100 Niccolò Machiavelli Quotes on Pragmatism & Politics

Though known for the detached ruthlessness he depicted in The Prince, you’ll surely find some useful pieces of wisdom from this collection of Niccolò Machiavelli quotes.

His words and his views are very pragmatic, direct to the point, and simple.

We’ve rounded up his top 100 quotes that will shed a different light on how you view politics and morality.

So, be sure you don’t miss out!

Start reading the full list here.

And check out these Julius Caesar quotes and Marcus Aurelius quotes.

Best Niccolò Machiavelli Quotes

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Niccolo Machiavelli Quote - It is not titles that honour men, but men that honour titles.

1. “It is not titles that honour men, but men that honour titles.”

2. “Love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

3. “How we live is so different from how we ought to live, that he who studies what ought to be done rather than what is done will learn the way to his downfall rather than to his preservation.”

4. “The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.”

Niccolo Machiavelli Quote - I'm not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.

5. “I’m not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.”

6. “Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.”

7. “People should either be caressed or crushed. If you do them minor damage, they will get their revenge; but if you cripple them there is nothing they can do.”

8. “There is no other way to guard yourself against flattery than by making men understand that telling you the truth will not offend you.”

9. “Where the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be great.”

Niccolo Machiavelli Quote - Men are driven by two principal impulses - either by love or by fear.

10. “Men are driven by two principal impulses—either by love or by fear.”

11. “If an injury has to be done to a man, it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.”

12. “All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger, but calculating risk and acting decisively.”

13. “Never was anything great achieved without danger.”

14. “Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth.”

Niccolo Machiavelli Quote - The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves.

15. “The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves.”

16. “Men, in general, judge more from appearances than from reality.”

17. “Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.”

18. “Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.”

19. “Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.”

Niccolò Machiavelli Quotes on Human Nature and Morality

Niccolo Machiavelli Quote - He who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.

20. “He who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.”

21. “The vulgar crowd always is taken by appearances, and the world consists chiefly of the vulgar.”

22. “Men are so simple of mind, and so much dominated by their immediate needs.”

23. “A prudent man should always follow in the path trodden by great men and imitate those who are most excellent, so that if he does not attain their greatness, at any rate he will get some tinge of it.”

24. “Of mankind, we may say in general they are fickle, hypocritical, and greedy for gain.”

Niccolo Machiavelli Quote - Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good.

25. “Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good.”

26. “All men have eyes, but few have the gift of penetration.”

27. “It is better to act and repent than not to act and regret.”

28. “Men judge generally more by the eye than by the hand, for everyone can see and few can feel.”

29. “Nature creates few men brave—industry and training makes many.”

Niccolo Machiavelli Quote - When they are free to choose and can do just as they please, confusion and disorder become rampant.

30. “Men never do good unless necessity drives them to it; but when they are free to choose and can do just as they please, confusion and disorder become rampant.”

31. “One can say this in general of men—they are ungrateful, disloyal, insincere, and deceitful, timid of danger and avid of profit.”

32. “And truly, it is a very natural and ordinary thing to desire to acquire, and always, when men do it who can, they will be praised or not blamed; but when they cannot, and wish to do it anyway, here lies the error and the blame.”

33. “He who causes another to become powerful ruins himself, for he brings such a power into being either by design or by force, and both of these elements are suspects to the one whom he has made powerful.”

34. “For besides what has been said, it should be borne in mind that the temper of the multitude is fickle, and that while it is easy to persuade them of a thing, it is hard to fix them in that persuasion.”

Niccolo Machiavelli Quote - You at once offend them by showing that you distrust them, either for cowardice or for want of loyalty, and either of these opinions breeds hatred against you.

35. “But when you disarm them, you at once offend them by showing that you distrust them, either for cowardice or for want of loyalty, and either of these opinions breeds hatred against you.”

36. “God creates men, but they choose each other.”

37. “As a general thing, anyone who is not your friend will advise neutrality while anyone who is your friend will ask you to join him, weapon in hand.”

38. “It is of the greatest importance in this world that a man should know himself, and the measure of his own strength and means; and he who knows that he is not a genius for fighting must learn how to govern by the arts of peace.”

39. “If you wish to please me, and to bring success and honour to yourself, do right and study, because others will help you if you help yourself.”

