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Machiavelli and the Politics of Grace

Boyle, Marjorie O'Rourke, 1943-

MLN, Volume 119, Number 1, January 2004 (Italian Issue), pp. S224-S246 (Article) Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press DOI: 10.1353/mln.2004.0140

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Machiavelli and the Politics of Grace

Marjorie ORourke Boyle

The simplicity of Machiavellis complexity is established in unprincipled expediency. This is bluntly expounded in Il principe concerning antithetical qualities that traditionally evoke praise or blame. These are generosity and miserliness, benefaction and avarice, cruelty and compassion, faithlessness and faithfulness, effeminacy and cowardice versus ferocity and courage, courtesy and pride, lasciviousness and purity, guilelessness and craftiness, stubbornness and exibility, gravity and frivolity, religiosity and skepticism.1 The lack of parallelism, the rhetorical disorder that presents now a virtue, now a vice, rst in each antithesis signals his intention of upsetting their usual evaluation. Machiavelli scrambles their status perversely to counsel an evaluation that is valueless. An option about piety concludes the list emphatically: religiosity and skepticism. This is a false antithesis. In only a decade the humanist Erasmus will both religiously and skeptically deliberate divine grace and human choice. Indeed, he will propose that in disputed questions skepticism is piety. The conicting methods of treating that question, whether deliberatively or assertively, will have violent, divisive, irreversible political effects.2 Although Machiavelli does not venture to explain his false antithesis, he
1 Niccol Machiavelli, Il principe, in Tutte le opere, ed. Mario Martelli (Florence: Sansoni, 1971), 280. All citations are from this edition. 2 See Marjorie ORourke Boyle, Rhetoric and Reform: Erasmus Civil Dispute with Luther (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983). While researching and writing this book on a Guggenheim Fellowship at Villa I Tatti, I met Salvatore Camporeale, to whom this is dedicated.

MLN 119 Supplement (2004): S224S246 2004 by The Johns Hopkins University Press



designates it the most important. His meaning is inferable from his exposition of other pairs.3 The gaping discrepancy between moral prescription and active practice promises political ruin, rather than survival. Therefore if a prince wants to maintain his rule he must learn how not to be virtuous, and to make use of this or not according to need. Machiavelli acknowledges the common praise for the princely possession of all of the qualities on his list that are esteemed good. Yet, in his judgment the depravity of human nature forbids the prince from their total possession, or at least their indiscreet exhibition. Machiavelli invents a prudence whose norm becomes the preservation of the state. So a prince should be so prudent that he knows how to escape the evil reputation attached to those vices which could lose him his state, and how to avoid those vices which are not so dangerous, if he possibly can. He must endure blame for possessing those vices which are necessary for safeguarding the state. The reason is that the practice of some apparent virtues will ruin it, while the practice of some apparent vices will secure and prosper it. The classical discrimination between appearance and reality, from metaphysics to morality, becomes contextual. The universal necessity is to control the political situation by avoiding public hatred. This goal requires the ability to dissemble in word and deed. Necessity demands the integration and activation of the native human and beastly natures, which are half and half,4 a hybrid deviant from the tripartite Christian paradigm of Platonist inspiration.5 In Machiavellis scheme there is no aspiration to virtue for its own sake or even for reward. The vacuum results from his rejection of metaphysical reality to descend wholly into material appearances. There is no intellectual order; contemplation is not a princely pursuit. Action toward effectual truth sufces.6 Developing his basely practical catalogue, Machiavelli prescribes that a prince, therefore, need not necessarily have all the good qualities I mentioned above, but he should certainly appear to have them. While the complete possession of the virtues and their
Machiavelli, Principe, 28083. Ibid. 284, 28083; The Prince, trans. George Bull (Harmondworth: Penguin, 1961), 9092, 95, 99. 5 See A. C. Lloyd, The Anatomy of Neoplatonism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 12330; Gerard Verbeke Man as a Frontier according to Aquinas, in Aquinas and Problems of his Time, ed. idem and D. Verhelst (Louvain: University Press, 1976), 195223; Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Oratio de dignitate hominis. 6 Machiavelli, Principe, 280.
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consistent application ensures ruin, if he only appears to have them they will render him service. Thus the prince should maintain the appearance of being compassionate, faithful to his word, guileless, and devout. Machiavelli repeats, indeed he should be so. However, the prince should be versatile so that if he needs to be the opposite, he knows how. The maintenance of the state will frequently force the prince to act in deance of good faith, of charity, of kindness, of religion. Circumstance and fortune alone dictate his decision. Again, the prince should not deviate from what is good, if that is possible, but he should know how to do evil, if that is necessary. In these concatenations devout and religion are rhetorically emphatic. The prince is always to convey the appearance of inspiration by ve qualities. He should appear to be a man of compassion, a man of good faith, a man of integrity, a kind and a religious man. Denitely there is nothing so important as to seem to have this last quality of religion.7 To urge Lorenzo as a new prince to war against the foreign invaders of Italy, Machiavelli provides a prototype. Moses is introduced and promoted rst among the outstanding characters who became princes by their own ability and not by good fortune.8 Machiavelli himself thus affects the appearance of religion with a semblance of biblical knowledge and piety to authorize his advice. This exemplarity is verisimilitude, for Moses was never a prince. Quarreling Hebrews only accused him of vaunting himself as a prince (Ex. 2:1314 Vulg.; cf. Num. 16:13).9 Although Machiavelli qualies his example, for one should not reason about Moses, since he merely executed what God commanded, he insists controversially yet he must be praised for the grace which made him worthy of speaking with God.10 Machiavellis simultaneous association of Moses with the legendary gures Theseus and Romulus further undermines his example by insinuating the pagan dismissal of Moses and the exodus as mythological.11 Although scholarship has examined Machiavellis resort to

Ibid. 28384; trans., 100, 101. Ibid. 264; trans., 50. 9 Cf. Girolamo Savonarola, Prediche sopra lEsodo, ed. Pier Giorgio Ricci, 2 vols. (Rome: Angelo Belardetti, 1955), 1:190, 229. 10 Machiavelli, Principe, 264; trans., 50. 11 See John Gager, Moses in Greco-Roman Paganism (Nashville: Abingdon, 1972), 98. For Porphyrys defense of pagan gods, see Savonarola, Prediche, 248. For Eusebiuss confutation of Porphyry, see Michael J. Hollerich, Myth and History in Eusebiuss De vita Constantini: Vit. Const. 1.12 in Its Historical Setting, Harvard Theological Review 82



