Summary and Analysis
If a new prince follows all of these principles, he will soon be as secure as a hereditary ruler, because if people find they are doing well in the present, they will not look for changes. But anyone who acquires a new state and then loses it through incompetence is disgraced. The Italian rulers who have lost their states did so because they lacked military power, made their subjects hate them, or were unable to defend against the nobles. They should not blame bad luck but their own laziness for their losses, because they did not make preparations, and when trouble struck, they ran away, hoping the people would restore them. A prince can only rely on defenses that he can personally control.
This chapter brings Machiavelli back to his discussion of Italy's political situation in his time, which he last treated in his discussion of military matters in Chapters 12 through 14. He specifically mentions the King of Naples and the Duke of Milan as rulers who have lost their power, but he is most concerned with Ludovico Sforza, whom Machiavelli regarded with contempt. Sforza provided a perfect example of how not to follow Machiavelli's precepts. He encouraged Charles VIII of France to invade Italy, and when Louis XII returned, the French deprived Sforza of his state and made him their prisoner. Machiavelli blamed him for many of Italy's troubles resulting from the foreign invasions. Frederick of Aragon (1452-1504), the King of Naples, is probably less fair as an example, because he was forced out of power by a secret agreement between Louis XII and Ferdinand II to divide Naples between them. In the face of two major powers, there was very little Frederick could have done to preserve his position.
In particular, Machiavelli has harsh words for the laziness and indolence of the Italian princes, because an ideal prince must always be planning and maneuvering to avoid future disasters. Finally, Machiavelli returns to his theme of self-sufficiency: Relying on others is always a mistake, because others are out of your control. Only by controlling your own resources can you be really secure. Machiavelli takes up this theme more fully in Chapter 25.
Philip of Macedon Philip V (238-179 B.C.), king of Macedon. He was defeated in 197 B.C. by Titus Quintus Flaminius, a Roman general, at Cynoscephalae.