Coordinated by Filip STANCIU

Corruption, Virtue and Republic in Machiavelli’s Work


Pierre Mendès” University of Grenoble



Abstract: In this article we examine the relationship between Machiavelli’s thought and the notion of corruption, starting from the multiple meanings thereof. It appears in the first instance that the Florentine Secretary proposes a definition rathercivic” than “deontological” of corruption; in this respect he is in tune with the tradition of republican thought and more precisely he argues using a paradigm of neo-Roman civic virtue. Yet far from sticking to this type of analysis, Machiavelli also seems responsive to the games of the underlying interests of politics, and especially in his The Florentine History; and if he calls for the citizens’ vigilance, he invites his reader to understand the ongoing role of charismatic influence. These two dimensions blur the usual lines and lead to qualify his doctrine ofheterodox republicanism”


Keywords: Machiavelli, corruption, virtue, Republic.

If the definition of the concept of corruption is in itself a delicate thing, because of the polysemous nature of the term, to envisage it in the work of the Florentine Secretary appears even more difficult. Certainly, there is a form of spontaneous familiarity between this notion and the Machiavellian thought: Machiavelli discusses the corruption of regimes and customs, and he undertakes to redefine civic virtue. One might even say that because of his intention to reconsider themodes” andorders” of the republic, the Machiavellian work engenders in the reader, in terms of analysis of corruption, a sort of expectation. However, it is difficult to know more, at least for the time being. Indeed, as it is generally understood in the political field, corruption points to the illicit transactions between private interests and public welfare (whether a service or important information). But from this moment onward things get complicated: Machiavelli is reputed to have produced an analysis of political action that denies any form of autonomy of the public sphere vis-à-vis private interests. Indeed, on the one hand, the Secretary regards the “desire to acquire” as theapparentmotivationof the actors; on the other hand, even if Machiavelli pertains to the Republican current of thinking, the referent of Florentine society, constantly present in the spirit of the author, does not allow for a “pure” representation of the Republican doctrine. Sensitive to the play of social forces and to their insurmountable conflictuality, Machiavelli conceived political life as intimately linked to the endless games of passions and interests – is this to say that it is not capable of issuing a normative idea of corruption? And if such is the case, what can his work bring us today?



In order to better understand the relationship between the work of Machiavelli and the notion of corruption, it is necessary to deepen a little the meaning of the latter. It generally designates illegal transactions between private interests and public welfare, but there is no denying that this is a polysemous term, and it seems therefore necessary to examine briefly the variety of its meanings.  According to Littré, it means at the same time: (1) alteration, (2) putrid decomposition, (3) depravity (of manners), (4) means employed to win someone and determine him to act against his duty and in a manner contrary to what is lawful. The first meaning is generic insofar as it aims to describe the state of degradation of a body. The passage from the first two to the last two meanings suggests that the term has evolved towards a moral evaluation. It has acquired a sense both active and pejorative, and its significance rests on an assessment of what we are talking about, estimated by reference to a standard or ideal state. It is according to this implicit, yet structural assessment, that the notion of corruption is a privileged object of political philosophy, since the latter is not only a description of the collective action by means of appropriate categories, but it also undertakes to judge it.

Starting from this first semantic benchmark, three distinct problem areas open to political philosophy:

(a) Reflection on the corruption of regimes, that is to say, on their transformation of a model into another one. In the Western world, this approach was taken from the very beginnings of political philosophy, for Littré reported it since the receipt of the canonical texts of Aristotle, in the fourteenth century, and Oresme, in his commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics, uses this term of “corruption” to reflect the alteration of regimes. The broadest interest of this orientation (meanings 1 and 2) is to understand the logic of human social and political relations apprehended under their constitutional dimension by referring it to that of nature. In this way are developed the terms of “physics of politics” whose assumptions are repeated by Machiavelli in his Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livy[1].

