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[T]he present ruin of Italy is caused by nothing other than its having relied for many years on mercenary armies. These once enabled some men to get ahead, and they did appear courageous among themselves, but when the foreigner arrived, they showed themselves for what they were. In consequence, Charles, king of France, was able to take Italy with a piece of chalk[.]
Auxiliary troops, which are the other kind of useless armies, are those of a power whom you have asked to come and defend you with his troops . . . These troops can be useful and good in themselves, but they are almost always harmful for the man who calls them in, for if they lose, you are undone; if they win, you remain their prisoner.
Charles VII, father of King Louis XI, having by means of his good fortune and ability [virtù] liberated France from the English, recognized this necessity of arming oneself with one’s own arms and established in his kingdom an ordinance for training cavalry and infantry. Afterward, King Louis, his son, abolished the one concerning the infantry and began to hire the Swiss, which error, followed by others, is, as can now be seen in fact, the cause of the dangers that kingdom faces.
[B]etween an armed man and an unarmed one there is no comparison whatsoever, and it is not reasonable that one who is armed should willingly obey one who is unarmed, or that an unarmed one would be safe among armed servants. For the latter being disdainful and the former suspicious, it is not possible for them to work well together. And therefore, a prince who does not understand military matters . . . cannot be esteemed by his soldiers, nor can he place any trust in them.
[A]s for exercising the mind, the prince must read histories and in them consider the actions of eminent men, see how they conducted themselves, examine the reasons for their victories and defeats in order to be able to avoid the latter and imitate the former; and above all, he must do as some eminent man has done in the past who chose to imitate someone who before him had been praised and glorified, and has always kept his deeds and actions in mind, as it is said Alexander the Great imitated Achilles; Caesar, Alexander; and Scipio, Cyrus.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Prince!