Machiavelli offers an analogy, asking us to picture two men: one armed, the other unarmed. It would not be reasonable to expect the armed man to obey the unarmed man. Nor would it be reasonable to expect the unarmed man to feel safe and secure if his servants are armed. The unarmed man will be suspicious of the armed man, and the armed man will feel contempt for the unarmed man, so cooperation will be impossible. A prince who does not understand warfare attempting to lead an army is like the unarmed man trying to lead the armed.

The prince must spend all of his time studying the art of war. This study is both a physical and mental process. The prince must train his body to hardships and learn to hunt wildlife. He must study geography and its effect on battle strategy. He must read history and study the actions of great leaders. A prince must prepare rigorously during peacetime in order to be well prepared for wartime.

Analysis — Chapters XII–XIV

Machiavelli’s famous statement that “the presence of sound military forces indicates the presence of sound laws” is a succinct description of the relationship between war and the formation of states in The Prince. Warcraft is conventionally understood as the component of statesmanship that involves the expansion of the state by conquering neighbors and establishing colonies. But Machiavelli argues that successful warcraft is not just one component among other equally important components of statesmanship. Instead, it is the very foundation upon which all states are built. Machiavelli defines the term “warcraft” quite broadly. For him, the idea encompasses more than just the direct use of military force. It comprises international diplomacy, domestic politics, tactical strategy, geographic mastery, and historical analysis. Perhaps influenced by the context in which he was writing, Machiavelli viewed war as something that never could disappear completely, nor did he even conceive of the absence of war as a goal. Even in the most peaceful of times, the clouds of war always threaten.

Machiavelli’s advocacy of the use of internal troops, rather than mercenaries or auxiliaries, follows naturally from previous chapters, in which he asserts the need for self-reliance and the projection of power. Historical anecdotes are prevalent throughout these chapters. Machiavelli’s reference to Italy in the context of mercenaries is significant, since he wrote The Prince partly to help Italy become more stable and powerful in the face of its aggressive neighbors. However, in these chapters Machiavelli does not refer to Italy’s history more than that of other countries, so it is not readily apparent at this point in the book that he intends to single out his home country.

In Chapter XIV, Machiavelli shifts his focus from the role of the prince to the personality of the prince. While previous chapters have focused upon the correct actions for the prince to perform and the characteristics of a strong state, in this chapter Machiavelli examines the psychology of a good prince. Machiavelli writes that “the prince ought to read history, and reflect upon the deeds of outstanding men, … examine the causes of their victories and defeats, and thereby learn to emulate the former and avoid the latter.” The portrait of an ideal prince does not describe a ruler who equally values politics, philosophy, and art as aspects of his rule, but one who focuses exclusively on the military strength of the state that he governs.