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THE NOVEL - SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 5

A principality accustomed to liberty and to government under its own laws can be held by a prince in three different ways. First, the prince might destroy the entire province, as the Romans did when they leveled the city of Carthage after the Third Punic War (149-146 B.C.). Second, the prince might move his government to the conquered province and live there himself in order to maintain absolute authority over the region. Third, the prince might permit the province-if it pays him regular tribute-to continue to live under its own laws and to establish a government of the few who will keep the country friendly to him.

Machiavelli then cites the classic examples of Sparta and Rome. Sparta, after conquering its chief rivals, Athens and Thebes, permitted each city to establish a friendly government. In time, however, both Athens and Thebes rebelled and drove the Spartans from their conquered territory. Rome, which also tried the Spartan experiment of a cooperative government when it ruled Greece later, soon discovered that the only way to maintain power was to destroy or completely subjugate those cities most likely to rebel.

Whoever becomes master of a city that has been accustomed to liberty, and does not destroy it, says Machiavelli, must himself expect to be ruined by it. No matter what is done, or what precautions are taken, if the inhabitants are not separated and dispersed, they will revolt in the name of liberty and their ancient institutions-as was done by Pisa after having been held captive over one hundred years by the Florentines.


But the situation is quite different with states that have been accustomed to live under one prince. When the line of the old prince is extinguished, the inhabitants, being accustomed to obey, yet having lost their hereditary sovereign, can't agree upon a new prince from among themselves; nor do they know how to live in liberty. Therefore, they'll be less prompt to take up arms, and the new prince will easily be able to gain their good will and to assure himself of their support.

NOTE: PISA AS A SYMBOL OF LIBERTY

Machiavelli's account of Pisa, national symbol of Italian independence and liberty, is especially significant here. In 1494, when Charles VIII of France invaded Italy, Pisa took advantage of the ensuing chaos and successfully rebelled against Florence, ending nearly a hundred years of Florentine domination. How does this supporting example influence your interpretation of what Machiavelli has said so far in the chapter? Is his purpose here, as some readers believe, to remind Lorenzo to proceed cautiously in dealing with freedom-loving city-states such as Pisa after he has won the battle for national unity? Or is Machiavelli's love for liberty, as exemplified by defiant Pisa, so strong that it emerges in this chapter as if to mockingly contradict his theories? Remember that Machiavelli has seen his beloved Italy overrun by foreign powers and has had to compromise his ideals to speak directly to the reality of sixteenth-century Italian politics. Look for a possible shift in his analysis as you continue to read.

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