Discourses on Livy

Discourses On Livy

Discourses on Livy

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The Discourses on Livy (, literally "Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livy") is a work of political history and philosophy written in the early 16th century (ca. 1517) by the Italian writer and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli, best known as the author of The Prince. Where the latter is nominally devoted to advising the ruler of a principality, in other words a type of monarchy, the Discourses purport to explain the structure and benefits of a republic, a form of government based on some level of popular consent and control.

Machiavelli dedicated this work to Zanobi Buondelmonti and Cosimo Rucellai, two of the greatest exponents of the Orti Oricellari in Florence, where aristocratic young people met in order to discuss politics, art and literature.


The Prince is written in the form of a short digest, based primarily on empirical observations about great men. Machiavelli wrote the Discourses in the form of a longer commentary on Livy's work on the history of Ancient Rome, Ab Urbe condita. However, both books include empirical observations—particularly from the political landscape of Renaissance Italy—and historical generalizations. Machiavelli himself does not make a sharp distinction between the two methods of inquiry, as he thinks that all ages are fundamentally similar. Machiavelli seeks to use both methods to discover the laws of the political universe, which he indicates are as unchanging as those of the natural...
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