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THE NOVEL - SUMMARY AND NOTES
Machiavelli's final arguments in Part II are concerned with the duties of a prince in relation to the art of war and the organization and discipline of his army. Knowing the art of warfare is all that is expected of a prince who commands. It not only maintains princes in their position, but also enables men born in private station to achieve a princely rank. The neglect of the art of war is the main cause for the loss of a prince's state, while a proficiency in it often enables a prince to acquire one. A good example of the latter is Francesco Sforza. Skilled in arms and warfare, Sforza rose from private station to be duke of Milan, but his descendants-by shunning the labors of arms and warfare-relapsed into the condition of private citizens.
There are also other evils that will befall a prince who doesn't have a proper military force. A prince who is not master of the art of warfare can't be respected by his soldiers, nor can he depend upon them. Therefore, the practice of arms and warfare should always be uppermost in a prince's thoughts. He should also study the geography of his country and learn where the mountains rise and the valleys lie; he should know the nature of rivers and swamps. This knowledge helps a prince to understand how to defend his territory when he is attacked.
A prince who lacks the knowledge of the methods of warfare also lacks the
essentials that a commander of troops should possess. That knowledge teaches
him where to find the enemy, how to select proper places for entrenchments,
how to conduct armies, how to regulate marches and order battles. A prince
may also gain considerable knowledge of warfare by reading history and
studying the actions of eminent men. The prince should observe how distinguished
men behaved in battle and should examine the causes of their victories
and defeats, so that he may imitate the former and avoid the latter.
But, above all, a prince should follow the example of whatever distinguished man he may have chosen for his model-assuming that someone has been especially praised and held up to him as glorious, and whose actions and exploits he should always bear in mind. Thus, says Machiavelli, it is told of Alexander the Great that he imitated Achilles, and of Julius Caesar that he had taken Alexander the Great for his model.
Machiavelli's arguments for a national military and its role in the art of warfare may well have appealed to Lorenzo. Lorenzo may also have been persuaded by Machiavelli's argument that a prince must prepare both his mind and his body for warfare, especially since Lorenzo fancied himself a model of mental and physical perfection.
Although some of Machiavelli's arguments in these three chapters may strike you as dated, there are still significant modern parallels. Some political analysts would remark that Fidel Castro assumed power in Cuba with strategies similar to those described in Machiavelli's account. Can you think of other meaningful examples of Machiavelli's views at work today, especially the role of auxiliary or mixed troops? Consider the role of the United Nations in helping to maintain peace. Keep your examples in mind as you continue to read The Prince.