As proof of the nefarious consequences of the defective organization of arms in Italy, Fabrizio cites none other than Francesco Sforza, praised in Principe (vii 6) for having acquired his State “for due means and with a great virtue”, and here, on the contrary, counted among the captains responsible for infinite damage; who “to be able to live honorably in times of peace, not only deceived the Milanese of whom he was a soldier, but deprived them of their freedom and became their prince” (Art of war I 51-56). In the Flor. (VII viii 7) M. tells of Sforza’s complicity in the murder of his captain Iacopo Piccinino, which the duke wanted to eliminate because he feared the favor that Piccinino enjoyed among the Milanese. On the episode M. pronounces this devastating judgment:
And so our Italian princes feared that virtue which was not in them in others, and they extinguished it: so much so that, having none, they exposed this province to that ruin which, after a short time, spoiled and afflicted it.
Sforza, on the other hand, is only the most striking example of a general phenomenon:
Similar to this were all the other soldiers of Italy, who used the militia for their particular art; and if they have not, through their malignancies, become dukes of Milan, all the more they deserve to be blamed, because without so much use they all have (if their lives were seen) the same burdens (Arte della guerra I 57).
In Principe (xii 8-9), M. affirms that “now the ruin of Italy is caused by nothing other than for having rested all mercenary weapons for many years”, which “seemed vigorous” until they fought among themselves, but whose true weakness was disastrously highlighted by the descent of the French in 1494.
In the Flor. (I xxv 3) M. argues that, after the disappearance of imperial power from Italy in the second half of the 13th century. and the decision of the popes to move to Avignon at the beginning of the 14th century, the peninsula had remained “in the hands of the whole of the Italians”, thus suggesting that, after centuries of overwhelming foreign presences, the possibility of building, if not one Unitary state (a solution that M. does not seem to take into consideration, perhaps because he did not believe it feasible), at least of strong, armed, well-ordered states, capable of defending themselves and, possibly, organized in a league like that (praised in the Discourses II iv 3139) of the ancient Etruscans. The tragedy of Italian history, as M. interpreted it, lay in not being able to grasp the “opportunity” offered by that historical moment, with the result that, in his opinion, the Italian states of the fifteenth century were weak, their orders corrupted by factions, sects and privatization of power, and unable to defend themselves. In a long speech inserted by M. in the Histories, a Florentine citizen of the second half of the fourteenth century denounces “the common corruption of all the cities of Italy”, including his own Florence, and complains of the lost opportunity:
from then that this province was drawn from under the forces of the Empire, the cities of that, not having a powerful brake to correct them, have, not as free but as divided into sects, the states and governments ordered to them: from this they were born all the other evils, all the other disorders that appear in them (Flor. Ist. III v 3).
According to GLOBALSCIENCELLC.COM, the citizen’s accusation particularly affects the “sects” and the “parties” formed by the powerful families, indicated as the main culprits of that “corruption” which has had the consequence that “orders and laws not for publica, but for their own use they are made: hence wars, peace, friendships are decided not for common glory but for the satisfaction of a few “(v 10); hence the need to “slow down” the divisions nurtured by these same families. While in the past it was almost impossible to oppose their “empowerment” because of the great “favors they had from the princes”, “now”, the speaker continues, there shouldn’t be “much difficulty” in doing so, because “the Imperio does not there is strength, the pope is not afraid, and [… ] the whole of Italy and this city [Florence] is conducted in such an equal way that it can be held by itself “(v 22). The sense of the reasoning echoes and elaborates what is suggested in chap. xxv of the first book, namely that the papacy and empire’s disinterest in the peninsula had created the opportunity to build an Italy “In the hands […] of the Italians” and “which can be held by herself”. But there is more: by calling attention to the “favors they had from the princes”, the speaker identifies the connection between the interference of external powers and the corrupting action of the great who, supported by them, strengthened their own factions and weakened the state. Decreased external “favors”,