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Machiavelli: the prince

             Niccolo Machiavelli was born into a time of political upheaval in Italy. At the time of his birth to a wealthy Florentine lawyer in 1469, the Medici family had been ruling Italy for 35 years. The political life in Italy was characterized by instability, fear, and invasion as the small states of Italy were pulled into the wars and politics of Europe by the larger, more powerful states of France and Spain. Machiavelli was witness as the Medici rule was originally overthrown by Savonarola, who set up a true Florentine Republic. He didn't become involved in Italian politics until 1498, whoever, when a second Republic was set up under Soderini. Machiavelli became secretary of this new Republic, and was considered an important and distinguished diplomat. This Republic, however, was soon also crushed in 1512 by the Spanish and the Medici's were allowed to return to power. All Republicans were ousted, and Machiavelli himself (despite continuous appeals to the Medici family) was imprisoned and tortured, and eventually exiled to his country estate at San Casciano. It was during this time of exile that Machiavelli, desperate to return to Italian politics, wrote many of his principle works, including The Prince.
             The Prince is the text from which my source is taken. Its purpose was actually to gain the favour of the Medici government, in hopes of Machiavelli returning to Italy's politics. The source itself features an excellent indication of Machiavelli's unique innovation regarding politics. Machiavelli was the first to suggest that politics and ethics were mutually exclusive in a unified state with solid leadership. In the 16th century, the Western tradition had been one of judging politics as an extension of ethics, in terms of right or wrong, just or unjust. Machiavelli portrayed men as they were, rather than how they ought to be. In this sense, he was the first to free politics from its historical ethical and religious constraints so that it could be a science in its own right.

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