Following the rise and fall of Machiavelli

By Ondine Cohane ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-04-18 17:19:59

Following the rise and fall of Machiavelli

Niccolò Machiavelli is interred at the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence.[Photo/China Daily]

The medieval hamlet of Sant'Andrea in Percussina sits in the Tuscan hills amid rose-covered stone farmhouses and small country chapels surrounded by acres of silver-green olive groves.

Farmers drive Apes, the tiny three-wheeled farm vehicles favored by pensioners here, piled high with fruit and vegetables from their land, while the scent of grapes fermenting for local Chianti wine, one of the town's main productions, wafts from underground barrel-vaulted cantinas.

But despite having the feeling of being in a faraway enclave, from a bench in the corner of one of those village gardens, I can see the rooftops of Florence in the distance, even making out the familiar dome of the city's cathedral, glinting in the early summer sun.

While it seems an idyllic spot today, it was here that five centuries ago the political philosopher and statesman Niccolò Machiavelli, considered by many the architect of modern politics, spent more than a decade in exile.

He used to sit on this very perch, in a corner of his garden, pining for his former city home-in view but just out of reach.

Machiavelli was born in Florence in 1469, and, for most of his career in government, his fortunes rose and fell in inverse proportion to those of the Medicis, the Florentine family that came to power in the Renaissance and was the source of many of its artistic treasures.

A chancellor for the city while the Medicis had been in exile themselves, Machiavelli took part in a failed attempt to stop them from returning to power, for which he'd ended up jailed, tortured and finally banished to this family farm.

But while it was punishment, to be sure, to be abruptly removed from his government seat to this secluded village, it also proved a particularly productive period for him, during which he wrote his magnum opus, "The Prince," in just under a year.

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