Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) was born in Florence, Italy, to a distinguished family. He held various posts in the Florentine government and was staunchly opposed to the return of the Medici family to power. When the Medicis resumed their political position, they tortured and imprisoned him. Although they later pardoned him, his public life was ended.
Machiavelli then took up his pen and wrote several excellently styled plays and a short novel, but the treatise The Prince has given him the label «the founder of political science». The thesis he propounded was that political subjects, although bound by traditional moral codes, owe allegiance to, and had to respect and accept any obligations imposed upon them by, their rulers; rulers rightfully could maintain their power by any means whatsoever. Bad faith and deception practiced bv rulers were not to be questioned. Morally Machiavelli was completely reprehensible, having no sensitivity to ethical considerations. For example, he said, «To be feared gives more security than to be loved»; «A prudent ruler cannot and should not observe faith when such observance is to his disadvantage». He emerged from his cocoon when Pope Leo X commissioned him to write a report on the reform of Florence. But he never again was an important political figure.
His name has given the English language Machiavellian, which means characterized by political intrigue, duplicity, unscrupulousness, and brilliant dissembling.