The Prince: Novel Summary: Chapters 7-8
Chapter 7: Next, Machiavelli returns to the ways in which new principalities are acquired-namely, either by good fortune or by superior ability. Though a fortunate prince may have an easier time becoming lord of his subjects, he finds it very difficult to keep them under his control. A prince who rises via natural leadership qualities, conversely, finds it harder to acquire his principality but easier to maintain it once it has been conquered. Two examples-Francesco Sforza and Cesare Borgia-demonstrate these two methods of becoming a prince. Sforza acquired his kingdom by ability while Borgia became prince by fortune. Sforza kept his principality but Borgia lost his kingdom because he was forced to depend too heavily on others. Actually Borgia played all his cards right until the election of Julius II, which proved to ultimately undermine his authority and crush his empire.
Indeed being prince is no easy task. It requires constant manipulation of others and continued calculation of future actions. As Machiavelli puts it, "he who considers it necessary to secure himself in his new principality, to win friends, to overcome either by force or fraud, to make himself beloved and feared by the people, to be followed and revered by the soldiers, to exterminate those who have power or reason to hurt him, to change the old order of things for new, to be severe and gracious, magnanimous and liberal, to destroy a disloyal soldiery and to create new, to maintain friendship with kings and princes in such a way that they must help him with zeal and offend with caution, cannot find a more lively example than the actions of [Borgia]." Yet even these favorable conditions were not enough to keep Borgia from being dethroned. Here, Machiavelli outlines the prerequisites for being prince as well as showing how hard it is to hold power.
Chapter 8: Here, Machiavelli speaks about men who have become princes through wickedness. One such man is Agathocles, who eventually became the King of Syracuse. Though he was tactically wise in military strategy, he constantly used malicious violence to advance his agenda. Though Machiavelli usually applauds some violence and deceit in a prince (as long as the common good of the people is the goal), Agathocles seems to have gone too far. Machiavelli criticizes his actions, saying, "it cannot be called talent to slay fellow-citizens, to deceive friends, to be without faith, without mercy, without religion; such methods may gain empire, but not glory." Indeed Agathocles appears to be in a category all to himself, for Machiavelli explains: "what he achieved cannot be attributed either to fortune or to genius."
A more contemporary example is Oliverotto da Fermo. Like Agathocles, he indiscriminately killed many of his enemies while pretending to be their friend. Thus, from fear of being murdered themselves, the remaining people surrendered under Fermo and let him be their prince. Here, Machiavelli makes an important distinction as to what kind of violence is effective and what kind is to be avoided. Violence against one's subjects should be done all at once instead of spread out over time. According to Machiavelli, the former kind of action will allow the citizens to gradually forget the prince's cruelty so that they will eventually learn to trust and respect him. Benefits, on the other hand, "ought to be given little by little, so that the flavor of them may last longer."