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Having discussed the general characteristics of principalities, the causes of their success or failure, and the means by which many have sought to acquire and maintain them, Machiavelli now proposes to discuss the ways princes can protect their territories. Chapters 12, 13, and 14, then, form the second part of his treatise and deal with the type of troops and military techniques needed to maintain a prince's power.


The main foundations that all states-whether new, old, or mixed-must have are good laws and good armies. There can be no good laws where there are not good armies. In Machiavelli's view, there are four types of potential military force: mercenary, auxiliary, native, and mixed.

Mercenary, or hired, troops are both useless and dangerous, he says. Mercenaries are disunited, ambitious, and undisciplined. They have no loyalty to a prince and serve only for their wages. Mercenary leaders, also, aren't to be trusted. They are either devious-in which case they plot for their own greatness-or incompetent-in which case they endanger a prince's chances for military success. The present ruin of Italy, says Machiavelli, may be attributed to the use of mercenary forces. His example to reinforce this point of view is the ease with which Charles VIII was able to conquer Italy, the troops hired to fight for Italy having fled as the French forces approached.


Machiavelli makes several references to Charles VIII to reinforce his views regarding mercenaries. The expression "taking Italy with a piece of chalk" was Machiavelli's analogy for the lamentable nature of Italian military power during his time. It meant that foreign powers could send an unarmed quartermaster ahead of the advancing invaders with a piece of chalk and mark the houses in which the foreign military were to be quartered when they entered a city.

Machiavelli then asserts that princes achieve the greatest success in warfare when they themselves command the movements of their armies. Rome and Sparta, for example, maintained their liberties for centuries by having armies of their own. On the other hand, the Carthaginians were betrayed by their mercenary troops after the first war with Rome and came very near to subjugation; the trusting citizens of Thebes were deprived of their liberty by the foreign captain, Philip of Macedon; and the city of Milan was lost and later subjugated by the tyrant Francesco Sforza. In each of these cases, says Machiavelli, mercenary troops rebelled against their employers and deprived the people of their freedom. It was only good fortune that saved the people of Florence from being betrayed by mercenaries. (They killed their mercenary captain Paolo Vitelli before he could lead his troops against the city.)

Machiavelli then takes a closer look at the Venetians and their military strategy. He finds that the results of their wars were secure and glorious as long as they confined themselves to their proper element, the sea. But when they engaged in wars on land, they no longer acted with their customary bravery, and adopted the habit of other Italian city-states of employing mercenaries. At first, there was no danger, because the Venetian reputation was great and their possessions on land small. Yet, when they sought to extend these possessions under the mercenary captain Carmignuola, they became aware of their error. Although they were aware that it was by Carmignuola's superior leadership that they had defeated the duke of Milan, on observing the captain's lukewarm attitude in the further conduct of the war, they concluded they could no longer hope for victory under his command. Still, they dared not dismiss him for fear of losing what they had gained; so for their own security they put him to death.

After giving older examples of the Italian use of mercenaries, Machiavelli concludes by saying that hired armies do everything possible to avoid exposing themselves to fatigue or danger, that they never kill other mercenaries, and that they prefer to take prisoners who can afterward be liberated without ransom. These practices, warns Machiavelli, are permitted by their rules of warfare and are devised to avoid hardships and danger.

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