(b) The moral degradation. It may be understood in two different ways: on the one hand, by characterising morals, in the most general manner, it suggests a weakening of social and civic behaviour.Thus in political theory, with Machiavelli, before Montesquieu, we can talk about a deterioration of that particular virtue which is attached to the Republic republican manners are the true incentive of this kind of human association. On the other hand, by characterising the moral tendency of man, it denotes a propensity to vice or perversion. Hence, “corruption” is a term with theological connotations, which becomes meaningful in the West in the tradition of Christian thought, which has forged a representation of man as a sinful creature, representation doomed to have an extraordinary posterity. However, this meaning is not strictly theological, since from Greek Antiquity, philosophers have explored man’s tendency to be evil, whereof the notion of corruption is likely to account for. Research on corruption thus runs into moral philosophy, in that it necessarily leads to axiology and reflection on moral rules.

(c) Finally, the lastmeaning is the one which prevails inlegal thinking. In this field, corruption is simultaneously the action of corrupting and its result. It refers, on the one hand, to the “occult exchange” whereby, in return for money or various advantages, a private person is trying to get from an agent of the government (central administration of the State or a private agent of a territorial or local community) certain services or information, these being either denied access or subject to certain rules of access[2]. On the other hand, it refers to the offense characterised as the outcome of this exchange.



That said, we can state that with a sharp awareness, Machiavelli’s work unfolds in times of corruption which it denounces, and does that in several different ways.

On the one hand, the Florentine asserts on several occasions and with great expressive power that he has the impression of living a time of corrupt political morality. To take just two passages of his work, but particularly iconic and vibrant with emotion, one can read in this sense “the exhortation to seize Italy and deliver it from the barbarians”, which constitutes the last chapter of The Prince and the Foreword to Book II of the Discourses. One could say that the work of Machiavelli bears witness to the decadence of modern manners as compared to Antiquity’s customs. The veritable attacks, in the Discourses on Livy against the Christian faith, become here increasingly virulent: the promoters of a moral which consisted indisarming the sky and making the world effeminateare denounced in terms of the European civilization, as the instigators of an irreversible degradation of virtue[3]. On the other hand, in The Florentine History, the Secretary engages in a thorough investigation of how, in Florence, the public good has been diverted to the profit of personal and clan interests, and how public authority has been diminished with the rise of private wealth. Throughout the narrative of its history, the ancient and venerable home of the vivere politico is confronted with the reality of the rise of modern commerce, promoted by great Florentine families (including the Medici, who, back to power, have commissioned Machiavelli his book on the history of the city).

All this suggests that corruption, in the work of a Machiavelli Florentine patriot, is neither a legal nor a deontological concept, but rather a political one. A political concept defined by both an institutional connotation (corruption of Florentine institutions) and a moral one (that of republican manners). And the diagnosis is overwhelming regarding both orders (ordini) and modes(modi).

We may add that this approach to corruption corresponds closely to a representation of virtue as civic engagement, or that it is the outright reverse of this representation. If apprehended superficially, and especially as a result of its descriptive character or due to its historical dimension, one might think that the work of the Florentine Secretary will issue no normative view on corruption; or this istrue and falseat the same time. It is true because despite the presence of the “language of the law” in Machiavelli[4], the latter does not envisage political life through the prism of legal categories. And it is false because his work is a thorough reflection on the adequacy of policies pursued in times perceived as highly unstable. This appropriateness is itself conditioned by the spur that political passions constitute. And in this context the dimension of the conflicts of interest (important criterion for a legal approach to corruption) tends to fade before that of love of the motherland (this cardinal passion for a political approach). The importance of virtues and passions in the Machiavellian theory can in fact nourish the distinction between a civic approach to the concept of corruption and a deontological approach, the first appearing typical of republicanism, and the latter specific to liberalism[5].

In the world of Machiavelli, the antidote against civic corruption resides indeed in the powerful fuel that is patriotism, the immoderate love for his country. So, if there is no direct deontological approach to corruption in Machiavelli, this does not preclude a strong axiological approach to be found in him. The example of the virtue of the Ancients, often idealised by the Florentine, is the preferred expedient for a renewal of ethical categories that allow the appreciation of political life.