Moses,12 it lacks the humanist method of inquiry at the sources. The accuracy and relevance of Machiavellis claims about Moses have been assumed, their appearances unveried. Machiavelli has even been pronounced an avid student of the actual text, who had a humanist approach.13 Machiavelli does mention the discerning reader of the Bible.14 However, in his politics this notice does not authenticate him as that discerning readeronly his illusion of learning. This foppish erudition is amplied in Discorsi sopra Livio where he misidenties Moses as the founder of a religion.15 That patriarch was Abraham, as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam agree.16 In Abrahams faith the Hebrews observed their covenant with Yhwh for ages before Moses. Moses founded neither state nor religion. He was known and revered, even among pagans, as the Judaic lawgiver,17 as in the awesome sculpture Michelangelo designed while Machiavelli composed.18 Moses the lawgiver was further acknowledged as the leader of the Hebrews from bondage in Egypt toward a promised land. This role is still taught devoutly as a modern political model. Moses is even heroized,19 although only by disregarding scripture. What sort of leader was biblical Moses? Accidental, reluctant, obstinate, despairingand in the worst Machiavellian fate hated, thus ruined by the people. In the Torah Yhwh reveals to Moses his compassion to release his aficted people from their overseers. Come I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt. Moses balks. Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 3:1011). Yhwhs promises of deliverance are countered by Moses demands and the peoples

(1989):42145. Cf. Savonarola, Prediche, 248, 250. Cf. James K. Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Historicity of the Exodus Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997). 12 John H. Gerken, Machiavellis Moses and Renaissance Politics, Journal of the History of Ideas 60 (1999):57995; Steven Marx, Moses and Machiavellianism, Journal of the American Academy of Religion 65 (1997):55171. 13 Marx, Moses and Machiavellianism, 55152. 14 Machiavelli, Discorsi, 237. 15 Ibid. 91. 16 E.g., Abraham, pre des croyants, ed. S. E. Tisserant (Paris: Cerf, 1951). 17 Gager, Moses, 2579. 18 See, e.g., Martin Weinberger, Michelangelo the Sculptor, 2 vols. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1967), 1:181. 19 Aaron Wildavsky, The Nursing Father: Moses as a Political Leader (University: University of Alabama Press, 1984); George W. Coats, The Moses Tradition (Shefeld: JSOT, 1993); idem, Moses: Heroic Man and Man of God (Shefeld: JSOT, 1987); Ari Z. Zivotofsky, The Leadership Qualities of Moses, Judaism 43 (1994):25869.



unbelief. Three divine signs do not convince Moses of his mission. He protests his ineloquence to supplicate Pharaoh and rebuffs Yhwhs inspiration. Send, I pray, some other person (vv. 35). Moses repetitive negotiations with Pharaoh are ineffectual. Pharaoh not only denies his requests but also harshly increases the labor and punishment of the Hebrews, who complain that Moses has rendered them offensive and vulnerable, even to death. So Moses accuses Yhwh, Why hast thou done evil to this people? Why didst thou ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he has done evil to this people, and thou hast not delivered thy people at all (5:22). Moses blasphemes that God is the author of evil and a failure in design. When Yhwh reiterates his promise, the people refuse to listen, and Moses predicts that neither will Pharaoh (6:10 11, 2830). Moses approaches Pharaoh three times more with tricks that fail (7:18:15). The plagues ensue. Intervening between these scourges, from bloodied Nile to blackened sky, are Moses plaintive entreaties and Pharaohs hardened refusals. Finally the death of the rstborn Egyptians allows the release of the peopleonly to have them berate Moses about their very exodus. Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt, Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians. For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness (14:1112). Despite divine deliverance through the Red Sea, the resentment resumes (Ex. 16:3; 17:3; Num. 14:23). Moses hold on public loyalty is short-tempered. When he disappears up the mountain for conversation with Yhwh, the privilege Machiavelli so admires, the people defect by fashioning the golden calf (Ex. 32). Yhwhs anger burns their camp to the ground (Num. 11:13). Moses reproaches Yhwh for burdening him with this rabble and begs him to kill him immediately (vv. 1115). Yhwhs solution of a shared leadership only causes trouble (vv. 1424).20 Moses envious sister is struck with leprosy (v. 12), the revolting people with plagues (14:1012). Yhwhs judgment that none who has seen his signs and despicably tested him will see the promised land is realized when corpses litter the wilderness (vv. 2023, 2636). Their mourners who enter Canaan against divine orders are slain by the enemy (vv. 3945), while Korah and the
20 For conicts in sources, see Benjamin D. Sommer, Reecting on Moses: The Redaction of Numbers 11, Journal of Biblical Literature 118 (1999):60124.



Levites, who revolt against Moses superiority, are swallowed into the bowels of the earth. When the remnant accuses Moses of mass slaughter, Yhwh sends a plague that eliminates thousands more (Num. 16). From this devastation Machiavelli selects biblical signs to dazzle the prince toward the liberation of Italy. Unheard of wonders are to be seen, performed by God: the sea is divided, a cloud has shown you the way, water has gushed from the rock, it has rained manna; all things have conspired to your greatness.21 The contemporary allusions have been referred to the election of Pope Leo X in March 1513 or the French invasion of Italy in August 1515.22 Yet the biblical signs are ambiguous or dangerous. The sea was divided in the traditional narrative but not in the original poem (Ex. 1415). While the partition allowed the Hebrews to journey safely on the seabed, its collapse engulfed the Egyptians, drowning them. A cloud did guide the Hebrews to that site (13:2122) but also allowed the pursuing enemy to track them precisely. Manna showered from heaven but became infested with maggots when the people hoarded it (16; cf. Deut. 8:3). When quails alighted to alleviate the boring diet, the cravers died of plague with the fowl between their teeth (Num. 11:4 5, 3134). The people also complained of bitter or no water and were given some from a rock (Ex. 15:2224; 17:6). But this deed undid Moses. Although Yhwh told him to command water from the rock, Moses struck it twice with his rod (17:6). Not only did he disobey orders but also he employed the symbol of his authority as only delegated.23 For this disobedience Yhwh forbade Moses to lead the people into the promised land (Deut. 32:4852; 34:4).24 Yet Moses explanation for his exclusion differed from Yhwhs: he blamed the sin of the people, not himself. Moreover, the entire narrative of the wanderings in his voice exaggerated the peoples guilt and his virtue.25 The episode of the waters reversed Machiavellis rule that the prince
Machiavelli, Principe, 297; trans., 135. Hugo Jaeckel, What Is Machiavelli Exhorting in His Exhortatio? The Extraordinaries, in Niccol Machiavelli: Politico, Storico, Letterato, ed. Jean-Jacques Marchand (Rome: Salerno, 1996), 5884. 23 See Johnson Lim Teng Kok, The Sin of Moses and the Staff of God: A Narrative Approach (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1997), 15566. 24 That Moses does not enter the promised land is also noted by Leo Strauss, Thoughts on Machiavelli (Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, 1958), 72. 25 Paul Kissling, Reliable Characters in the Primary History: Proles of Moses, Joshua, Elijah, and Elisha (Shefeld: JSOT, 1996), 4551, 68, 5259.
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should lead by instilling fear into the people.26 Moses acted contrarily, impelled by fear of the people. He was forced to his show of power rod against rockfor fear of being stoned to death by them (Ex. 17:4). The incident was notorious, portrayed in the Sistine Chapel as a poignant reminder to Pope Sixtus IV of his own stoning during a riot on coronation day.27 Of the signs Machiavelli cited, water from the rock was the most clueless, for it missed the biblical message of public dissent and failed leadership. Machiavelli regards ancient events as precedents of current situations, with signs as portents of great deeds in politics and religion. Yet he confesses himself unlearned in either the natural or supernatural subjects required to discuss or explain them.28 Although Machiavellis signals to the prince copy Psalm 78:1316 (77 Vulg.), he wrenches them out of context. The emphasis of that didactic psalm is not on leadership but on the ingratitude and deance of the people. It is a parable of primal themes about a stubborn and rebellious generation . . . whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God (v. 2, Vulg.; v. 8). The people sinned serially against law and covenant, forgetting the very wonders Machiavelli cites, testing Gods providence with their unbelief. Its verses relentlessly recite the peoples sin and Gods wrath. Since Machiavelli typies human nature as ungrateful,29 he should have understood its theme. However, there is in this pitiful parable a political reference he may have appropriated. This is the divine sanction of the military defeat of Ephraim, the Northern Kingdom (vv. 911, 5664), contrasted with the divine election of Judah, the Southern Kingdom (vv. 6769). Perhaps Machiavelli intends his signals as forecasting another southern (Italian) defeat of northern nations. By Machiavellis standard of effective leadership biblical Moses was incompetent. Literally he remained conversant with Yhwh as a man speaks to a friend (Ex. 33:11). This is the reference of Machiavellis assurance that the prince is no less a friend of God.30 But the context of the biblical epithet described a moribund Moses, at his unmarked gravesite in the wilderness, divinely condemned to death for failure.

