Like most Western philosophers, Niccolo Machiavelli's ideas were heavily influenced by the early Greek philosophers. Most notable among the Greek philosophers who inspired Machiavelli was Plato. In particular, Machiavelli took interest in Plato's concept of just rulers who ruled by moral virtue. Machiavelli argued against this Platonic philosophy. He believed in "virtu", whatever was best for the State was virtu. This is in stark contrast to the Platonic philosophy when man existed to serve the state, the basic idea being that ethics and politics are intertwined, its essential features overlapping.
"Machiavelli's most characteristic, central, and frequently involved concept is that of virtu, a term by no means regularly translatable by "virtue," and certainly not equivalent to virtue in the Christian sense. Though it can sometimes mean virtue, virtu tends mostly to connote energy, effectiveness, and virtuosity. It has been described as "a union of force and ability, something that can be summed up by force alone, if by force one means human, not mechanical force: will, and therefore force of ability. The word derives from the Latin virtus, and thus from vir, which means "man". Virtu is thus manliness, those qualities found in a "real man"" .
In 16th century Florence, as it is today, the States whole reason for being was to serve the citizens and not vice versa. Machiavelli believed the only purpose for a ruler was to make war, and protect its citizens from attacks by other states. The ruler, therefore, is justified in doing whatever is necessary to maintain the country, even if it is unjust. On the other hand, Plato argues a ruler can never be unjust.
In spite of the fact, Machiavelli is greatly influenced by the Greek and Latin classics, and by the bible, he takes a critical stance in dealing with the idea of morality. Machiavelli believes that a Prince's main duty is the preservation of his country and the protection of his subjects.