It seems also relevant to underline that Machiavelli develops a deontological rather than civic conception of corruption, since corruption as alteration of modi and ordini determines corruption as occult exchange. If there are special transactions that can weaken or even destroy the city, it is indeed because the institutions are no longer strong enough to teach the manners and because individual and collective energy (the virtù of individuals and social groups) is no longer channelled towards fostering the city.

So in a very typical way of his republicanism, the Florentine can write thatIt is not the individual good, but the general good that makes the greatness of cities (non il bene particulare ma il bene comune è quello che fa grandi le città). The general good is certainly observed only in republics”[6]. And it must be said, it is in accordance with a paradigm of neo-Roman civic virtue that such assertions multiply and become justified in the work of our Secretary. This paradigm, obviously very present in the Discourses on the First Decade of Livy, is to be understood as an attempt to discipline individual behaviours, and Machiavelli’s teaching viewed under this angle rests on an art of guiding these behaviours according to the public good. Thus, Machiavelli discusses the issue of “well-ordered republics” in terms of their ability to grant rewards and apply punishments to their citizens with the suitable appropriateness.[7] Such a treatment of the righteousness of behaviours entails the rather abyssal problem of moral retribution of civic conducts (as well as, more particularly, that of the relationship between rewards and punishments). But as abyssal as it might be, this issue is not less cardinal for republicanism. Indeed, if this issue seems crucial, the reason is that it is here that the very possibility of political civility is somehow at stake, whereof Machiavelli had a conscience quite clear, as can be read in the passage below:

“A well-ordered republic has never erased the faults of its citizens on grounds of their merits. Having foreseen rewards for good deeds and punishments for the evil ones,andhaving rewardeda man for doing the right thing, if thereafter he acts badly, it must punish him without any regard for his good deeds.When these measures are well observeda city lives long in freedom: otherwise itcollapsespromptly. Indeed, if a citizen who has accomplished something good for his city he adds to the reputation it brings him the boldness and confidence to be able to commit an evil act without fear,then he will soon become so insolent that any civic life will disappear [diventerà in brieve tempo tanto insolente che si risolverà ogni civiltà]”.[8]

Any form of civil life, writes Machiavelli in this text by using a hyperbolic formula, is doomed to disappear if in the city reigns a spirit of impunity such as great men benefit by virtue of this very reason from a right allowing them to commit evil deeds. The confusion between licit and illicit, amplified by the reputation of excellence that conceals vice, appears therefore likely to produce disasters in terms of civilization. In other words, if the theme of corruption is important for the Machiavellian work, it is because along with it, as long as it refers to the system of balance between the civic merits of individuals and their reprehensible actions, it is the very possibility of ethical regulation of morals that is challenged. Inasmuch as for the thus described republicanism, corruption appears less as a social disorder than as a form of barbarism.


Or the Machiavellian concept of civic virtue proves all the more remarkable as it unfolds within a representation of man scarcely compatible with anthropology, which usually constitutes the foundation of republican doctrines. On the one hand, indeed, man is for Machiavelli governed essentially by an appetite that merges in him with the vital impulse: the permanent tendency of a Prince to engage in conquests betrays the desire to acquire which, says he, is “quite natural and ordinary”[9], and that happens in the heart of every man. On the other hand, the human being is also animated by a desire for recognition utterly unquenchable: men are driven by an impulse fatally disappointed resting on the asymmetry between the desire to own (unlimitedly) and the capacity to be satisfied with what they possess (which is very limited)[10]. The weight of what Machiavelli calls “ambition” appears here fundamental, a real “bad seed” that is the cause of the evil endured by man in history,to use the words of Capitolo dell'Ambizione[11]. With this theme of ambition, Machiavelli points out that there is naturally in the heart of man a power contrary to the public good.