Machiavelli, Principe, 28283. Rona Goffen, Friar Sixtus IV and the Sistine Chapel, Renaissance Quarterly 39 (1986):255. 28 Machiavelli, Discorsi, 122, 250, 139. 29 Ibid. 282. 30 Machiavelli, Principe, 297.




In classical texts that Machiavelli knew but suppressed Moses was also decient or culpable. Quintilian, whose rhetoric empowered Renaissance politics with a moral eloquence,31 scorned Moses as the founder of the Jewish superstition. The extensive notice of Moses by Roman authors climaxed in the scathing judgment of the apostate emperor Julian. Under the guidance of Moses the Jews were free for a short time only and then forever . . . enslaved and aliens. Although Moses purported to rescue them from bondage, their fortunes varied like the chameleon, subject to their own judges and kings, then dominated by foreign nations, with Jesus himself paying tribute to Caesar.32 Even modern admirers of Moses leadership acknowledge him a aw-lled hero, a man full of human faults who learns mostly from failure.33 Moreover, the political situation of the Hebrews in Egypt was irrelevant to the Florentines in Italy. The Hebrews were enslaved in a foreign country; the Florentines inhabited their own lands under alien invaders. The exodus released the Hebrews from labor on foreign soil toward freedom in a promised land. Machiavellis divergent design is the Italian eviction of foreigners from Italian soil. Whence would a Mosaic Medici lead the populace, except metaphorically from foreign oppression to native governance? Surely there was to be no exodus from Italy as there had been from Egypt. A strategy might have been a march on Rome to usurp the papal primacy as a new Moses. But crucially the exodus was a legal release, not a military victory.34 Machiavellis duty for the prince as chiey war35 negated Moses example. He was not a warrior, except in certain Judaic lore about an expedition against the Ethiopians as general of the Egyptian army.36 This biblical evidence complements the errors in Machiavellis treatment of secular leaders. In summary of his secular knowledge, Machiavellis work is rich in manifest blunders of various kinds: misquotations, misstatements regarding names or events, hasty generalizations, indefensible omissions and so on. In the conviction that
Quintilian, Institutio oratoriae 2.15.34. Ibid. 3.7.21; Julian, Contra Galileos, 209D, 209E213A. Cited by Gager, Moses, 81, 103; for a survey, see 80112. 33 Coats, Moses Tradition, 42; Wildavsky, Nursing Father, 1, 6. 34 See David Daube, The Exodus Pattern in the Bible (London: Faber and Faber, 1962), 2238. 35 Machiavelli, Principe, 27879. 36 Gager, Moses, 2021.
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these errors are intentional, their rationale has been probed.37 Il principe is said to dissemble in feigning realism, while contriving irony. Its historical examples are grossly inappropriate, its behavioral descriptions at odds with its strategic propositions, from Cesare Borgia to the centaur Chiron. This serious discrepancy has been interpreted as a deliberate promotion of republicanism. A prince who literally heeded Machiavellis advice would perish, for the discriminating populace would be incited to overthrow his regime. Il principe is thus crammed with lies intended to deliver the Medici over to the people for republican reform.38 This interpretation of the work as subversive squares with the oddity of Moses as an exemplar. Religion might thus be used to hasten the end of princely rule. Since Machiavelli employs vestigial imitation,39 the prince would trace Moses footsteps fatally into the wilderness. However, Machiavellis biblical source for the signals of a princely liberation of Italy is not the Torah but the Psalter. The psalm from which he extracts these divine wonders concludes not with Moses death but with Davids election as Israels king. David rules with upright heart and skilful hand (Ps. 78: 7072; 77 Vulg.) idiomatic for moral law and just power. It is that king whom Machiavelli conscripts as the true type for acting on ones own powers. In his argument against the employment of mercenaries he cites Sauls gift to David of his royal weapons to inspire courage in combat. After trying them on, David refuses them as second-hand, preferring his own sling and knife. Machiavelli draws the lesson: Arms belonging to someone else either fall from your back or weigh you down or impede your movements.40 Moreover, the psalm severely indicts public ability, which can neither obey authority nor govern itself. Its

