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spacerSed ad historiarum cognitionem accedere et illam philosophiae partem, necesse est quae de moribus tractat et civitate. Nam ista quasi anima est historiarum, ut quae omnium caussas contineat, explicatque dictorum, factorum, eventuum, atque ideo historiae notitiam non nudam inanemque esse sinat, sed in certos utilesque rerum usus perducat. Nec vero in negotio isto verebor omnium praestantissimum dicere et ad imitandum proponere Machiavellum, eiusque plane aureas in Livium observationes. Quod namque hominum indoctissimum esse volunt et scaelestissimum *, id nihil ad me qui prudentiam eius singularem laudo, nec impietatem aut improbitatum, se qua est, tueor. Quamquam si librum respicio, si propositum scribendi suum recte censeo, si etiam meliori interpretatione volo dicta ipsius adiuvare, non equidem video cur et iis criminibus mortui hominis fama liberari non possit. Qui in illum scripsit, illum nec intellexit necnon in multis calumniatus est. Et talis omnino est qualis qui miseratione dignissimus sit. Machiavellus democratiae laudator et assertor acerrimus natus, educatus, honoratus in eo reipublicae statu, tyrannidis summe inimicus. Itaque non tyranno non favet: sui propositi non est tyrannum instruere sed, arcanis eium palam factis, ipsum miseris populis nudum et conspicuum exhibere. An enim tales quales ipse describit principes fuisse plurimos ignoramus? Eccur istiusmodi principibus molestum est vivere hominis opera et in luce haberi? Hoc fuit viri omnium prudentissimi consilium, et sub specie principalis eruditionis populos erudieret, etam speciem praetexuit ut spes esset cur ferretur ab his qui rerum gubernacula tenent quasi ipsorum educator ac paedagogus. Ceterum haec disceptatio ultterius haud ducitur.


spacerBut to gain an understanding of histories, it is necessary to address that department of philosophy which deals with men’s manners and society. For this is, so to speak, the soul of histories and contains within itself and explains the causes of things said and done and their results, and therefore does not permit the knowledge of history to be simple-minded and devoid of content, but rather leads one to sure and useful comprehension of events. And in this business I shall have no fear in naming Machiavelli and his quite golden observations concerning Livy as the most excellent of them all and proposing him as a model for imitation. I am unconcerned about the fact that people call him the most ignorant and criminal of men, for I praise his singular prudence and can perceive no impiety or improbity, if any such exists. Rather if I respect his book, if I rightly comprehend his purpose in writing, if I wish to help along his pronouncements by means of a better interpretation, I for one fail to see how it would be impossible to free the reputation of this deceased gentleman from those accusations. The gentleman who wrote against him failed to understand and in many respects slandered him, so that he is entirely deserving of our sympathy. Machiavelli was a most energetic champion and advocate of democracy, born, raised, and honored in that kind of commonwealth, and was supremely an enemy of tyranny. Therefore his goal was not to educate a tyrant but rather, by revealing his secrets, to display him his wretched subjects, stripped bare for all to see. For are we unaware that a number of princes such as he describes have existed? Is it not troublesome for princes of that stamp to be drawn to the life by this man’s effort and be brought to light? Such was the intention of this most prudent of all men, to educate the common people by pretending to train his prince, and he contrived this deception in the hope that they would ask why they should tolerate such stuff from those at the helm of government, with him being, as it were, their own teacher and instructor. But this discussion will not be carried any further.


* Scaelestissimum is an unusual variant insofar as this e is a short vowel whereas in Renaissance Latin ae or oe normally substitute for a long one. But without further familiarity with Gentili’s orthographic habits I would not care to identify this is a printing error.

† The work in question is generally, and in all probability rightly, thought to be the “Ani-Machiavel“ by Innocent Gentillet, first published anonymously in 1576 as the third part of Commentariorum de regno aut quovis principatu recte et tranquillee administrando libri tres and subsequently reissued in French as Discours sur les moyens de bien gouuerner et maintenir en paix vn Royaumme ou autre principauté , for which see Sidney Anglo, op. cit., Chapter 9. But given the English provenance of Gentili’s work, one cannot help wondering if Gentili was familiar with the earliest seriously hostile discussion of Machiavelli, contained in a diatribe against Henry VIII written by Cardinal Reginald Pole (it was first printed, at Brescia, in 1744 under the title Apologia Reginaldi Poli ad Carolum V. Caesarem super quatuor libris a se scriptis de unitate ecclesiae, but had had a history of circulation in manuscript). In the course of this work he characterizes Henry as the disciple of a positively Satanic Machiavelli. Gentili’s own Protestantism may have made him particularly ill-disposed towards this work.