Great Rulers and What Makes Them Successful
What makes a great ruler? Several great powers in history including Cyrus of Persia, T’ai-tsung, the Duke of Valentine, and Agathocles will be analyzed in order to attempt to answer this question. Based on three readings, these questions will be answered:
1. What are the personal qualities of Cyrus and T’ai-tsung? What is it about these personal qualities that made them successful rulers?
2. How does Machiavelli portray the Duke of Valentine and Agathocles? Does he consider them good or bad rulers? Why?
3. Compare and contrast Machievelli’s concept of an effective ruler with the depictions of Cyrus and T’ai-tsung.
4. Which ruler do you feel is the most worthy of admiration: Cyrus, T’ai-tsung, the Duke of Valentine, or Agathocles? Why?
Cyrus of Persia and T’ai-tsung are indefinitely among the great leaders in history. The cause of their success fundamentally lies in their personal qualities. Beginning with Cyrus, his amiable qualities were numerous. As a child “he was regarded the best of them all in every way”, “best-behaved of his contemporaries”, “able to manage…well”, and “most eager to learn” (Xenophon, 41). As a young man he was also courageous, for he had “one occasion when a she-bear charged at him….but he killed the animal in the end” (Xenophon, 41). Cyrus was a man that believed in strong loyalty. One of the very first things he did when he took a position of power “was to make it clear that in any league or agreement or undertaking that he made he attached the utmost importance to keeping his word” (Xenophon, 41). This allowed people to gain trust in him. “The cities which were in his command trusted him and so did the men” (Xenophon, 41). The prevalent characteristic of Cyrus that made him such a victorious ruler was his inclination to reward those who were his friends and those who were courageous. “Everyone agrees that he was absolutely remarkable for doing services to those whom he made friends of and knew to be true to him and considered able to help him in doing whatever job was on hand”, and “Of course it is well known that he treated with exceptional distinction all those who showed ability for war” (Xenophon, 41). This was great motivation for his subordinates to do good deeds and work hard. Cyrus always had a powerful army too, “there was never any lack of people who were willing to risk their lives when they thought that Cyrus would get to know of it” (Xenophon, 41). “Consequently it was said that Cyrus got the best officers for any kind of job” (Xenophon, 41). He was very generous to the friends he held dear to him. When doing favors for friends he considered “what each individual was like and what, to his knowledge, he needed most” (Xenophon, 41). This showed he cared about his friends. Cyrus picked very reliable people, “For when he died every one of his friends and table-companions died fighting for...