Strauss, Machiavelli, 36; see also 45. James A. Arieti, The Machiavellian Chiron: Appearance and Reality in The Prince, Clio 24 (1995):38197; Mary G. Dietz, Trapping the Prince: Machiavelli and the Politics of Deception, American Political Science Review 80 (1986):77799. See also Stephen M. Fallon, Hunting the Fox: Equivocation and Authorial Duplicity in The Prince, PMLA 107 (1992):118195; Garrett Mattingly, Machiavellis Prince : Political Science or Political Satire? American Scholar 27 (1958):48291; Thomas M. Greene, The End of Discourse in Machiavellis Prince, Yale French Studies 67 (1984):6466; Timothy Hampton, Writing from History: The Rhetoric of Exemplarity in Renaissance Literature (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990), 6279; John D. Lyons, Exemplum: The Rhetoric of Example in Early Modern France and Italy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), 3571. 39 Principe, 264; cf. 278. 40 Ibid. 278; trans., 85.




verses triumph in monarchy. Machiavellis mistakes about Moses do not support a republican conspiracy. Machiavelli was not innovative in politically manipulating Moses religious stature. Philo had allegorized Moses the lawgiver into a philosopher-king although he was neither.41 The introduction to his Vita Moysis, translated for and dedicated to Sixtus IV, paralleled Moses and the pope in those triple roles.42 Moses had further been summoned in Greek patristic literature to authorize and impose a monastic ideal upon the Christian bishopric. The stages of Moses life, in solitude and leadership, were applied toward a reformed model of the episcopate as a harmony of contemplative retreat and active service.43 This was all absurd historiography, since contemplation (theo\ria), as philosophical method and monastic vocation, was not a biblical word or concept. Yet, for the purpose of good governance, scripture was forced to make it so on the imagined pattern of Moses. On the Italian foreground appeared the grandest artistic cycle of this politics. Exceptional prominence was newly accorded Moses, who had been neglected or excluded from narrative art. Renaissance gures of Moses were displayed in murals in the Sistine Chapel to advocate and celebrate papal primacy. Artists were commissioned to parallel scenes from the lives of Moses and Christ, the old and new lawgivers, as predecessors of papal rule.44 The grand resort to Moses as leader was his comparison with the emperor Constantine in Eusebiuss Historia ecclesiastica and Vita Constantini. Both texts correlated Constantines defeat of Maxentiuss forces in battle at the Mulvian Bridge with Moses victory over Pharaohs army through their drowning in the Red Sea. This application of biblical typology to secular history was unprecedented.45 The comparison with Moses was not strictly secular, for Constantine appropriated and Eusebius published the title bishop as a metaphor for his universal imperial authority.46 Nevertheless, Eusebius politicized Gregory of Nyssas philosophical allegory of the oppressive

Philo, De vita Moysis 2.1.2. For reason, see 1.8.48; for contemplation, 2.69. L. D. Ettlinger, The Sistine Chapel Before Michelangelo: Religious Imagery and Papal Primacy (Oxford: Clarendon, 1965), 11617. 43 See Andrea Sterk, On Basil, Moses, and the Model Bishop: The Cappadocian Legacy of Leadership, Church History 67 (1998):22753. 44 Ettlinger, Sistine Chapel, 7, 4445, 10419. 45 Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica 9.9.59; Vita Constantini See also Hollerich, Religion and Politics in the Writings of Eusebius: Reassessing the First Court Theologian, Church History 59 (1990):30925.




Egyptian army as the tyrannical passions that enslave the soul. The inimical army became the historical troops of Maxentius in military combat for the hegemony of the western Roman Empire.47 Machiavellis enticement of the prince toward the title savior of Italy echoes Eusebiuss praise of Constantine as its savior on his triumphal march into Rome.48 Eusebiuss engagement of religion for political ends, which converted Christianity into a philosophy of success,49 was precedent to Machiavellis sanctimonious scheme. Machiavellis encouragement of the prince to war against the barbarians also repeats Marsilio Ficinos exhortation to King Matthias of Hungary to war against the barbarians. Ficino compared Christian servitude to the Turks with Israelite bondage under the Egyptians and urged Matthias to become a second Moses. He prophesied that God would again split the Red Sea and miraculously open a passage to free his chosen sons from their slavery. Toward this feat Piety clamored that the people would by Matthiass power alone be released from the barbarian clutch.50 Further, George of Trebizonds preface to his translation of Gregory of Nyssas allegory paralleled Moses as liberator of the Jewish nation with Greek and Roman redeemers, from Militiades to Scipio Africanus. Their achievement, he argued, was not because God was unable to deliver people from oppression by his own will but because it pleased his supreme majesty and clemency to conduct human affairs by human counsels. Through its dedication to the cardinal chamberlain the pope was pressed to become as if another Moses.51 Moses is not an obvious model for a prince or even a pope, however. He does not appear in the prominent instruction on
46 See Sylvia Rapp, Imperial Ideology in the Making: Eusebius of Caesarea on Constantine as Bishop, Journal of Theological Studies 49 (1998):68595. 47 Gregory of Nyssa, De vita Moysis, ed. Herbert Musurillo, in Opera, ed. Werner Jaeger and Herman Langerback (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1964), 71:71. 48 Machiavelli, Principe, 298; Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica 9.9.9. Cf. Savonarola, Prediche, 187, 246 and for Moses as a savior, 246. 49 Charles N. Cochrane, Christianity and Classical Culture: A Study of Thought and Action from Augustus to Augustine (Oxford: Clarendon, 1940), 184. 50 Machiavelli, Principe, 296; Marsilio Ficino, Opera omnia, 2 vols. (Turin: Bottega dErasmo, 1959), 1:72122. 51 George of Trebizond, preface to Gregory of Nyssas De vita Moysi, in Collectanea Trapezuntiana: Texts, Documents, and Bibliographies of George of Trebizond, ed. John Monfasani (Binghamton, N.Y.: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies with the Renaissance Society of America, 1984), 27881. For Pope Eugene IV as another Moses, see Monfasani, George of Trebizond: A Biography and a Study of His Rhetoric and Logic (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1976), 35, 50.



