The “Ruin” of Italy Part III
This, however, did not happen, essentially because, in M.’s opinion, the ruling classes shamefully failed to fulfill their responsibilities. All of M.’s reflection on the history of Italy in the fifteenth century and, even more, on the catastrophe of the times in which he wrote, it hinges on the shortcomings of the groups in power. Getting ready in the Histories to narrate the events of the entire peninsula in the fifth book, M. condemns the “cowardice” of the way of waging war introduced in Italy by the mercenary princes and captains: thus the “so much virtue” of the States that arose was extinguished ” among the Roman ruins ”,“ in agreement and orderly ”and which“ liberated and defended ”the Italy “By ‘barbarians” (the German emperors of the 12th-14th centuries). To what extent the “virtue” of previous centuries was extinguished, “we can clearly know what we will be describing from 1434 to 1994, where we will see how in the end the way was opened again for the barbarians and rest. Italy in the servitude of those ». The years indicated by M. are those of the Medici domination in Florence, but the judgment extends to all the Italian states:
And if in describing the things followed in this broken world one does not narrate either a fortress of soldiers or the virtue of a captain, or love for the country of a citizen, it will be seen with what deceptions, with what tricks and arts, the princes, the soldiers and the leaders. republics governed themselves in order to maintain that reputation which they did not deserve (V i 8, 11, 13).
An even more drastic judgment is expressed in the preface to the second book of Discourses:
those born in Italy […] have reason to blame their times and praise others; because […] in these [times, in Italy] there is nothing that recovers him from every extreme misery, infamy and contempt, where there is no observance of religion, not of laws, not of militia, but they are stained with every ugly reason. And the more detestable these vices are, the more they are in those who sit pro tribunals, command each one and want to be worshiped (Discorsi II proemio 16-17).
The main fault was of the princes. M. agrees with those who say that “our sins” are the cause of the catastrophe, not, however, the sins that others meant, but the “sins of principles” (Prince xii 9). He harshly reproaches “those gentlemen who in Italy have lost the state in our times” for having ignored their own sins: “Therefore these principles of ours… do not accuse luck, but their indolence” (Prince xxiv 5, 8). In the Discourses he denounces “the sins of the Italian princes who made Italy the servant of foreigners” (II xviii 12). And in the Art of War Fabrizio accuses them of having neglected their true duties and of not having noticed, “the mean ones, who were preparing to be prey to anyone who attacked them” (VII 236-37).
Could it be remedied? Despite the severe condemnation of the behavior of the princes, the “soldiers”, and the “gentlemen” who had led the Italy towards the abyss of invasions and foreign occupations, M. does not write only to complain, but to teach how to remedy the evils he analyzes; defends and justifies his way of expressing himself “manifestly”, so that the souls of the young people who will read these writings of mine may flee these [times] and prepare to imitate those [of the ancient Romans] […] Because it is the service of a good man, that good that for the evil of times and You have not been able to work with luck, teach it to others, so that, as many capable of it, some of those most loved by Heaven can work it (Discorsi II proemio 24-25).
According to HOLIDAYSORT.COM, a similar hope is also expressed in the Histories (V i 14): although in its course one sees more than anything else the “deceptions” and “tricks” used by the princes, the story “will perhaps be no less useful than the ancient things to know, because, if those liberals souls to continue igniting them, these [the things of the sad modern history] to flee and extinguish them will ignite them ». That history was “the teacher of our actions” (Method of treating the rebellious peoples of the Valdichiana, § 20) was part of the wealth of ideas that M. had inherited from Humanism; in the Discourses he expresses confidence in the capacity of “stories” – the books of ancient historians, when read as they should have been – (Discourses proemio A 7), to guide men in the difficult choices even of a gloomy present. In the chapter “Dell’Ambizione”, written in 1509 when France still dominated the Italy northern, M. rejects the temptation to blame the “nature” of the travails of Italy: if in Italy, so afflicted and tired, / no such fierce and hard people are born, I say that this does not excuse and frank / our Italy, because it can make up for / education where nature is lacking; / this Italy has already made to flourish / and to occupy the whole world. / The proud education gave them courage; / now he lives, if life is to live in tears, / under that ruin and that fate / he deserved his idleness so much. / Viltate and that, with the other consort / of Ambition, are those wounds / the dead provinces of Italy have (vv. 109-23).