Comparing Machiavelli's The Prince and Plato's The Republic
Many people in history have written about ideal rulers and states and how to maintain them. Perhaps the most talked about and compared are Machiavelli's, The Prince and Plato's, The Republic. Machiavelli lived at a time when Italy was suffering from its political destruction. The Prince, was written to describe the ways by which a leader may gain and maintain power. In Plato?s The Republic, he unravels the definition of justice. Plato believed that a ruler could not be wholly just unless one was in a society that was also just. His state and ruler was made up to better understand the meaning of justice. It was not intended to be practiced like that of Machiavelli's. Machiavelli, acknowledging this, explains that it is his intention to write something that is true and real and useful to whoever might read it and not something imaginary,"?for many have pictured republics and principalities which in fact have never been known or seen?(Machiavelli 375)." Therefore, because one ruler is realistic and the other imaginary, the characteristics of Machiavelli's ruler versus Plato's ruler are distinctly different.
Machiavelli?s model for his ideal prince was Cesare Borgia, also known as Duke Valentino and son of Pope Alexander VI. He believed Cesare Borgia possessed all the qualities of a prince destined to rule and maintain power in his state. He believed that politics has a morality of its own. There is no regard of justness or unjustness, of cruelty or mercy, of approval or humiliation, which should interfere with the decision of defending the state and preserving its freedom. Therefore, the ruler/prince's single responsibility is to protect the state from any possible danger even if it means deception or cruelty. Of course it is far better to be considered humane than cruel, but sometimes cruelty is the only way to achieve security and stability in the state. Cruel actions by the prince should be done at once, and quickly. Then the prince should slowly reward his people with benefits so that the cruel actions may be forgotten. "For injuries ought to be done all at one time, so that, being tasted less, they offend less; benefits ought to be given little by little, so that the flavour of them last longer (Machiavelli 370)." Cruelty, therefore, will not seem like it is committed everyday and people will soon forget if they are reassured with benefits.
On the contrary, Plato's idea of the ruler is almost exactly the opposite that of Machiavelli's. Plato's reason for his ideal ruler and state was to explain the meaning of justice. One must examine what it means for a state to be just and what it means for a person to be just to truly understand the meaning of justice. According to Socrates, ??if we first tried to observe justice in some larger thing that possessed it, this would make it easier to observe in a single...