15 Renaissance Political Thought

Political Thought and Machiavelli

Political thought at universities:

old laws, new situations

Civil law: Justinian Code: and commentaries

Canon law


Aristotle’s Politics translated ca 1260

Thomas Aquinas

Christian notions of human nature

Aristotle’s sense of the polity

Marsilius of Padua  (1275/80-1342/3) Defender of Peace 1324

Papacy: Babylonian Captivity, Schism

plenitude of power


Conciliar Movement



history of Jews, ancient politics and religion

Christian   notions of “old” and “new” law



Humanist movement: another set of changes

“civic” humanist writings: Bruni

Cicero, Seneca

public good


15th c humanists and politics

diverse forms of “modern” government

diverse humanists tasks for writing

Roman models, Greek models. Some issues in the sources:

  1. value of Athenian democracy; evils of same
  2. Spartan government and stability
  3. constitutional forms: democracy, oligarchy, monarchy; “Mixed”
  4. Polybius on Rome: why did Rome triumph?
  5. Rome and virtue: why did Rome fail?
  6. Rome, Christianity, and virtue


politics via the study of history

Thucydides, Polybius

Image result for polybius histories

Polybius, Histoire, tr. Vincent Tuillier,  1727-1730

Bruni, Machiavelli

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527)

Anon. portrait bust, Florence, Palazzo Vecchio


chancery 1498-1512:  Florence and its subject regions

secretary to foreign policy magistracy of the Ten

envoy to Italian    cities HRE, France.

militia: reconquest of Pisa, 1509

1512 return of Medici

1513 torture, exile   Prince

allowed back into Florence, wrote/read Discourses 1513-19

Art of War 1521, Florentine Histories 1525.



virtue; fortune; republic; freedom


Livy  via Perseus Digital Library