Essay on Machiavelli and the Roman Empire

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Machiavelli argued, as Hegel would later, that one must look to history and the accounts of previous nations' events in order to "sense...that flavor that they have in themselves" in common with those from the past (Discourses 6). This seems to follow the adage that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, yet for Machiavelli he seems more concerned with actually emulating history in order to repeat success than looking out for particular things to avoid. For this reason, he pulls examples from an eclectic range of histories in order to demonstrate how his principles in both The Prince and the Discourses on Livy, when followed, will lead to a successful state. In particular, he refers to the Roman Republic…show more content…
Starting out as a principality, one prince after the other begins to "surpass the others in sumptuousness and lasciviousness," prompting the people to overthrow him to rid themselves of his tyranny. An aristocracy, which Machiavelli means as a rule of the Good, then takes control, but shortly thereafter they too succumb to the temptation of exploiting their power. Again, the masses must usurp the rule of the few and, still remembering what events had transpired in the past, they keep the power for themselves and establish a popular state. In spite of their good intentions, the people soon find they can't keep a firm control on the populace ("a thousand injuries were done every day") so they regress to a principality. Such a sequence of events would likely go on ad infinitum if the transitions didn't weaken the state to such a degree that its lasting one complete turn of the cycle is less likely than becoming "subject to a neighboring state that is ordered better than it" (Discourse 11-13). The history of France during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is exemplary of how a state, fortunate to not have been overtaken, will cycle through different types of rule due to the eventual erosion
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