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Machiavelli was a Florentine statesman during the Italian Renaissance. At the age of 25 he became an ambassador to Florence, only two years after the death of Lorenzo de Medici. As ambassador to Florence he undertook several diplomatic missions, and in 1503 was given responsibility for the city militia.
In 1513 the city was re-taken by the Medici family with the help of the Pope, and because of Machiavelli’s heavy involvement in the state he was charged for treason and tortured. Despite this enhanced interrogation, Machiavelli did not confess to any conspiracy; he was later released.
Like many other realist political thinkers, Machiavelli lived in a time of great political instability. His thoughts on how to rule can be seen in his most famous political work, The Prince, which he wrote in exile after the fall of the Republic of Florence.
"The Prince" describes itself as a guide of how a city-state should be run; contrary to the work “The State” by Plato it is not based on what virtues should form the basis of a “good” state, but rather seeks to deduce from history which approach is the most sensible. Some view Machiavelli as cynical in that he supports military action to suppress one’s own subjects, and similar activities, but Machiavelli always points to examples in history where such actions would have benefited the subjects. This has lead to the term "Machiavellian" to describe an intelligent person who cares not for the good of other people, but unfortunately, the truth is that "The Prince" was intended as a work of parody, a mocking commentary on the way the Medici family ran their city-states, something which has been lost on subsequent generations, who ironically believe that the work of fiction represented Machiavelli's genuine ideals.
Machiavelli is often regarded as one of the first real politicians, but he was also a playwright, musician and philosopher.