princely formation by the eminent biblical scholar, Erasmuss Institutio principis christiani. Despite Machiavellis claim, Moses was not among the founders of kingdoms or republics like Lycurgus and Solon.52 On the contrary, the biblical histories oppose the lawgiver Moses to the Israelite kings, who never proclaimed law. Moreover, scripture blames kingship as symptomatic, if not causal, of Israels sin of abandoning the worship of Yhwh. Andto Machiavellis issueit blames the foundation of kingdoms, with treaties, intrigues, and wars, for the political fall of Israel and Judah.53 Nor did biblical Moses achieve Machiavellis imputed status with those same founders of kingdoms and republics who formulated laws for the common good.54 Although in the Torah there are two speakers of the law, it is promulgated by Yhwh to Moses as merely a delegate.55 Machiavelli copies Tacituss Historiae, which erroneously projects Moses enacting laws in Jerusalem to secure public loyalty.56 Machiavellis association of Moses with the monarch Cyrus, who is favored in Isaiahs oracles (Is. 45:16; 48:1216), has a slight justication. Biblical scholarship has related Moses nativity (Ex. 1:152:10) and nal teaching (Deut. 32) to the same events of Cyruss life in Herodotuss Historiae and Xenophons Cyropaedia.57 Although Machiavelli uctuates between their conicting versions of Cyrus,58 he may have noticed similarities of framing with the biblical narratives. However, Cyrus died in his native land at the apex of power, instructing his sons toward the continuity of his kingdom.59 Moses died alone in a foreign wilderness, divinely obstructed from entering the promised land. He did not achieve any nation. At his death was only a remnant of the troublesome tribes for his successor, Joshua, to
Machiavelli, Discorsi, 91, trans., 133. Cf. Principe, 264. See James W. Watts, The Legal Characterization of Moses in the Rhetoric of the Pentateuch, Journal of Biblical Literature 117 (1998):417; Peter D. Miscall, Moses and David: Myth and Monarchy, in The New Literary Criticism and the Hebrew Bible, ed. J. Cheryl Exum and David J. A. Clines (Shefeld: JSOT Press, 1993), 18486, 192, 194. 54 Machiavelli, Discorsi, 91; The Discourses, trans. Leslie J. Walker, rev. Brian Richardson (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970), 133. 55 Watts, Legal Characterization, 418. 56 Tacitus, Historiae 5.4. 57 Herodotus, Historiae 1.11.10813, cited by Miscall, Moses and David, 186. Xenophon, Cyropaedia 8.7.128, cited by Steven Weitzman, Lessons from the Dying: The Role of Deuteronomy 32 in Its Narrative Setting, Harvard Theological Review 87 (1994):379. 58 See Christopher Nadon, Xenophons Prince: Republic and Empire in the Cyropaedia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 1325. 59 Xenophon, Cyropaedia 8.7.7
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muster into Canaan. Yet Machiavelli pretends that Moses did enter the promised land, stating Moses gave the name Judea to that part of Syria which he occupied.60 Moses neither occupied Syria nor named it Judea. It was King David who defeated Syria as the city-state of Damascus (Aram) and garrisoned his troops there (2 Sam. 8:56). No borders for Judah are cited until after Moses ( Jos. 15).61 Machiavelli violates his own military rule that it is necessary to know in practiced detail the lay of the land.62 His recommendation of the acquisition of lands in the opening chapter of Il principe 63 further disqualies Moses as an exemplar, for he acquired no land. Machiavellis biblical errors cannot be cruelly committed to steer the prince into political disaster by fomenting republicanism. Since he pronounces religion the instrument necessary above all others for the maintenance of a civilized state his ignorance disgraces him as a mentor. Yet, the function of Machiavellis religion is formal: to bind the populace with awe and fear in ceremonial cohesion by observance of sacricial rites and by respect for oaths, auguries, and signs. Religion facilitates military instruction and special laws. Machiavelli condemns the corruption of the clergy, especially the papacy and curia, not for moral evil but political damage. Bad priestly example causes irreligiosity, even perversion, among the populace, which requires the restraints of religion for civil order. Rulers are advised to practice and promote religion for political security, even though they be convinced that it is quite fallacious.64 This externality and expediency are remote from the reformatory faith as soulful assent that distinguished the contemporary literature. As Erasmus admonished princes, Christ does not reside in ceremonies and institutions. The true believer has embraced Christ in the depths of his heart and . . . expresses this by acting in a Christian spirit.65 Machiavelli advocates the preservation of religion through a renewal of its origins. There is nothing more necessary to a commu60 Machiavelli, Discorsi, 157; trans., 296. For Moses mistakenly in Jerusalem, see Tacitus, Historiae 5.4. 61 Wayne T. Pitard, Aram; C. H. J. de Geus, Judah (place), in Anchor Bible Dictionary, 1:338; 3:1035. 62 Machiavelli, Discorsi, 24748. 63 Machiavelli, Principe, 258. 64 Machiavelli, Discorsi, 9398; trans., 143. For a current sampler on religion, see Journal of the History of Ideas, 60 (1999):597681. 65 Erasmus, Institutio principis christiani, ed. Otto Herding, in Opera omnia (Amsterdam: North-Holland, 1974), 41:146; trans. Neil M. Cheshire and Michael J. Heath, in The Collected Works of Erasmus (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969), 27:216.



