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The Prince


Niccolo Machiavelli

Chapter 6:
Concerning new Principalities Which Are Acquired By

One’s Own Arms and Ability

Let no one be surprised if, in speaking of entirely new principalities as I
shall do, I adduce the highest examples both of prince and of state;
because men, walking almost always in paths beaten by others, and
following by imitation their deeds, are yet unable to keep entirely to the
ways of others or attain to the power of those they imitate. A wise man
ought always to follow the paths beaten by great men, and to imitate
those who have been supreme, so that if his ability does not equal theirs,
at least it will savour of it. Let him act like the clever archers who,
designing to hit the mark which yet appears too far distant, and knowing
the limits to which the strength of their bow attains, take aim much
higher than the mark, not to reach by their strength or arrow to so great a
height, but to be able with the aid of so high an aim to hit the mark they
wish to reach.

I say, therefore, that in entirely new principalities, where there is a new
prince, more or less difficulty is found in keeping them, accordingly as
there is more or less ability in him who has acquired the state. Now, as
the fact of becoming a prince from a private station presupposes either
ability or fortune, it is clear that one or other of these things will mitigate
in some degree many difficulties. Nevertheless, he who has relied least
on fortune is established the strongest. Further, it facilitates matters
when the prince, having no other state, is compelled to reside there in

But to come to those who, by their own ability and not through fortune,
have risen to be princes, I say that Moses, Cyrus, Romulus, Theseus, and
such like are the most excellent examples. And although one may not
discuss Moses, he having been a mere executor of the will of God, yet
he ought to be admired, if only for that favour which made him worthy
to speak with God. But in considering Cyrus and others who have
acquired or founded kingdoms, all will be found admirable; and if their
particular deeds and conduct shall be considered, they will not be found
inferior to those of Moses, although he had so great a preceptor. And in
examining their actions and lives one cannot see that they owed anything

The Prince: Chapter 6 by Niccolo Machiavelli

Created for Lit2Go on the web at etc.usf.edu

to fortune beyond opportunity, which brought them the material to
mould into the form which seemed best to them. Without that
opportunity their powers of mind would have been extinguished, and
without those powers the opportunity would have come in vain.

It was necessary, therefore, to Moses that he should find the people of
Israel in Egypt enslaved and oppressed by the Egyptians, in order that
they should be disposed to follow him so as to be delivered out of
bondage. It was necessary that Romulus should not remain in Alba, and
that he should be abandoned at his birth, in order that he should become
King of Rome and founder of the fatherland. It was necessary that Cyrus
should find the Persians discontented with the government of the Medes,
and the Medes soft and effeminate through their long peace. Theseus
could not have shown his ability had he not found the Athenians
dispersed. These opportunities, therefore, made those men fortunate, and
their high ability enabled them to recognize the opportunity whereby
their country was ennobled and made famous.

Those who by valorous ways become princes, like these men, acquire a
principality with difficulty, but they keep it with ease. The difficulties
they have in acquiring it rise in part from the new rules and methods
which they are forced to introduce to establish their government and its
security. And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more
difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in
its success, then to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of
things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done
well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who
may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the
opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the
incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they
have had a long experience of them. Thus it happens that whenever
those who are hostile have the opportunity to attack they do it like
partisans, whilst the others defend lukewarmly, in such wise that the
prince is endangered along with them.

The Prince: Chapter 6 by Niccolo Machiavelli

Created for Lit2Go on the web at etc.usf.edu

It is necessary, therefore, if we desire to discuss this matter thoroughly,
to inquire whether these innovators can rely on themselves or have to
depend on others: that is to say, whether, to consummate their enterprise,
have they to use prayers or can they use force? In the first instance they
always succeed badly, and never compass anything; but when they can
rely on themselves and use force, then they are rarely endangered. Hence
it is that all armed prophets have conquered, and the unarmed ones have
been destroyed. Besides the reasons mentioned, the nature of the people
is variable, and whilst it is easy to persuade them, it is difficult to fix
them in that persuasion. And thus it is necessary to take such measures
that, when they believe no longer, it may be possible to make them
believe by force.

If Moses, Cyrus, Theseus, and Romulus had been unarmed they could
not have enforced their constitutions for long–as happened in our time
to Fra Girolamo Savonarola, who was ruined with his new order of
things immediately the multitude believed in him no longer, and he had
no means of keeping steadfast those who believed or of making the
unbelievers to believe. Therefore such as these have great difficulties in
consummating their enterprise, for all their dangers are in the ascent, yet
with ability they will overcome them; but when these are overcome, and
those who envied them their success are exterminated, they will begin to
be respected, and they will continue afterwards powerful, secure,
honoured, and happy.

To these great examples I wish to add a lesser one; still it bears some
resemblance to them, and I wish it to suffice me for all of a like kind: it
is Hiero the Syracusan.[*] This man rose from a private station to be
Prince of Syracuse, nor did he, either, owe anything to fortune but
opportunity; for the Syracusans, being oppressed, chose him for their
captain, afterwards he was rewarded by being made their prince. He was
of so great ability, even as a private citizen, that one who writes of him
says he wanted nothing but a kingdom to be a king. This man abolished
the old soldiery, organized the new, gave up old alliances, made new

The Prince: Chapter 6 by Niccolo Machiavelli

Created for Lit2Go on the web at etc.usf.edu

ones; and as he had his own soldiers and allies, on such foundations he
was able to build any edifice: thus, whilst he had endured much trouble
in acquiring, he had but little in keeping.

[*] Hiero II, born about 307 B.C., died 216 B.C.

The Prince: Chapter 6 by Niccolo Machiavelli

Created for Lit2Go on the web at etc.usf.edu