Miles Unger new bio on Machiavelli, whose name is an eponym for the political stratagem on how to acquire and retain power without compunction to scruples or conscience, paints Niccolo Machiavelli aesthetically with broad strokes as the father of political science; diplomat, with an astute appreciation of human nature–a predecessor of Freud, if you will–and a poet and an author; specifically, creator of La Mandragola, a renowned comedy of the Italian Renaissance. A contemporary and intimate to the renaissance polymaths: Leonardo and Michelangelo; the era’s brilliant innovators. As the patriarch of political sci he sired two opuses: The Prince and The Discourses, where the former was modeled after the notorious Cesare Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander VI, violent career, and the latter, an analysis of the workings of the civil state.
As a product of his environment, Machiavelli’s, The Prince, was a reflection of revolutionary, tumultuous times, where geniuses and tyrants traipsed the landscapes: the manuscript was his manifestations of a pragmatic guide to aspiring politicians that is based on the world as it is, not as a should be. As an atheist, he readily dismissed the moral yard stick to facilitate decisive political and managerial direction; decisions were structured on the foundation of the natural world and the corruptible and flawed human nature
Bettany Hughes a historian of considerable acclaim, who has presented multiple documentaries for BBC, PBS, the Discovery Channel, the History Channel and National Geographic—whose academic home base Oxford University, where she received a degree in ancient and medieval history has written an excellent bio on Socrates.
Socrates, a 25 century icon personality (fifth-century BC), whose unrelenting oratory exercise in exposing the truth set the bar for Western philosophy. Frustrating to lovers of the written word, the prolix peripatetic never transcribed anything; his apostles, Plato, being one, chronicled his events and rhetoric—for, the Greek philosopher felt that the written words themselves are not complete representation of knowledge, but rather words are to knowledge as pictures are to their subjects.
Hughes cyclically ebbs and floods from the fifth-century B.C. to the contemporary, referencing archaeological digs to project the massive marketplace, Agora, the cardiac muscle of Athens, where Socrates meandered the narrow corridors to engaged the populace in dialogue to purposefully exhume the enlightening gemstone of truth. We are guided to the battlefields where he risked life and limb, the lascivious red light districts and gymnasia; apparently, bisexuality was the norm, and the religious festivals he attended. We meet the women, few, as they were, who were core to his life: his wife, yes, I’m surprise too, didn’t realize the vagabond stood still long enough to get hitch, her name was Xanthippe, and his clandestine confidant, Aspasia. We tour his birth and self-induced death sentence sites.
Hughes not only depicts the birth of the father of philosophy; but, the ectopic pregnancy of democracy…