nity, whether it be a religious establishment, a kingdom or a republic, than to restore to it the prestige it had at the outset.66 However, this restoration is not of truth or morality; prestige guarantees social control. Machiavelli mispraises a Christianity restored to its beginning by Sts. Francis and Dominic, who rescued it from extinction by their poverty and preaching in imitation of Christ. In his sarcasm the piety of their brethren convinces the laity to maintain religion by tolerating the wickedness of other prelates and obeying their rules.67 The pairing of Francis and Dominic was a hagiographical commonplace in the social change from a monastic to a mendicant ideal of personal conscience and public charity.68 The corruption of their brethren elicited broad and bitter anti-fraternal satire,69 in which Machiavellis drama Mandragola indulges, with fra Timotheo eager to betray his name godfearing. The Franciscan hallmark of humility is, moreover, precisely the virtue for which Machiavelli despises Christianity. Our religion has gloried humble and contemplative men, rather than men of action. It has assigned as mans highest good humility, abnegation, and contempt for mundane things. . . . And, if our religion demands that in you there be strength, what it asks for is strength to suffer rather than strength to do bold things.70 Humility is not a biblical virtue, however. The biblical word denotes social status,71 as in Machiavellis introduction of himself to Lorenzo de Medici as a man of low and humble status.72 His appointment of Moses as an aggressive model is astonishing, since scripture designates him the meekest man on earth (Num. 12:3). The Torah describes the politics of an enclave, for whose leadership meekness is essential. Thus, Moses is a great follower, the meekest man on earth, the ultimate humble backroom person. He is not invested with power by the people, only by God, to whom he reports crises and is instructed about their resolution.73
Machiavelli, Discorsi, 197; trans. 390. Ibid. 196. 68 Donald Weinstein and Rudolf M. Bell, Saints and Society: The Two Worlds of Western Christendom, 10001700 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), 11213, 247, 57, 1023. E.g., Savonarola, Prediche, 169. 69 Penn R. Szittya, The Antifraternal Tradition in Medieval Literature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986). 70 Machiavelli, Discorsi, 149; trans., 278. 71 See Klaus Wengst, Humility: Solidarity with the Humiliated: The Transformation of an Attitude and Its Social Relevance in Graeco-Roman, Old-Testament Jewish, and Early Christian Tradition, trans. John Bowden (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988). 72 Machiavelli, Principe, 257; trans. 30.
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Tradition acknowledged Moses as Judaisms great exemplar in meekness,74 from Philos allegory to the subtext for the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel.75 Yet, as Machiavelli astutely observedfrom his own practice of obscurantism, the whole truth about olden times is not grasped, since what redounds to their discredit is often passed over in silence, whereas what is likely to make them appear glorious is pompously recounted in all its details.76 So counter-tradition boosted meek Moses into a powerful model for dignitaries of Church and state.77 Girolamo Savonarolas preaching, for example, cited Num. 12:3 on Moses meekness but circumvented it by ascribing to an angelic message Moses vocation as liberator. Importantly he made humility the virtue that perfected Moses. Behold his humility, he extolled, for he was unworthy (indegno) of such grace and of Gods presence. This was the virtue that made him the perfect man and gave him the heavenly illumination.78 It is this unworthiness that Machiavelli reverses with a Moses of worthiness. Moses deserves praise, he counters, because of the grace in him that made him worthy (degno) of speaking with God. In Machiavellis contrived exemplarity of Moses leadership for a Renaissance prince lurks a politics of grace. Because the composition of Il principe in 1513 coincides with Martin Luthers rst writing, it evidences valuable lay opinion on the momentous issue of will toward grace. Although scholarly consensus understands Machiavellis religiosity as supercial, navet about the rhetoric of religion has aggrandized his lip service to the deity into important theological and metaphysical statements.79 This misjudgment has been elaborated into a Machiavelli perfectly and profoundly serious in his references to the Christian God and . . . to the power of free will.80 Yet,
73 See Mary Douglas, In the Wilderness: The Doctrine of Delement in the Book of Numbers (Shefeld: JSOT Press, 1993), 5859. 74 Dale C. Allison Jr., The New Moses: A Matthean Typology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 222. 75 Philo, De vita Moysis 2.279; Goffen, Sistine Chapel, 21862. 76 Machiavelli, Discorsi, 144; trans. 265. 77 Gerhard von Rad, Moses (New York: Association, 1960), 10. 78 Savonarola, Prediche, 18990, 257. See also Alison Brown, Savonarola, Machiavelli, and Moses: A Changing Model, in Florence and Italy: Renaissance Studies in Honour of Nicolai Rubenstein, ed. Peter Denley and Caroline Elam (London: Westeld College, University of London, 1988), 60, 6264. 79 See Sebastian de Grazia, Machiavelli in Hell (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), 31, 5870. 80 See Cary J. Neederman, Amazing Grace: Fortune, God, and Free Will in Machiavellis Thought, Journal of the History of Ideas 60 (1999):637.



theological opinions aboundedto such confusion that Luther would be compelled toward absolute certitude for establishing consciences.81 Orthodox theologians did teach the divine initiative of grace, as in Thomas Aquinass doctrine that there is no preparation for grace without grace.82 The general discussion, however, was skewed by agendas, hampered by the loss of conciliar documents (Orange II), and doomed by bad diction. It was especially bad diction that mattered, since terms were compromised to mean what they did not. The seminal defects were Augustines retention of the term free will to designate a freedom that was not native to the will but only acquired by gracefreed willand the term merit where there was none. Aquinas corrected the latter misnomer, stating before grace there are no deserts except punishments. But who would discover it tucked in De veritate q. 29, a. 6c? Beyond the obscurity and fragmentation of orthodox grace, it was challenged by Franciscan theologians, inuentially William of Ockham and Gabriel Biel, who maintained a congruous merit. This was merit imputed by divine generosity, in distinction to merit owed by divine justice.83 It was like the belief in the clemency of divine deliverance by human conduct urged upon Pope Moses.84 Even as Machiavelli praised Moses innate grace, Luther corroborated that the teachers correctly say that to a man who does what is in him [facere quod in se est] God gives grace without fail, and though he could not prepare himself for grace on the basis of worth (de condigno), because the grace is beyond compare, yet he may well prepare himself on the basis of tness (de congruo) because of this promise of God [the Incarnation] and the covenant of his mercy.85 Only after doubt then disgust crept into his marginal notes on Biels texts did Luther repudiate this doctrine as Pelagian heresy. From this indeed, he protested, almost the entire church has been subverted.86 It was
81 Martin Luther, De servo arbitrio, ed. Otto Clemen, in Luthers Werke in Auswahl, 6 vols. (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1950), 4:195. 82 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae 12, q. 109, a. 6, sed contra. 83 See Heiko A. Oberman, The Harvest of Medieval Theology: Gabriel Biel and Late Medieval Nominalism, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans, 1967), 12084. 84 See above n. 51. 85 Luther, Dictata super Psalterium, in Werke, 58 vols. (Weimar: H. Bhlaus; rpt. Graz: Akademische, 1964), 4:262; Luthers Works, trans. Herbert J. A. Bouman (St. Louis: Concordia, 195586), 11:396. 86 Luther, Handbemerkungen zu Gabriel Biels Collectiorum in quattuor libros sententiarum und zu dessen Sacri canonis missae expositio, ed. Hermann Degering (Weimar: H. Bhlaus, 1933); Divi Pauli apostoli ad Romanos epistola, in Werke, 56:5023.



human merit, not divine initiative, that prevailed theologically as Machiavelli wrote Il principe. The Council of Trent would neglect to exclude congruous merit,87 tacitly tolerating the disposition to grace by natural powers, from raw works to ascetical postures like humility. Luther claried the ambiguity by dening free will a gment, or impossible. He transferred it from the metaphysical category of reality to potentiality, subsuming it into debates about the status of possibles and impossibles. From that advantage, in a consensus from Aquinas to Lorenzo Valla, he argued its unreality by denying ontological and logical status to possibles. At fundamental issue was the validity of substantive versus accidental signication: whether or not the will, which was not free by nature but only acquired its freedom by grace, could legitimately be predicated free. Luthers analogy for its denial was univocally cogent. He ridiculed as sophistic the notion that a pauper could be called rich because some monarch might donate his wealth to him.88 Yet, although theology engaged in abstract intellectual arguments, it also derived from ordinary lived experiences. Grace (gratia) originated in Greek favor (charis) as a mutual divine pleasure89 yet it developed secular meanings. Renaissance culture extended grace beyond moral goodness to suitable order and harmonious arrangement, even charm.90 The root of congruity, to agree together, connotes this sense. Will (arbitrium) was not only the psychological faculty Augustine invented. Under the Medicis it was also the legal term for executive discretion under their arbitration and for their arbitrary levy of taxation.91 Machiavellis situation of grace in a political treatise ruthless for reality exhibits its secular arena. The concept of grace as not really grace was as ancient in Italian experience as the Roman ethic of reciprocity. Generosity in favors was oddly a duty. Benets of patronage freely given could nevertheless be