Hence, in the eyes of the author of The Princeevery man is potentially corruptible. As explained in the Discourses, I, 42 (entitled “How Men Can Be Easily Corrupted”), even if they are good and well educated, people can be easily corruptedand this is what certifies in Rome’s history, as reported by Titus Livy, the episode of the Decemvirs.[12] Despite a willingness to act in favour of the popular cause, the actors of this important episode in Roman history in fact adopted unfavourable conducts to the public good, aiming ultimately to satisfy their personal ambitions, anissue that, believes the Florentine,should encourage legislators of republics or monarchies to curb the appetites of men and do away with all hope of sinning with impunity”[13]. This unfortunate tendency, or even better, this fatal slope to corruption, is even more discernible in that more than paradoxical episode of the Land Act[14]. This law, promoted by the Gracchus brothers,seemed to allow the people to appropriate a portion of the public land, to which they aspired legitimately, given the subjection in which they were kept by the patrician system of rents and debt. Or, explains Machiavelli, the social evolution permitted or even just made ​​thinkable by the Land Act (to anachronistically use contemporary terms) was for the greatness of Rome the commencement of the end. We see with the Machiavellian comment on this historic turn of events how, despite the commitment of Machiavelli to the cause of “the people” as opposed tothe great”,the natural desire of men is for him an instigator of corruptionand it is so to a point where it is necessary, if we want to save the republican spirit,to curb the desire of the people.

We can further note that one of the strong points of the Machiavellian approach to the corruption of republican virtue lies in the fact that it is the frustration (malacontentezza) and not the lure of direct gain that pushes to the subversion of the civic spirit or to the undue capture of the public good. Despite the strength and the pervasiveness of the “desire to acquire” we should look elsewhere for the hidden reasons of the spirit of fraud which characterises corruption. The Machiavellian analysis suggests that the actor of the latter does not aim at a personal enrichment, but rather at the capture of a statute; and if there really is such an “occult exchange”,it is ultimately less conceivable in mercantile and financially assessable terms than in terms of exchange of social signs and symbols of power. This is why the “great”,greedy as they are of such signs or symbols, are more likely than the people to attempt to corrupt the public spirit – they are greedier, but also more frustrated, and are incessantly hatching plots hoping to compensate for their frustration[15].

Faced with the conjugated danger of the temptation to enrich oneself and the public welfare under the double impact of the desire to acquire and this active frustration which destroys the civic spirit, Machiavelli responds by promoting a classic theme of republicanism: stimulating the desire for glory[16]. Aristotle andCicero in particularhad developedthistheme. However, in anextremelycorruptcity, this kind of moralincentiveproves to be unusable,because itfindsitselfdistorted bythe effect ofbad laws.[17]. Theneo-Roman logicimplemented byMachiavellifinds here itslimit,and this limitseems quiteconsciousin the mindof the Florentine: he explains thatcivic virtuemay be insufficientto such an extentthat the onlyattitudefor theresponsibleprince istoseize the powerand exert itin amonarchical mannerwhen thepath of “normal” changebecomes impracticable, it is necessary to have recourse to theextraordinary”[18]. Obviously, thedespisers ofthe Florentinewill undoubtedlyaccuse him ofthe contradiction in termswhich consists in claimingto “savefreedom”bymonopolising power; hiszealots, more rare, might wish to credit him ofhavingassumedone of the mostimpressive paradoxes of the logic ofthe political world. Besides, whodoes not know, in medicine,that remediesare alsopoisons? In any case, Machiavelli hasthe merit of raisingthis issue withan incrediblefrankness:whenthe public spiritis totallycorrupted, how to act politically? The “extraordinary” resolutionwhichundertakesto put an end toordinarycorruption,does itrepresentor notthe Supremecorruptionof the civicspirit? Maybesuch is the case,butalsohere is at stake theparadoxof a political virtue incomprehensible tomost people,which pursues the pathof what is “ordinarily”regarded asa vice. Andthus is outlinedthe reversalbetween corruptionand probity: what seemscorruptionto thelargest numberis salvationof the state,and whatseems to beprobity, when the crisis has come, puts the statein great danger.

