Machiavelli was born in Florence, Italy at a time when the country was in political upheaval . Italy was divided between four dominant city-states, and each of these was continually at the mercy of the stronger foreign governments of Europe. Since 1434 Florence was ruled by the wealthy Medici family. Their rule was temporarily interrupted by a reform movement, begun in 1494, in which the young Machiavelli became an important diplomat. When the Medici family regained power in 1512 with the help of Spanish troops, Machiavelli was tortured and removed from public life. For the next 10 years he devoted himself to writing history, political philosophy, and even plays. He ultimately gained favor with the Medici family and was called back to public duty for the last two years of his life. Machiavelli's greatest work is The Prince, written in 1513 and published after his death in 1532. The work immediately provoked controversy and was soon condemned by Pope Clement VIII. Its main theme is that princes should retain absolute control of their territories, and they should use any means of expediency to accomplish this end, including deceit. Scholars struggle over interpreting Machiavelli's precise point. In several section Machiavelli praises Caesar Borgia, a Spanish aristocrat who became a notorious and much despised tyrant of the Romagna region of northern Italy. During Machiavelli's early years as a diplomat, he was in contact with Borgia and witnessed Borgia's rule first hand. Does Machiavelli hold up Borgia as the model prince? Some readers initially saw The Prince as a satire on absolute rulers such as Borgia, which showed the repugnance of arbitrary power (thereby implying the importance of liberty). However, this theory fell apart when, in 1810, a letter by Machiavelli was discovered in which he reveals that he wrote The Prince to endear himself to the ruling Medici family in Florence. To liberate Italy from the influence of foreign governments, Machiavelli explains that strong indigenous governments are important, even if they are absolutist.
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