To the Magnificent Lorenzo Di Piero De' Medici:
Those who strive to obtain the good graces of a prince are
accustomed to come before him with such things as they hold most
precious, or in which they see him take most delight; whence one
often sees horses, arms, cloth of gold, precious stones, and
similar ornaments presented to princes, worthy of their greatness.
Desiring therefore to present myself to your Magnificence with
some testimony of my devotion towards you, I have not found among
my possessions anything which I hold more dear than, or value so
much as, the knowledge of the actions of great men, acquired by
long experience in contemporary affairs, and a continual study of
antiquity; which, having reflected upon it with great and
prolonged diligence, I now send, digested into a little volume, to
And although I may consider this work unworthy of your
countenance, nevertheless I trust much to your benignity that it
may be acceptable, seeing that it is not possible for me to make a
better gift than to offer you the opportunity of understanding in
the shortest time all that I have learnt in so many years, and
with so many troubles and dangers; which work I have not
embellished with swelling or magnificent words, nor stuffed with
rounded periods, nor with any extrinsic allurements or adornments
whatever, with which so many are accustomed to embellish their
works; for I have wished either that no honour should be given it,
or else that the truth of the matter and the weightiness of the
theme shall make it acceptable.
Nor do I hold with those who regard it as a presumption if a man
of low and humble condition dare to discuss and settle the
concerns of princes; because, just as those who draw landscapes
place themselves below in the plain to contemplate the nature of
the mountains and of lofty places, and in order to contemplate the
plains place themselves upon high mountains, even so to understand
the nature of the people it needs to be a prince, and to
understand that if princes it needs to be of the people.
Take then, your Magnificence, this little gift in the spirit in
which I send it; wherein, if it be diligently read and considered
by you, you will learn my extreme desire that you should attain
that greatness which fortune and your other attributes promise.
And if your Magnificence from the summit of your greatness will
sometimes turn your eyes to these lower regions, you will see how
unmeritedly I suffer a great and continued malignity of fortune.