The only solution that Machiavelliseems tobringtothe widespreaddegradation of virtue is therecourse to the “extraordinary”,in other words, he suggests totemporarilyentrust the powerto a savingtyranny. But alongsidethis model,it is importantto emphasise thathis workalso includesa further evaluationof the same phenomenon. We see itinthe “secondcrossing” of the problemsraised bythe Republic,namely that whichis producedin The FlorentineHistory.The “political” paradigmof the ancientRoman virtueexploredinthe Discoursesis now replaced by a “historical”paradigmof contemporaryFlorentinesociallifewhichturns outto be significantly different, because it incorporatesthe interplay ofconflicting interestsasan insurmountabledatumof political activity. Thus, The FlorentineHistorytakes evenmore explicitlyintoconsiderationan unorthodoxform ofrepublicanism. Everything happensas if in the Machiavellianthoughtthere weretwo different logicsat work-yet does itconsequently producetwo irreduciblemessagesto eachother?

Despite appearances,this is notexactly the case.It isindeed temptingto say thatThe FlorentineHistoryresumesand assumesto the endone of the strongestthesesdeveloped in theDiscourses. Thisthesis isthat ofdisunitywhich createsfreedom[19]. Aswehave tried toset up elsewhereThe FlorentineHistorypushesto completionthe recognition ofthe contradictoryvitality of the socialand restores therebyan originalmeaning to thetheme of freedomof turbulentrepublics,as it wasfirst statedinthe Discoursesonthe First Decade ofLivy[20]. In fact, this recognition allows us toimagine how thedissensus,quite extraneous to the irenicrepresentation of anappeased “public space”,is conducive tothe quality ofthe civic spirit-although such asituation,desirablein itself,does not occurunlesscertain conditions are met. This is the subjectof meditationthat the authorgives to hisreaderin the first chapterof Book VII[21]. Machiavelliexplains that certaindivisionsare usefulto the city,and othersare detrimental; thefirst are thosewhich are donewithoutparties orsupporters”,thelatter being thosewhich engenderboth parties and supporters. The sagacious founderof arepublic, if he cannotavoid the occurrence of enmities,canat leastensure thatfactionsare not born therein. To achieve this,says Machiavelli,it should be understoodthrough what channelsa citizenacquiresreputation- therefore the questionis to knowhowan individualcapturesthe attention ofhis fellow citizensthanks toa charismaticinfluence,knowingthatin thiscaptationoccursa misuse of the public spiritunfavourable tothe freedom ofall. Such a man,builderof hisown reputation,canachieve his goalsin two manners:by public or by private ways. Through the first way(“winning a battle,conqueringa place, achieving an embassywith care andintelligence, advising wisely andfortunatelythe Republic”), hisachievementscontribute tothe good health ofhis country; the second ways (“promoting such and suchcitizen,defending himagainstthe magistrates,succouring himfinancially, pushing himin undeserved officesand offeringthe populaceshows anddonations”) fomentparties andweaken thecountry,becausethey are based onactions through whichpartisansare personallyattached to him. In the first case, concludes the Florentine,such triumphs,because theygive rise to the envy andjealousy of thefellow citizens,createa virtuoussocial dynamics:  

“Although wecannotprevent there beingstronghatreds amongsuch citizens, however, havingnopartisans to follow thembypersonal interest, they are not harmfulto the republic. Moreover, theyare useful to it,becauseto win,theystrive tothe glory ofthe republic andrespect eachother,so as not toexceed thelimits of the law”.[22]     

It is remarkable thatthe taking into accountof the dynamics ofself-interestisin this way includedin a political theorythat can be calledcivicholism”Everythinghappens as ifMachiavelli took noteof the pluralityand varietyofspecific activitiesthat animatethe space of thecity andgive it itsradiation. Withoutmaking for that matter of Machiavellithe forerunner of “value pluralism” typicalof ourcontemporary democracies,it is noteworthythatinits analysishe beliesthe possibility of auniquepublic morality. Therefore, as far as he is concerned, we can speak of a paradoxicalrepublicanism(as compared to standard continentalrepublicanconceptions),arepublicanismwhich integrates theliberal impetusof personal interest.