87 See Oberman, The Tridentine Decree on Justication in the Light of Late Medieval Theology, Journal for Theology and the Church 3 (1967):2854. 88 Boyle, The Chimera and the Spirit: Luthers Grammar of the Will, in The Martin Luther Quincentennial, ed. Gerhard Dnnhaupt (Detroit: Wayne State University Press for Michigan Germanic Studies, 1985), 1731. 89 See Bonnie MacLachlan, The Age of Grace: Charis in Early Greek Poetry (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 45. 90 E.g., Giovanni Della Casa, Il Galateo, overo de costumi, ed. Emmanuela Scarpa (Ferrara: Franco Cosimo Panini, 1990), 28889. 91 See Brown, Platonism in Fifteenth-century Florence and Its Contribution to Early Modern Political Thought, Journal of Modern History 58 (1986):38687.



merited and they incurred the obligation of repayment; even friendship was not pure but protable. In a modern rational-legal bureaucracy such provision of goods and services would be labeled bribery and graft. The Marxist critique of patronal ideology would reinforce the clarity of Luthers logic by exposing the pretense masking and sustaining the inequality of the classes.92 Social custom was legalized by the unique contract of mandate. This provided for a benefactors gratuitous fulllment of a petitioners request, usually agreed to in friendship perceived as duty.93 In such anomalous reasonings, in deance of Luthers logic, by equivocal predication a pauper could be imagined rich because a patron would bestow him wealth. A commonplace of this mentality of exchange is the courteous formula Grazie. Prego, which functions to eliminate the inequality between two agents by locating them at parity.94 The English version is Thank you. Youre welcome. The recipient acknowledges and appreciates an unmerited favor, or grace. Yet, the donor responds as if the bestowal of the grace were not only pleasurable but even deserved: Youre welcome to the grace. This reciprocity provides a socio-economic model for the theological concept of congruous merit. The logical contradiction of grace as merited was customary socialization. The very opening sentence of the dedication of Il principe discloses Machiavellis business as the acquisition of grace (desiderando acquisitare grazia). As he will instruct the prince, The wish to acquire more is admittedly a very natural and common thing; and when men succeed in this they are always praised rather than condemned.95 Thus he defers to Lorenzo as his superior but assuredly so. Although I consider this work unworthy (indegno) to be put before you, yet I am fully condent that you will be kind enough (umanit) to accept it.96 Grace as merited may not have made strict ontological and logical sense but it made generous social and economic sense. In Italian Renaissance philosophy a metaphysical ground was the very suitability of God. He bestowed beauty on

92 See Richard P. Saller, Personal Patronage in the Early Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 739. 93 See Allan Watson, Contract of Mandate in Roman Law (Oxford: Clarendon, 1961). 94 See T. Slama-Cazacu and G. Mininni, eds., GraziePrego: Le formule di cortesia in alcune regioni dItalia (Bari: Adriatica, 1989), 225. 95 Machiavelli, Principe 261; trans., 14. 96 Ibid. 257; trans., 29.



creation as a grace rendering everything, as congruous, mutually pleasing and inviting.97 The theology of a Fall cleaving an absolute dichotomy between the divine and the human ruptured any such amity or analogy, however. Redemption was saving soul, not face. A radical contribution might have been a redenition of human dependency based on a model different from, for example, the patria potestas of Roman property law. Machiavellis transgression of the traditional boundary between the sacred and the profane, muddling revelation and war, trivialized the holy. His incoherence about grace shared in the mass equivocation. Theological confusion on the eve of the Reformation, as Machiavelli penned Il principe, was agitated by contradictory behavioral modes. One supported salvation, one socialization. Toward God, theological orthodoxy believed that his grace was unmerited; toward humanity, social operation was that its grace assumed merited. Machiavelli falsely praises Moses for the grace which made him worthy (quella grazia che lo faceva degno) of speaking with God.98 His assessment elevates Moses above commoners, naturally prone to evil, whose depravity is only curtailed by the necessity of self-interest,99 not redeemed by the gratuity of divine mercy. In biblical scholarship, however, there was nothing exceptional about Moses before Yhwhs call. He was not especially pious and he shepherded the ock to Mount Horeb with no premonition of a revelation.100 His approach to the sacred was provoked by curiosity gawking at the spectacle of the burning bush (Ex. 3:3). Yet rabbinic midrashim wondered why Yhwh had chosen him. By embellishment of some early episodes it decided on Moses as an empathic rescuer of the oppressed. He was thus consistently represented as an intercessor for justice. Although his murder of the Egyptian (2:1112) violated the law of talion with a death for a beating, it was justied by supposing that he deserved it. Either the Egyptian killed or intended to kill a Hebrew, or he was an adulterer or blasphemer.101 Machiavelli heard Savonarolas sermon

97 Ficino, Commentarium in Philebus, in The Philebus Commentary, ed. Michael J. B. Allen (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1975), 365, 367. Cf. Theologia platonica, in Thologie platonicienne de limmortalitat des ames, ed. Raymond Marcel, 3 vols. (Paris: Belles Lettres, 196470), 2:27879. 98 Principe, 264; trans. 50. 99 Machiavelli, Discorsi, 82, 90; trans. 112, 132. 100 See von Rad, Moses, 18. 101 Zivotofsky, Leadership Qualities, 25859; cf. Wildavsky, Nursing Father, 3334.



on these verses, in which the friar melodramatised the stabbing of a tyrant,102 despite the lack of biblical evidence. Machiavelli admires Moses also for his slaying of those Hebrews opposed to his laws and institutions (32:2529).103 He types him an armed prophet,104 although he was not a prophet and the only arms he bore were his propped up limbs during Joshuas battle with Amalek (17:814). Machiavellis characterization resembles the midrashim in its justication of Moses call by some impressive personal quality that attracted Yhwhs attention. He terms this grace. If Machiavelli meant grace in any theological sense, it coincided with Biels misidentication of natural capacities with actual grace.105 If he intended a biblical reference, it was to the observation of Moses mother that her newborn son was goodly (Ex. 2:2), the pretext for his preservation from slaughter. The Septuagint version translates the Hebrew by asteios, the Vulgate by elegans. However, Gregory of Nyssas De vita Moysis notably has charis, which was translated into Latin as gratia.106 This was the relevant work for its focus on Moses in the boldest declaration in the Catholic canon for freedom of choice between good and evil as sheerly rational. As it emphasized, It lies within each persons power to make this choice by the use of his reason.107 Yet, even without this text, the conviction circulated. As Luther before his conversion afrmed, My soul is in my power and in freedom of choice I can either perish or save myself.108 Whether Machiavelli means theological or aesthetic grace, his Moses is naturally worthy (degno) in justice of divine revelation. The mentality will secure its frank politics in Baldassare Castigliones Il


