum, The Rostra (speaker’s forum), The Arca Pacis (Altar of Peace), The Pantheon of Agrippa – were the testimonials whose remains and in some cases in full – remind us of the roman glory of Augustus

It’s one of cruelty, deception, intrigue and force to get hold of power and the other to maintain the supremacy with benevolence and greater good to citizens. I believe Augustus achieved both in his time to be named the first emperor but good for emulation for successors in olden days, I think we need a person like Augustus to bring order from chaos and rule the state and bring same benefits under the democratic system is a must. We have seen so many examples to emulate but time has to dawn for that to happen in various places to make citizens happy, safe, solid and progressive!

Age must bring composure, calmness, mental fortitude and benevolence and that too a king having this and becoming an emperor is a feat and Augustus tread this path to attain greatness given his long illustrious life to create the Roman dynasty only to be reinstated of similar glory by Marcus Aurelius – that’s my observation. Well in modern days, dynasty happens albeit with democracy where people elect heirs but American Presidential system is preferred to stop one person to hold power for very long, this long tenure is not good unless we get ruler’s like Augustus or Marcus – a rare in rarity.

Joan of Arc and Yolande of Aragon–The Maid and The Queen

A riveting book by Nancy Goldstone on the historical events of 15th century leading to coronation of Charles VII as the king of France. The main characters were Henry V king of England waging the 100 years war, Charles VI being a mad king lost his kingdom to England and his only surviving son was estranged and cared by Yolande of Aragon, Louis II’s wife and Queen of Sicily. Charles VII and Yolande’s sons and daughters grew together in Anjou. Later Yolande’s first daughter was married to Charles VII to become France’s queen. Joan of Arc came to rescue their “king to be” – Charles VII and helped to declare him as King of France and gets coroneted him in Rheims. In another battle at Compiegne, Joan was captured and English finally put her to judicial investigation by priests and court officials and used heresy and heretical means to pass capital punishment and burned her alive to meet out death penalty. During her inquisition, to one of clergy’s question Do you know if you’re in God’s grace? to which Joan famously replied If I am not , may God bring me to it; If I am, may God keep me in it.