Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527)

Florentine statesman and political philosopher. An aristocrat who held public office while Florence was a republic, Machiavelli fell from favor when the Medici family returned to power in 1512. He was tortured during a brief imprisonment; upon his release he retired to a life of studying philosophy and wrote the treatises that would become seminal works of modern political science. Machiavelli’s most famous work, The Prince (1513), not published until after his death, has exerted considerable literary and political influence within the Western tradition. Because The Prince is such a clear-eyed, unsentimental description of the politics of his era, the term “Machiavellian” has come to mean manipulative, deceitful, and amoral. In fact, Machiavelli himself was a trusted civil servant and an admired philosopher. See also philosophypages.com.