Machiavelli, Lettere, 101012; Savonarola, Prediche, 2012. Cf. Machiavelli, Discorsi,

237. Machiavelli, Discorsi, 237. Machiavelli, Principe, 265; trans. 52. Cf. Savonarola, Prediche, 187, 201. 105 For Biel, see Oberman, Harvest, 138, 140. 106 Gregory of Nyssa, De vita Moysis, 70; trans., George of Trebizond, rev. Fronto Ducaeus, Patrologia graeca 44:361. Cf. belleza, in La vita di Mos, ed. and trans. Manlio Simonetti (Milan: Fondazione Lorenzo Valla, Arnoldo Mondadori, 1984), 17. 107 Gregory of Nyssa, Vita Moysis, 5, 3334, 4546, 55, 56; trans. Abraham J. Malherbe and Everett Ferguson, The Life of Moses (New York: Paulist Press, 1978), 7172. See also Albrecht Dihle, The Theory of Will in Classical Antiquity (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1982), 119. The publication of its editio princeps in 1517 deserves research. For MSS. of its translation, see Collectanea Trapezuntiana, 72729. Note the discrepancies on worthiness, will, and works between text and translation in PG 44:323, 350, 362. 108 Luther, Dictata super Psalterium, 295.
104 103



libro del cortegiano where he who has grace obtains grace. The maxim plays on triple senses of grazia to mean that the courtier naturally gifted with nobility, talent, and beauty who comports himself with a pleasing elegance will acquire favor.109 Machiavelli exalts Moses above depravity and exempts him from fortune by designating him a leader by his own powers. This unbiblical mark owes to Tacituss anecdote about Moses exhorting the Jews not to expect any divine or human assistance, for they have been abandoned, but to rely upon themselves.110 By reciting signs of the exodus Machiavelli exhorts the prince to liberate Italy. He changes theologies to honor divine initiative while endorsing human cooperation with it for the achievement of personal glory. The rest is up to you. God does not want to do everything Himself, and take away from us our free choice and our share of the glory which belongs to us.111 No statement more betrays Machiavellis unspiritual ambition. God does so want to take away free choice and do everything by himself. This liberation denes grace. As Luther asserted, Free will since the Fall is a reality in title only and when it does what is in it [facere quod in se est] it sins mortally.112 Transcending this argument is the doctrine of union, in which God so intimately identies with believers that his divine life animates them. The Christian mystery is neither acquisition nor cooperation but divinization as the creative source of human power. This is not presence by signs but possession by love, the essential act, of which Machiavellis politics is devoid. Machiavellis well is not theological wisdom but folksy sayings, as113 he inveighs in LAsino against prayerful idleness that relies on God.114 The notion was proverbial: Set your hand to the work before you appeal to Fortune. As Erasmus explained, The lesson of the adage is that, while we ought to trust in divine help, we should strive none the less, as far as in us lies, by our own efforts [facere quod in se est]; otherwise heaven will not listen to the prayers of indolent and lazy men. He cited Aeschylus on a balance of dependence and duty.

109 Baldassare Castiglione, Il libro del cortegiano, ed. Bruno Maier (Turin: Unione typograco-editrice torinese, 1955), 121, 79, 1036, 198, 215, 451. 110 Tacitus, Historiae 5.3. 111 Machiavelli, Principe, 297; trans., 135. Cf. libero arbitrio in Savonarola, Prediche, 155; cf. 223. 112 Luther, Disputatio Heidelbergae habita, in Werke, 1:353. 113 Machiavelli, Principe, 278; trans., 85. 114 Machiavelli, LAsino, 967.



When a man makes an effort himself, then god too takes a hand, for God loves to help the man who helps himself. A similar adage was Invoke Minerva, but use your own strength too. It warns us not to relax our efforts in reliance on divine assistance. These adages originated in the story of the carter whose ass was stuck in the mud. When he appealed for divine assistance, God replied that heaven would help him only when he put his own hand rst to relieving the beasts distress.115 The sophisticated hermeneutics for Machiavellis dissemblance honors his counsel on the despicable but necessary practice of deceit since great deeds are achieved by fraud and force.116 About religion, however, Machiavelli is not merely dissembling but ignorant. His foundation of Il principe on his continuous study of the ancient world . . . diligently analyzed and long pondered117 is fatuous for the exodus. A parade of authors had conscripted Moses name for ideological and political ends with attering but false comparisons to Platos philosopher-king, the bishop Basil of Caesarea, the emperor Constantine, the king Matthias, and a procession of popes. Machiavelli the opportunist inserts his artice into this convenience. Yet, however preposterous their extrapolations from scripture, the allegorists did not boast of historical purpose or erudition, as he did, but specied their contemplative intentions. Machiavellis abuse of scripture is fabulation. His religiosity is not profound but popular, in medieval regression from the philology and historiography of Renaissance humanism. He shames Il principe by his own standard: The facts cannot be divined. . . . If one does not wish to scribble doodles and dreams, he needs to check the facts.118 He deprecates others for his own fault, a lack of appreciation of history, owing to people failing to realize the signicance of what they read.119 Machiavelli counts on credulous readers, like the ignorant and rude crowds who believed Numas familiarity with the nymph or Savonarolas conversation with God.120 He induces their assent with claims of novelty and

115 Erasmus, Adagia, in Opera omnia, ed. Johannes Clericus (Leiden, 17036), 2:476 77, 228; trans. Roger A. Mynors, Collected Works, 33:11819; 32:15. 116 Machiavelli, Discorsi, 90, 16364, 24849. 117 Machiavelli, Principe, 257; trans., 29; cf. Discorsi, 76. 118 Machiavelli, Legazione, 443. 119 Machiavelli, Discorsi, 76.; trans., 98. 120 Ibid. 94.



realism121 in dashing use of the rhetorical conventions of exordium and energeia : the announcement of extraordinary news122 and its lurid report.123 In reality Machiavellis donation of Moses to a Medici prince is so uproariously false that it must be propaganda.
University of Toronto

Machiavelli, Principe, 280. See Ernst R. Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, trans. Willard R. Trask (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1953), 8586. 123 See G. Zanker, Enargeia in the Ancient Criticism of Poetry, Rheinisches Museum fr Philologie 124 (1981):297311; Heinrich Lausberg, Handbuch der literarischen Rhetorik: Eine Grundlegung der Literaturwissenschaft, 2 vols. (Munich: Max Hueber, 1960), 1:paragraphs 81019; Mary E. Hazard, The Anatomy of Liveliness as a Concept in Renaissance Aesthetics, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 33 (1975):40718.