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Chapters 11 and 12

Chapter XI: Of Ecclesiastical Principalities

At the time when Machiavelli wrote The Prince, Italy did not simply have dukedoms and kingdoms and cities, but also had territories governed by the Pope and Catholic Church, or "ecclesiastical principalities." This chapter considers some of the difficulties of conquering and ruling such territories. Machiavelli argues that a prince can gain power over an ecclesiastical principality either by ability (virtý) or chance (fortuna), but he will be able to maintain it by means of neither of these. This is because the subjects of such principalities are used to obeying ancient religious customs, rather than ordinary political customs or laws. Such religious customs are so incredibly powerful that princes don't really need to do anything at all to keep their subjects in line. Nor does a prince need to do anything to defend such a kingdom, because no one will attack a holy state. In other words, ecclesiastical principalities are the only truly secure states for a prince to govern, according to Machiavelli. As soon as he says this, however, he cuts himself off - since these states are "maintained and exalted by God," he says, "it would be the work of a presumptuous and foolish man to discuss them."

Machiavelli does allow himself some space to discuss how the church came to possess any temporal (political) power in the first place. How was the Pope able to gain such great authority in non-religious matters like government? Machiavelli explains that a long time ago, power in Italy was divided among many potentates (princes and lords), and one of them was the Pope, who controlled the Vatican City in Rome. As long as there were many of these potentates, no single one of them was able to have any greater power than any other. When Alexander VI became Pope, however, things changed; as we have seen (in Chapter V), Alexander was a supreme politician, and was able to manipulate both domestic politics and foreign policy in such a way that his own political power increased, along with that of his son, Cesare Borgia. Alexander was followed by Julius, who increased papal wealth and territories. Machiavelli ends this chapter by praising the current pope, Leo X, suggesting that since his predecessors had increased the power and wealth of the papal office, Leo might be able to add "goodness" so that the office of the pope will be "both great and venerated." In other words, Machiavelli describes the power of the Pope without ever assuming that he is, as the servant of God, necessarily a holy and good man - another way in which The Prince might seem remarkably controversial to religious readers!

Chapter XII: The Different Kinds of Militia and Mercenary Soldiers

After discussing how various states are best acquired and maintained, Machiavelli moves on to consider methods of government. He declares that in all governments, of whatever kind, the best foundation is a combination of good laws and good arms - i.e. political and military strength. Machiavelli further asserts that the latter necessitates the former. There cannot be good laws where there are not good arms, and once there are good arms, there will inevitably be good laws. After making this claim, he drops the discussion of laws, and spends the rest of this chapter discussing military matters.

There are three kinds of armies a prince can maintain: an army made up of citizens, an army of mercenaries (paid soldiers), or a mixed army. Mercenaries, Machiavelli argues, are worthless and dangerous, impossible to rely on. This is because they have no love or loyalty to the prince, but are simply paid to fight for him and are therefore ready to turn against the prince if anyone pays them more. Indeed, Machiavelli points out that Italy's current political ruin has resulted largely from the fact that mercenary armies have been used there for many years. A better idea would be for a prince to be captain of his own soldiers, and in the case of a republic for citizens to lead the armies themselves.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Important Persons
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Summary of the Argument
Prefatory Letter
Chapters 1 and 2
Chapter 3
Chapters 4 and 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapters 9 and 10
Chapters 11 and 12
Chapters 13 and 14
Chapters 15 and 16
Chapters 17 and 18
Chapters 19 and 20
Chapters 21, 22, and 23
Chapters 24, 25, and 26


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