The original copy of a proclamation – exactly 500-years old – calling for the arrest of one the world’s most infamous political operators has been discovered.
Stephen Milner, a Professor of Italian at Manchester University, came across the 1513 proclamation which led to the downfall of Niccolò Machiavelli, known as the Italian Prince of Darkness, buried in the state archives in Florence.
The Machiavelli scholar and translator explained: “On the return of the Medici faction to power in 1512, Machiavelli was removed from his post in the city’s Chancery because of his close association with the previous leading citizen and head of the republican government, Piero Soderini.
"When his name was linked to the conspiracy to overthrow the Medici, they wasted no time in seeking his capture using the proclamation I discovered. On the same day, he was imprisoned and tortured.”
Although, he was later released and placed under house arrest outside the city, the declaration marked a downturn in the civil servant’s political fortunes, eventually resulting in his death 14 years later in abject poverty.
It was during his exile that he set to writing his seminal work ‘The Prince’, which has had a lasting influence on political thought and culture to this day. The treatise is infamous for advocating the sacrifice of virtue and morality to maintain power at all costs. In the 500 years since its publication, it has been updated to apply to areas as diverse as banking, finance, business and politics.
Prof Milner said: “The Prince was written in the vain hope of gaining favour and employment with the Medici – but there’s no evidence to suggest they even read it.”
Its 500-year anniversary is being celebrated by the city of Florence – beginning with a reconstruction of the events surrounding his capture and imprisonment.
A town crier mounted on a horse and armed with a silver trumpet to attract the attention of crowds will make the proclamation at sites across Florence.
Prof Milner has mapped the sites within the city where the town crier would have actually read out the proclamation and found details of the payments made to the four horsemen who searched the streets and captured Machiavelli.
Prof Milner made the discovery whilst Visiting Professor at the Harvard Centre for Italian Renaissance Studies at Villa I Tatti in Florence.
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