Machiavelli’s Advice

Advice From Machiavelli to the Presidential Candidates

Imagine a person so revered his tombstone has these words inscribed on it: “To so great a name, no epitaph can do justice. “

Do you think this phrase could be put above W’s grave?  How about Clinton’s? Obama’s?   How about Nixon’s?   Would you believe this is what is written on the gravestone of the infamous Niccolo Machiavelli?  I say infamous because an adjective is derived from his name – Machiavellian – it describes an unscrupulous person.   The English have an expression for the devil – ‘Old Nick,’ which is derived from their very black opinion of Machiavelli.  A person or politician who is Machiavellian is:  ‘cunning, dishonest, duplicitous, opportunistic, looks askance of morality in personal life.’  I guess today’s politicians have not evolved very much.  If we look at past political leaders you certainly could ascribe more than one of these attributes to them.

Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was born on May 5, 1469 in Florence, Italy.  Machiavelli earned the distinguished epitaph on his gravestone for his devotion to the service of Florence for which he was not duly compensated throughout his life.  He never became rich in spite of his dedication.  During his 58 years on earth, dying in 1527, Machiavelli  was a statesman, politician, a poet, a novelist, a translator of classical works as well as a playwright.  However, he is best known around the world for his work ‘The Prince,’ which is based on the behavior and actions he observed while serving  Duke Cesare Borgia.

He liked what he saw, so in 1513, Machiavelli wrote this treatise on political advice for present and future monarchs.  From then on Machiavelli and politics are inseparable.   His work is deemed a politician’s how-to manual and therefore he is considered the father of modern political science.  The truth hurts so his book did not garner him much love in his lifetime.  He made many enemies and at one point was tortured with the strappado.

The witches in Salem, Massachusettes were subjected to the strappado in an effort to get them to confess they were witches.  They had nothing to confess.  Neither did Machiavelli.  He was accused of being part of a conspiracy to murder Giuliano de Medici.

Torture using the strappado is very painful.  A person’s wrists are tied behind his back and then he is hoisted into the air.  This method usually dislocates the shoulders, tears muscles and you are left with two useless appendages.  Believe it or not, Machiavelli survived the strappado and there was nothing for him to confess.  He was thrown in prison and decided to write Giuliano a pair of sonnets in an effort to be exonerated.   Machiavelli called these poems the “Magnificant Giuliano.”  It worked.

Upon close observation of Cesare,  Niccolo Machiavelli believed all people are motivated by their desires and their fears, especially politicians.  It is how you deal with your desires and fears that create the type of politician one becomes. Since the 16th century politicians have used the recommendations in The Prince as their playbook whether they knew it or not.  With the invention of the printing press only a few decades before publication, ‘The Prince’ was widely distributed across Europe.  The Church and political leaders of the time had very harsh opinion of Machiavelli –thus the word Machiavellian – but if you are a student of history you will see his truths surfacing during every century since his words were written.

Let’s have some fun and see what Machiavelli would say to President Obama and to the field of candidates for the US presidential election.  To President Obama he might have said during his run for the Presidency:   “For a leader to be naïve or credulous can be dangerous, even fatal “ and remember, Barry, “when choosing your cabinet that the first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at  the men he has around him.”

To the dwindling field of candidates he would recommend many things.  To Bernie Sanders who proposes a very socialist agenda Niccolo would be prompted to make the following comment:  “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order.”

To Jeb: “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”

To Trump:  “Where the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be great.  To understand the nature of the people, one must be a prince and to understand a prince one must be of the people.”

To Hillary:  “I know politics has no relation to morals but there is no surer sign of decay in a country than to see the rites of religion held in contempt.”

To Cruz who tried to sabotage Carson: “I know the end justifies the means” but do you not understand that “one change always leaves the way open for the establishment of others.”

To Carson: “The fact is that a man who wants to act virtuously in every way necessarily comes to grief among the many who are not virtuous.”

So relevant, don’t you think so?  Perhaps the Republican Party and the Democratic Party can send each candidate a gift – the book ‘The Prince.’  It couldn’t possibly hurt.


Ancient Indigenous People

Apache, Cherokee, Sioux, Iroquois, Blackfoot.  As Americans we have been exposed to the names of the indigenous peoples of the United States.  We may not know all the names, since there were hundreds of tribes, but we certainly acknowledge they were in America first.   I wonder how many Italian-Americans have ever heard of the Native Italic tribes.

The Etruscans may come to mind, and if they took a tour of Rome they may have been exposed to the Sabines through a famous statue called “The Rape of the Sabines.”  However there were many, many more, such as the Oscans , Ligure (15 tribes), the  Apuli (3 tribes), the  Secani, Ancient Greek tribes, Samnitics (7 tribes)  and even the Celts (7 tribes ). These are just some of the ancient peoples of Italy.