Niccolò Machiavelli Quotes on Love and Human Emotions

Niccolo Machiavelli Quote - Since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them.

40. “Since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.”

41. “Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.”

42. “And here comes the question—whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved.”

43. “Appear as you wish to be.”

44. “He who becomes a Prince through the favour of the people should always keep on good terms with them; which it is easy for him to do, since all they ask is not to be oppressed.”

Niccolo Machiavelli Quote - For the space of four hours I feel no boredom, I forget every pain, I do not fear poverty, death does not frighten me.

45. “For the space of four hours I feel no boredom, I forget every pain, I do not fear poverty, death does not frighten me. I deliver myself entirely to them.”

46. “I hold strongly to this—that it is better to be impetuous than circumspect; because fortune is a woman and if she is to be submissive it is necessary to beat and coerce her.”

47. “Men sooner forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony.”

48. “Although you may have fortresses, they will not save you if you are hated by the people.”

49. “The best fortress which a prince can possess is the affection of his people.”

Niccolo Machiavelli Quote - It is double pleasure to deceive the deceiver.

50. “It is double pleasure to deceive the deceiver.”

51. “For, in truth, there is no sure way of holding another than by destroying.”

52. “Being feared and not hated go well together, and the Prince can always do this if he does not touch the property or the women of his citizens and subjects.”

53. “And yet, we cannot define a skillful killing of one’s fellow citizens, betraying one’s friends, and showing no loyalty, mercy, or moral obligation. These means can lead to power, but not glory.”

54. “Therefore, any cruelty has to be executed at once, so that the less it is tasted, the less it offends; while benefits must be dispensed little by little, so that they will be savored all the more.”

Niccolo Machiavelli Quote - We have not seen great things done in our time except by those who have been considered mean; the rest have failed.

55. “We have not seen great things done in our time except by those who have been considered mean; the rest have failed.”

56. “That defense alone is effectual, sure, and durable which depends upon yourself and your own valour.”

57. “It is a common fault not to anticipate storms when the sea is calm.”

58. “For time, driving all things before it, may bring with it evil as well as good.”

59. “The people, as Cicero says, may be ignorant, but they can recognize the truth and will readily yield when some trustworthy man explains it to them.”

Niccolò Machiavelli Quotes on Life and Authority

Niccolo Machiavelli Quote - He who wishes to be obeyed must know how to command.

60. “He who wishes to be obeyed must know how to command.”

61. “A man who is used to acting in one way never changes; he must come to ruin when the times, in changing, no longer are in harmony with his ways.”

62. “A prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires.”

63. “It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.”

64. “There is no avoiding war, it can only be postponed to the advantage of your enemy.”

Niccolo Machiavelli Quote - In conclusion, the arms of others either fall from your back, or they weigh you down, or they bind you fast.

65. “In conclusion, the arms of others either fall from your back, or they weigh you down, or they bind you fast.”

66. “A prince must not have any other object nor any other thought but war, its institutions, and its discipline; because that is the only art befitting one who commands.”

67. “One should never fall in the belief that you can find someone to pick you up.”

68. “I conclude, therefore, that fortune being changeful and mankind steadfast in their ways, so long as the two are in agreement men are successful, but unsuccessful when they fall out.”

69. “He who is highly esteemed is not easily conspired against.”

Niccolo Machiavelli Quote - The fact is that a man who wants to act virtuous in every way necessarily comes to grief among so many who are not virtuous.

70. “The fact is that a man who wants to act virtuous in every way necessarily comes to grief among so many who are not virtuous.”

71. “But in Republics, there is a stronger vitality, a fiercer hatred, a keener thirst for revenge. The memory of their former freedom will not let them rest; so that the safest course is either to destroy them, or to go and live in them.”

72. “Alexander never did what he said, Cesare never said what he did.”

73. “Without an opportunity, their abilities would have been wasted, and without their abilities, the opportunity would have arisen in vain.”

74. “One must be a fox in order to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten off wolves. Those who simply act like lions are stupid.”

Niccolo Machiavelli Quote - He who puts up with them gains the benefits, but also the trouble. As the saying goes, 'There's no honey without bees.

