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50 Machiavelli Quotes on Power, Morality, and More

Published on January 9, 2020 7:00 AM EST
50 Machiavelli Quotes on Power, Morality, and More

Want to step into the mind of one of the world’s most popular philosophers? The Machiavelli quotes below give an intellectual look at the themes of power, morality, and more.

What have you learned about Niccolo Machiavelli in the past?

Niccolo Machiavelli, often referred to as simply Machiavelli, was an Italian diplomat, politician, philosopher, writer, and poet of the Renaissance period.

50 Machiavelli Quotes on Power, Morality, and More

His most notorious, yet well-known work, The Prince, is a leadership guide for rulers. Within The Prince, Machiavelli promoted a ‘end-justifies-the-means’ approach to politics, promoting actions such as betrayal and murder as long as the ruler maintains their power.

Although Machiavelli’s view on philosophy is larger and more complex than the themes of his most well-known book. Learn more about his perspective by reading the Machiavelli quotes below.

Also read these 48 Laws of Power quotes that will lead you to success.

Machiavelli quotes on morality

1. “Men should be either treated generously or destroyed, because they take revenge for slight injuries – for heavy ones they cannot.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

2. “Of mankind we may say in general they are fickle, hypocritical, and greedy of gain.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

3. “One who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

4. “A son can bear with equanimity the loss of his father, but the loss of his inheritance may drive him to despair.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

5. “There are three kinds of intelligence: one kind understands things for itself, the other appreciates what others can understand, the third understands neither for itself nor through others. This first kind is excellent, the second good, and the third kind useless.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

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6. “Politics have no relation to morals.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

7. “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. But when they lack the ability to do so and yet want to acquire more at all costs, they deserve condemnation for their mistakes.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

8. “It is double pleasure to deceive the deceiver.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

9. “Since it is difficult to join them together, it is safer to be feared than to be loved when one of the two must be lacking.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

10. “Benefits should be conferred gradually; and in that way they will taste better.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

More Machiavelli quotes on morality

11. “Where the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be great.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

12. “Tardiness often robs us opportunity, and the dispatch of our forces.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

13. “Men are so simple and yield so readily to the desires of the moment that he who will trick will always find another who will suffer to be tricked.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

14. “It is necessary for him who lays out a state and arranges laws for it to presuppose that all men are evil and that they are always going to act according to the wickedness of their spirits whenever they have free scope.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

15. “Men shrink less from offending one who inspires love than one who inspires fear.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

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16. “The fact is that a man who wants to act virtuously in every way necessarily comes to grief among so many who are not virtuous.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

17. “There is no other way to guard yourself against flattery than by making men understand that telling you the truth will not offend you.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

18. “The vulgar crowd always is taken by appearances, and the world consists chiefly of the vulgar.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

19. “Men never do good unless necessity drives them to it; but when they are free to choose and can do just as they please, confusion and disorder become rampant.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

20. “Men intrinsically do not trust new things that they have not experienced themselves.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

Also check out these quotes from V for Vendetta about society and humanity.

Inspirational Machiavelli quotes

21. “Never was anything great achieved without danger.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

22. “It is much more secure to be feared than to be loved.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

23. “The promise given was a necessity of the past: the word broken is a necessity of the present.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

24. “We cannot attribute to fortune or virtue that which is achieved without either.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

25. “One change always leaves the way open for the establishment of others.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

26. “Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

27. “The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

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28. “Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

29. “Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

30. “Appear as you may wish to be.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

31. “Wisdom consists of knowing how to distinguish the nature of trouble, and in choosing the lesser evil.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

32. “In conclusion, the arms of others either fall from your back, or they weigh you down, or they bind you fast.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

33. “Everyone who wants to know what will happen ought to examine what has happened: everything in this world in any epoch has their replicas in antiquity.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

34. “It is better to act and repent than not to act and regret.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

35. “Nature creates few men brave, industry and training makes many.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

36. “For, in truth, there is no sure way of holding other than by destroying.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

37. “God creates men, but they choose each other.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

38. “Occasionally words must serve to veil the facts. But let this happen in such a way that no one become aware of it; or, if it should be noticed, excuses must be at hand to be produced immediately.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

Machiavelli quotes on power

39. “The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

40. “When you disarm the people, you commence to offend them and show that you distrust them either through cowardice or lack of confidence, and both of these opinions generate hatred.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

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41. “It is not titles that honor men, but men that honor titles.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

42. “No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

43. “Men rise from one ambition to another: first, they seek to secure themselves against attack, and then they attack others.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

44. “I’m not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

45. “Princes and governments are far more dangerous than other elements within society.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

46. “God is not willing to do everything, and thus take away our free will and that share of glory which belongs to us.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

Have you see these powerful Karl Marx quotes that inspire critical thinking and questioning of society?

Machiavelli quotes on war

47. “War should be the only study of a prince. He should consider peace only as a breathing-time, which gives him leisure to contrive, and furnishes as ability to execute, military plans.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

48. “War is just when it is necessary; arms are permissible when there is no hope except in arms.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

49. “There is no avoiding war, it can only be postponed to the advantage of your enemy.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

50. “You ought never to suffer your designs to be crossed in order to avoid war, since war is not so to be avoided, but is only deferred to your disadvantage.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

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Have you ever read Machiavelli’s book The Prince?

When we think of the word Machiavellian, we are often left with a bad taste in our mouth. Merriam-Webster defines ‘Machiavellian’ as “marked by cunning, duplicity, or bad faith.”

Although Niccolo Machiavelli has such a bad reputation, even today, the previously mentioned quotes show that he had forward-thinking ideas and views that can help millions of people.

Has someone’s bad reputation clouded your view of them, even before you met them? Today, choose to see that person clearly. Your negativity towards that person may be blocking a future blessing.

What’s your favorite Machiavelli quote or line? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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