Happy Machiavelli Day!

Today is Niccolo Machiavelli’s 640th birthday. I am, naturally, throwing a party.*

Discourses XXVII:

VERY RARELY DO MEN KNOW HOW TO BE ENTIRELY GOOD OR ENTIRELY BAD

When Pope Julius II in the year one thousand five hundred and five (1505) went to Bologna to drive the house of Bentivogli out of that State, of which they had held the Principate (of that State) for a hundred years, he wanted also to remove Giovanpagolo Baglioni from Perugia, of which he was Tyrant, (and) to be the one who planned to eliminate all the Tyrants who were occupying the lands of the Church. And having arrived at Perugia with this purpose and decision known to everyone, he did not wait to enter in that City with his army that was protecting him, but entered unarmed, notwithstanding that Giovanpagolo was inside with large forces that he had gathered for defense. And thus, brought by that fury which governed all his actions, with only his simple guard he placed himself in the hands of the enemy, whom he then carried off with him, leaving a governor in that City who should administer it for the Church. The temerity of the Pope and the cowardice of Giovanpagolo were noted by the prudent men who were with the Pope, nor could they understand whence it happened that he (Baglioni) did not with his perpetual fame attack his enemy at once and enrich himself with booty, there being with the Pope all the Cardinals with their valuables. Nor could it be believed that he abstained either from goodness or that his conscience restrained him; for no regard of piety could enter in the heart of a riotous man, who had kept his sister, and had put to death his cousins and nephews in order that he could reign there: but it is concluded that men do not know how to be entirely bad or perfectly good, and that when an evil has some greatness in it or is generous in any part, they do not know how to attempt it. Thus Giovanpagolo, who did not mind being publicly (called) incestuous and a parricide, did not know how, or to say more correctly, did not dare ((even having a justifiable opportunity)) to make an enterprise where everyone would have admired his courage and which would have left an eternal memory of himself, being the first who would have shown the Prelates how little esteemed are they who live and reign as they do, and would have done an act, the greatness of which would have overcome every infamy and every danger that could have resulted from it.

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* I am very bad at organizing parties, but very good at getting interesting people to come; this means my parties tend to be totally disorganized and announced at the last minute, with often insufficient alcohol and me running around trying to prevent disaster, but the guests nonetheless leave happy because they’ve met new and cool people. I feel like I’m a social ponzi scheme: my social life works only so long as I can keep recruiting new friends to introduce to the old ones. Tomorrow’s party (uh… today’s) is a little less unplanned than usual: I have enough alcohol (though I may pick up more), actually announced to at least some of the guests several days in advance, etc. But cleanup is going slowly, will have to finish in the morning. And I may remove my dirty laundry not by washing it but by putting it in my car.

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