Italy has been inhabited by modern day humans for 43,000 years and gene studies show multiple layers of migration from Syria, Central Asia,  Northern Europe, Macedonia and Greece. Many were blond and blue-eyed.  They were hunter-gatherers until agriculture was developed 8,000 years ago. These dwellers were dispersed over North-Central Italy.   Around 1500 B. C. other groups from the Arabian Peninsula and Illyria (Albania) brought a wide range of skins shades and physical types, hair color, and Indo-European languages into central and southern Italy.  Of course they mixed with the natives.   The diverse physical appearance of the Italian reflects these ancient tribes as well as all the barbaric hoards that came after the fall of Rome, such as the Goths, the Huns, the Franks, the Lombards (to name a few).

I am an example myself of this melting pot which is Italy. My DNA analysis only tells me about my most recent past.   I’m Jewish, Finnish, Spanish, Greco-Roman (largest segment) and Middle Eastern (second largest segment.)  I wasn’t surprised about the last two.  The Turks invaded the Bari area so regularly that if you wanted to insult someone, you would call him a Turk.   I was surprised there were no traces of Celtic or Germanic genes.  Having all my genetic information was interesting but I was curious however about my heritage that dates back to the Italic tribes.

When you start exploring the Italic tribes, there is one constant—no consensus on just about everything.  There is so little remaining of these tribes that it is difficult for archeologists pin point information with total accuracy.

I’ll begin with the land of my ancestors, Puglia.  The Apuli came across the Adriatic Sea from Illyria (Albania) around 800 B.C.   They were farmers and herdsmen and brought their animals with them.   There were three tribes.  The Messapic lived in the Brindisi area.   It is believed that that the tiny conical houses found in Alberobello were built by the Messapic.    Next were the Dauni  who lived around Foggia and lastly were the Peucezi.  Knowing that my family comes from the province of Bari, I now believe I have some Peucezi blood in me, even if minute.

These three groups lived independently but were attacked regularly by the Samnites, another primeval group of people living in the south-central part of Italy called the Samnium around 600 BC. The origin of the Samnite is not clear.  It is believed they are derived from both the Oscans and Sabine peoples of Campania and Latium.

They lived in the mountains, spoke an Indo-European language called Oscan, and were sheep herders, warriors.  The Samnites and Romans fought on the same side in the Second Punic War against Carthage.   They were great military strategists but once their usefulness to the Romans ceased to exist, the Samnites and the Romans began to battle each other for supremacy.  This group of people was comprised of seven tribes and Rome had great difficulty subjugating.  Pontius Pilate is believed to have been of Samnite heritage.

A religious group with many Gods, the Sabines go back a very long way.  They lived in the central Apennine Mountains around the Rieti area.  In 750 BC the Latins (Romans) and the Sabines fought for control of the Lazio area.  The abduction of the Sabine women by the Romans (a ploy to vanquish the Sabines) is immortalized in sculpture and in art.  A battle in which Sabine women entered the center of the conflict to make peace hangs in the Louvre and is entitled“ The Intervention of the Sabine Women.”  Pablo Picasso also had his own rendition of the Sabines.

Two indigenous peoples that date back over a thousand years are the Etruscans who lived between the Arno and Tiber rivers and west along the Apennines, and the Sicani of Sicily.  These people spoke their own languages that were not derived from the Indo-European languages such as: Greek, Celtic, Romance, Germanic, Balto-Slavic, Armenian, Indo-Iranian.  DNA samples from Etruscan tombs suggest that these people did not transfer to Italy from another place, whereas the Sicani are believed to have migrated from Spain’s Catalonia region.  The Secani were extinguished by the Carthaginians at around 1000 BC.

According to the Greeks, the Etruscans came from Lydia in the Aegean Sea.  There is much debate over the origin of the Etruscans. What is known is that it was a highly advanced civilization, contributing to Italy drainage and irrigation systems, architecture (use of the arch and vault), metal working, art, ceramics and were an expert seafaring society.   They traded actively with the Greeks, had their own alphabet and used family names for purpose of identification.

Two very fierce groups in ancient Italy were the Ligures in northwest Italy near the mouth of the Arno River, and the Venetics.  The Venetics were ancient Celtic peoples who spoke Veniti, traded in amber, bred horses and were believed to have been rough, strong and bold people.    The lived in the Venice, Padua and Verona area and intermarried with the common Celts on the western border.

The Celts populated the area around Milan.  The Celts of Italy are described as having very strong bones and were brawny people who were impervious to heat and cold.  Some were very tall, red-headed and fair skinned while others were had a ruddy complexion.  They were very fond of arguing and had deep resounding voices.  The women were as large and sinewy as the men and fought as bravely as their male counterparts when in battle.

In conclusion, when Italian Americans observe see themselves in the mirror and see red, black, brown hair there is an infinite amount of possibilities where this hair came from.  If they are lanky and broad they could have had Celtic or Germanic descendants.  If they are green-eyed, gray or blue eyed, the Lombards, Normans, Germans could have been responsible.  If they are fair, stocky and average height, maybe there was a Samnite in his family tree.  The tiny, small boned southerners could have been Apulians.  Lastly, the if you are swarthy with black curly hair the prospects lean toward people from the Arabian peninsula.  Get a DNA analysis, you will be surprised what you learn about your family tree.