Can political activitycorrectthe corruption of morals? On this point, opinions generally differdepending on thecleavage,structuringmodern political thoughtbetween liberalism andrepublicanism. The first currentreplies in the negative by proposingamoreethicalapproach of valuesthana civic oneand by conferringprimacyin terms of educationof individualstoother compartmentsthan those which can be mobilised by the State(i.e.familymoralityorreligious education); the second current-most immediate expressionof the modern projectof secularization-responds affirmatively, by entrusting tothe Statethe mission of making the individuals more aware of their responsibilities. There is amiddle way, and it is preciselythe one anticipated byMachiavelliand continuedin the tradition ofWestern political thoughtand in various forms, byHannahArendt, JürgenHabermasandClaudeLefort. Theseauthors presentthe peculiarityof havingdevelopeda doctrine ofrepublicanfibre, butable to integratetypicalliberal elements, such asthe irreducibility ofindividualfreedom of conscienceto all forms ofdogmatism(whether religious orpolitical)and the claim ofthe democraticplurality of values.​​Tothis perspective,the work ofpolitical theoryhas the ambition toeducate andempowerpeoplepolitically, and this is preciselywhat Machiavellisucceeds by analysingcorruptionin a complex and non-reductivemanner.

Inthis contextis elucidated thestrangerelationship that existsbetweenMachiavelli’s assertion of the neo-Roman paradigm ofcivic virtueand the “liberal” enhancementof the desire toacquire(or the recognitionof self-interest). Somehow withinthe tension between thesetwo terms is played outthe attempt ofredefiningthrough the Secretary’s heterodoxrepublicanism themeaning ofcardinal terms such aspublic good” and “general interest”. 

Morecomplexis the otherproblem that wehave inheritedat the end ofthis analysis: which are the indicators enabling usto evaluatecivic virtueand by which to judgewhether it is orisnotcorrupt? It is noticeable that Machiavelliproposesa kind ofdouble entry system. For thepolicy maker,prince”orleaderof a republic, the criterion of virtuelies in his abilitytomantenerelostato,or his ability tokeep his state(orhis State)”; andsince allnatural thingsaredoomedto degrade,thecorruption indicatorconsists in the durationof the respective preservation. Atgrassroots level, despite the uniqueness oftheir naturalgreed,the degreeof civiccorruption is visible intheir attentivenesstotheir city, in other words it is discernible in the care with which theysurround thepolitical societyof which they aremembers,and better yet, in the commitmentthey displayin favour ofthe community. The firstfactorofcorruption of the citylies inpeople’s indifferencetowardsthe public good, and the whole question,in order to avoid corruption,is to knowhowto counteractthis dangerous trend.Howto ceaselesslyrevivethe attentionto public affairsin theheartofgreedymen? Thepublic societycannot lastwithout the activeconsent of the people.Hence thecorruption of the citycan be preventedthanks tothe manifest exemplarityof theresponsible forpublic affairsalthoughthe appearance ofthe exhibited political virtueis perforce anambiguousthing:gli peccati de’popoli nascono dai principi[23]



Della PORTA (Donatella), Lo scambio occulto. Casi di corruzione politica in Italia, Il Mulino, Bologna,  1992.

MACHIAVELLI, Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livy, Robert Laffont, Paris, 1996.

MACHIAVEL, Le Prince (trans. Thierry Ménissier), Hatier, Paris, 1999 (coll. Les classiques Hatier de la philosophie).

MÉNISSIER, Thierry, L’usage civique de la notion de corruption selon le républicanisme ancien et moderne”, Anabases. Traditions et réception de l'Antiquité, No. 6, 2007, pp. 83-98.

MÉNISSIER, Thierry, “Ordini et tumulti selon Machiavel: la république dans l’histoire”, Archives de Philosophie, tome 62-2, avril-juin 1999, pp. 221-239.

QUAGLIONI, Diego, “Machiavelli e la lingua della giurisprudenza”, Il pensiero politico, XXXII, 1999, pp. 171-185.

