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Machiavelli Ecclesiastical Principalities

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The Prince is Machiavelli’s guide for ruling and conquering states. Machiavelli elaborates on various ways to acquire principalities and provides the reader with a straightforward guide on how to successfully conquer and maintain control over states. Machiavelli analyses the strengths and flaws of certain paths to conquest, how to maintain a hold on power and the importance of strong arms. Machiavelli sees humans as easily persuaded and simple minded.

He believes that all people want to be controlled and guided and those who control do so because their intellect is much greater than the average person.

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In chapter eleven, Ecclesiastical Principalities, Machiavelli elaborates on the strength and weaknesses of this unique type of principality. Ecclesiastical Principalities are acquired through virtue or fortune. These principalities are sustained by historical practices and rules that have developed alongside religion. In this unique case, although the Prince does control the state, it is strongly dominated by the church.

According to Machiavelli, Ecclesiastical Principalities are said to “alone have states, and do not defend them; they have subjects, and do not govern them, and the states, though ungoverned, do not care, and they neither think of becoming estranged from such princes, nor can they.

” This essay will analyze what Machiavelli considers strengths and weaknesses of Ecclesiastical principalities and how this principality differs from others. Before Alexander VI, the church was held in low esteem when it came to temporal affairs.

Despite this, all other powers in Italy feared the Pope and the Venetians. All powers in Italy attributed the quarrelling between the Orsini and the Colonna to be reason why the church remained weak and powerless. Consequently, this damages Ecclesiastical Principalities from emerging. The latter example proves arms to be a weakness of Ecclesiastical Principalities. Although Machiavelli does state the importance of arms, the Orsini and the Colonna weaken the church’s reputation by using so much violence.

Therefore, the confidence in the church is lost because people cannot agree on the fundamentals of their practices. Again, this inhibits the development of Ecclesiastical Principalities. However, it is through arms that the Church had become such an influential entity. Machiavelli states that Moses would have “never been able to make people observe his constitutions for long it he hadn’t been armed. ” Moses exterminates all who started believing in the golden calf while he was away conversing with God.

Eliminating the unfaithful is an important rule according to Machiavelli, and Moses displays dominance and provokes fear in his subjects who are easily persuaded to obey him. As a result Ecclesiastical Principalities flourish. To summarize, arms can be an asset and a weakness to Ecclesiastical Principalities. Also, arms are only used for the acquisition of Ecclesiastical Principalities and are sustained by fear and heredity. Heredity is a strength of Ecclesiastical Principalities. It is on the basis of heredity that Ecclesiastical Principalities develop.

This principality follows practices that have grown old with religion. Machiavelli encourages heredity when he states that “a prudent man must always enter upon the paths beaten by great men and imitate those who have been most excellent. ” Moses is an example of this by obeying God’s word and ruled God’s people according to the precedence the Lord set. Machiavelli also believes that heredity enables Ecclesiastical Principalities to perpetuate because humans do not like new orders. Nothing is more difficult to handle, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than to put one at the head of introducing new orders. ” God is a historically entrenched figure which attracts many to Ecclesiastical Principalities because people feel rooted and safe. Imitating the work of a past ruler is also important because “If his own virtue does not reach that far, at least he will be in the odor of it”. Pope Jullius demonstrates this perfectly by continuing through Alexander VI footsteps and finding new ways to make the church great by means of money and arms.

Fear is another strength that sustains Ecclesiastical Principalities. Humans believe in God’s practices because they fear what would happen if they seized to believe. Moses invokes fear by brutally killing all who lost faith in him. Those who Moses spared remain thankful that they were not harmed while those who were harmed stay weak and too scared to rebel. Machiavelli insinuates that all humans want to be controlled and guided. When not under direct guidance, humans are fearful of their life outside the Ecclesiastical Principality.

Fear was also used to maintain dominance by Remirro. He placed a mangled corpse in the middle of town square which left the people astounded. In doing so, people fear the Prince’s brutality and therefore, obey him. This is seen in all types of principalities. Overall, Machiavelli’s first impression of Ecclesiastical Principalities is that they differ from the others because “alone have states, and do not defend them; they have subjects, and do not govern them, and the states, though ungoverned, do not care, and they neither think of becoming estranged from such princes, nor can they. However, as the chapter unfolds, it becomes evident to the reader that Ecclesiastical Principalities are very similar to all other principalities. For all principalities, arms are crucial for controlling a population and acquiring a state. Fear is a strength of Ecclesiastical Principalities and in fact, helps to maintain control over subjects. Finally, heredity is another strength of Ecclesiastical Principalities because of its credibility. People feel entrenched in a principality when practices are consistent and rooted in the history of religion.

Ecclesiastical principalities differ from other principalities because of the human incapability to comprehend the divine power that controls them. Ecclesiastical Principalities are said to be, “happy and secure,” because humans do not have the mind capacity to question the influence of religion. Many humans cannot close the gap between the physical and spiritual life. Humans are therefore persuaded by a higher intellect to practice the values of religion and develop an Ecclesiastical Principality. In essence, Ecclesiastical Principalities sustain because they go beyond practicality.

All principalities have arms, convey fear and find importance in heredity but Ecclesiastical Principalities go beyond. These rules and laws put forth by the Prince are also the morals on which people base their lives around. Standing against these laws could be seen as disregarding their own values and morals. Consequently, this is why Ecclesiastical Princes “alone have states, and do not defend them and have subjects, and do not govern them”. Societies’ principles is also the reason why subjects do not “think of becoming estranged from the Prince, nor can they. ”


Machiavelli, Niccolo, and Harvey C. Mansfield. The Prince. Second Edition ed. Chicago and London: University of Chicago, 1998. Print.

Cite this Machiavelli Ecclesiastical Principalities

Machiavelli Ecclesiastical Principalities. (2017, Mar 15). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/machiavelli-ecclesiastical-principalities/

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