by Niccolò Machiavelli
The Prince Strength and Skill Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
In this case all the difficulties an eventual ruler must face come before he takes power; because while you need ability [virtù] or luck to take a state like this you can hold on to it without either. (10.1)
Here, "virtù" means almost the same thing as the English "virtue." Not surprisingly, Machiavelli is talking about Pope Leo X.
If you look for the initial cause of the collapse of the Roman empire, you'll find it was when they started hiring Goths as mercenaries. From that moment on the strength of the empire began to decline and all the determination [virtù] that drained out of it went to strengthen its rivals. (13.7)
Whoa, since when could virtù leave you and go to someone else? Is this like the Highlander? How does virtù leave you? How do you gain it?
The only possible explanation for this was Hannibal's tremendous cruelty, which, together with his countless positive qualities [virtù], meant that his soldiers always looked up to him with respect and terror. The positive qualities [la altre sa virtù] without the cruelty wouldn't have produced the same effect. (17.7)
Machiavelli berates historians for giving Hannibal a bad rap here. He says that Hannibal needed his cruelty and virtù to be the crazy psychopath that we know and love today.