[1] Cf. MACHIAVELLI, Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livy, I, 2, namely the idea that political bodies like all natural things have an end (our references are made ​​from the edition of C. BEC – Robert Laffont, Paris, 1996).

[2] Donatella Della PORTA, Lo scambio occulto. Casi di corruzione politica in Italia, Il Mulino, Bologna 1992.

[3] Cf. MACHIAVELLI, Discoursescit., II, 2, p. 299.

[4] Cf. Diego QUAGLIONI, “Machiavelli e la lingua della giurisprudenza”, Il pensiero politico, XXXII, 1999, pp. 171-185.

[5] Wewould referin this context toour study: Thierry MÉNISSIER, L’usage civique de la notion de corruption selon le républicanisme ancien et moderne”, Anabases. Traditions et réception de l'Antiquité, No. 6, 2007, pp. 83-98.

[6] MACHIAVELLI, Discourses…cit., II, 2, p. 297.

[7] Ibidem, I, 24: Well-ordered republics award rewards and punishments to their citizens and never compensate the ones by the others”.  

[8] Ibidem, p. 236.

[9]See MACHIAVELLI, The Prince, III, p. 116: « è cosa veramente molto naturale e ordinaria desiderare di acquistare ».

[10]See Idem, Discourses, I, 37, and II, foreword, the passages related to malacontentezza.

[11] Capitolo dell’ “Ambizione” – Idem, p. 1072.

[12] Cf. Titus LIVY, The History of Early Rome (Ab Urbe condita), III, 35; MACHIAVELLI, Discourses…cit., I, 40 sq.

[13] MACHIAVELLI, Discourses…cit., I, 42, p. 263.

[14] Cf. Titus LIVY, The History…cit., III, 1; MACHIAVELLI, Discourses…cit., I, 37.

[15]See MACHIAVELLI, Discourses…cit, III, 6, as regards conjurations, p. 382: if he wants to avoid that the frustrated greed of the great does not completely destabilise the power structure he has put in place, the Republican leader must imperatively create situations in which the possible conspirators be able to invest their desireby interposing between them and himsomething to be desired” [« e che vi sia in mezzo qualche cosa da desiderare », Ed. Inglese, Rizzoli, BUR, Milan, p. 475]. Such transitional objects (awards, rewarding assignments, material possessions of quality) are intended to occupy the desire of the great and thus dissuade him from aiming at the supreme power.  

[16] See for instance the observations made in the Discourses, I, 53: Those who fight for their own glory are good and loyal soldiers”, see also the invitations made in The Prince to the Duke of Urbino to adopt a measurable behaviour in terms of “glory”, especially in the final chapter (Chapter XXI, pp. 176-178).

[17] This case is considered in the important Chapter XVIII of Book I of the Discourses,entitled “How to Maintain in Corrupt Cities a Free System, if Found there, or if not Found, how to Establish It”.

[18]From all the things written above, arises the difficulty or impossibility of maintaining a Republic in a City that has become corrupted, or to establish it there anew. And even if it should have to be created or maintained, it would be necessary to reduce it more to a Royal State (Monarchy) [lo stato regio] than to a Popular State (Republic) [lo stato popolare], so that those men who because of their insolence cannot be controlled by laws, should be restrained by a Power almost Regal [una podestà quasi regia] – Ibidem.

[19] Cf. MACHIAVELLI, Discourses, I, 4: That Disunion of the Plebs and the Roman Senate Made That Republic Free and Powerful”.

[20]We would refer the reader to our study: Thierry MÉNISSIER, “Ordini et tumulti selon Machiavel: la république dans l’histoire”, Archives de Philosophie, tome 62-2, avril-juin 1999, pp. 221-239.

[21]ButI shall first, as usual,offersome food for thoughtand saythatthose who hopethat a republiccan beunitedaregreatlymistaken”The Florentine History…cit., VII, 1, trad. cit. p. 917.

[22] The Florentine History…cit., VII, 1, p. 918.

[23] MACHIAVELLI, Discourses…cit., III, 29.