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The Prince

Niccolò Machiavelli


Chapters XII–XIV

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Chapters XII–XIV

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Chapters XII–XIV

Chapters XII–XIV

Chapters XII–XIV

Summary — Chapter XII: Concerning Various Kinds of Troops, and Especially Mercenaries

All princes must build on strong foundations. The two essential components of a strong state are good laws and good armies. Good laws cannot exist without good armies. The presence of a good army, however, indicates the presence of good laws.

There are three types of armies: a prince’s own troops, mercenary troops, and auxiliary troops. Mercenary and auxiliary troops are useless and dangerous. Mercenaries are “disunited, undisciplined, ambitious, and faithless.” Because their only motivation is monetary, they are generally not effective in battle and have low morale. Mercenary commanders are either skilled or unskilled. Unskilled commanders are worthless, but skilled commanders cannot be trusted to suppress their own ambition. It is far more preferable for a prince to command his own army.

Historically, dependence on mercenaries ruined Italy. During the breakup of Italy, which the Church supported in hopes of increasing its own stature, many townships hired mercenaries because they had little experience in military matters. Since the mercenaries were more concerned with increasing their own prestige and status than with taking risks or accomplishing military objectives, the conflicts between these mercenary forces devolved into a series of ineffective, staged, pseudo-battles, ultimately degrading Italy’s political and military might.

Summary — Chapter XIII: Concerning Auxiliary, Mixed, and Native Forces

Auxiliary troops—armies borrowed from a more powerful state—are as useless as mercenaries. Although they often fight well, a prince who calls on auxiliaries places himself in a no-win situation. If the auxiliaries fail, he is defenseless, whereas if the auxiliaries are successful, he still owes his victory to the power of another. Auxiliary troops are often skilled and organized, yet their first loyalty is to another ruler. Thus, they pose an even more dangerous threat to the prince than mercenaries.

If a prince does not command his own native troops, the principality can never be secure. Depending on outside armies is essentially the same as depending on good fortune. The use of auxiliaries and mercenaries is effective during prosperous times, but in times of adversity, reliance on borrowed troops, like reliance on fortune, is a perilous liability.

Summary — Chapter XIV: A Prince’s Concern in Military Matters

A prince must have no other objective, no other thought, nor take up any profession but that of war.

(See Important Quotations Explained)

The only thing a prince needs to study is the art of war. This is the primary discipline of the ruler. Mastery of this discipline can make even a common citizen a great ruler. The easiest way to lose a state is by neglecting the art of war. The best way to win a state is to be skilled in the art of war.

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Mixed Up

by PinguZ45, January 29, 2014

It's supposed to be able to ward of wolves like a lion and recognize traps like a fox. Sorry, just a minor correction


3 out of 3 people found this helpful

Hobbes was NOT a monarchist

by Ultra_Vires, May 01, 2014

Hobbes was not a monarchist; this is stated in the introduction written by C.B MacPhearson in Hobbes' Leviathan. It's true he wanted order, but calling him a Monarchist is wrong; he merely advocated a SOVREIGN. He alienated Monarchists by claiming that divine rule was NOT a legitimate form of governance.

"He preached obedience, that is to say, he set out the rational grounds for obedience, to whatever political authority actually exercised power at the time. But his doctrine was not calculated to please any of those who successively ... Read more


30 out of 36 people found this helpful

I spent a few hours on this, on chapter 3 Machiavelli summary

by anon_2223130183, November 30, 2014

On chapter 3;

"A prince should injure people only if he knows there is no threat of revenge."


I disagree with this, as I believe this sentence meant something else, as in to prevent/oppress, or avo... Read more


9 out of 9 people found this helpful

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