75. “Women are the most charitable creatures, and the most troublesome. He who shuns women passes up the trouble, but also the benefits. He who puts up with them gains the benefits, but also the trouble. As the saying goes, ‘There’s no honey without bees.’”

76. “For the friendships which we buy with a price, and do not gain by greatness and nobility of character, though they are fairly earned, are not made good, but fail us when we have occasion to use them.”

77. “An unavoidable war is called justice. When brutality is the only option left, it is holy.”

78. “The Swiss are well armed and very free.”

79. “Men are so self-complacent in their own affairs, and so willing to deceive themselves, that they are rescued with difficulty from this pest. If they wish to defend themselves, they run the risk of becoming contemptible.”

Niccolò Machiavelli Quotes on Wisdom, Religion, and Insight

Niccolo Machiavelli Quote - There is nothing more important than appearing to be religious.

80. “There is nothing more important than appearing to be religious.”

81. “For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution, and merely lukewarm defenders in those who gain by the new ones.”

82. “Wisdom consists of knowing how to distinguish the nature of trouble, and in choosing the lesser evil.”

83. “He who builds on the people, builds on the mud.”

84. “For my part, I consider that it is better to be adventurous than cautious.”

Niccolo Machiavelli Quote - For one change always leaves a dovetail into which another will fit.

85. “For one change always leaves a dovetail into which another will fit.”

86. “Men intrinsically do not trust new things that they have not experienced themselves.”

87. “When everyone feels at liberty to tell you the truth, they will be apt to be lacking in respect to you.”

88. “Everything that occurs in the world, in every epoch, has something that corresponds to it in ancient times.”

89. “For whoever believes that great advancement and new benefits make men forget old injuries is mistaken.”

Niccolo Machiavelli Quote - I desire to go to Hell and not to Heaven. In the former, I shall enjoy the company of popes, kings and princes.

90. “I desire to go to Hell and not to Heaven. In the former, I shall enjoy the company of popes, kings and princes; while in the latter are only beggars, monks and apostles.”

91. “Minds are of three kinds—one is capable of thinking for itself; another is able to understand the thinking of others; and a third can neither think for itself nor understand the thinking of others. The first is of the highest excellence, the second is excellent, and the third is worthless.”

92. “God is not willing to do everything, and thus take away our free will and that share of glory which belongs to us.”

93. “Occasionally, words must serve to veil the facts. But let this happen in such a way that no one becomes aware of it; or, if it should be noticed, excuses must be at hand to be produced immediately.”

94. “Thus, it is best to seem merciful, faithful, humane, sincere, religious, and also to be so; but you must have the mind so disposed that when it is needful to be otherwise you may be able to change to the opposite qualities.”

Niccolo Machiavelli Quote - Men are born, and live, and die, always in accordance with the same rules.

95. “Men are born, and live, and die, always in accordance with the same rules.”

96. “Many writers have imagined republics and principalities that have never been seen nor known to exist in reality.”

97. “Set down among these lice, this is how I keep the mold from my brain and find release from fortune’s malice. I am content to have her beat me down this way to see if she won’t become ashamed.”

98. “Men live peacefully as long as their old way of life is maintained and there is no change in customs.”

99. “For a monarchy readily becomes a tyranny; an aristocracy, an oligarchy; while a democracy tends to degenerate into anarchy.”

Niccolo Machiavelli Quote - One ought perhaps not to count Moses, as he was a mere executor of the will of God.

100. “One ought perhaps not to count Moses, as he was a mere executor of the will of God; he must nevertheless be admired, if only for the grace that made him worthy of speaking to God.”

Did You Find Bits of Wisdom From Niccolò Machiavelli’s Views on the Pragmatism and Amorality of Politics?

Niccolò Machiavelli was an Italian diplomat for 14 years during the powerful Medici family’s exile. IWhen the Medici’s rose to power once again, he lost his position as a diplomat and was even jailed. This is when he wrote The Prince—a handbook for politicians and statesmen, and considered to be one of the first written accounts on modern political theory. Even though he published other works, The Prince is one that stood the test of time. He’s known as someone who openly preached about the end justifying the means—doing whatever is necessary in order to achieve one’s goals, no matter the cost. However, he also recognizes the fact that in order to avoid chaos, one must still have respect for justice and integrity. Ultimately, what Machiavelli wants us to takeaway is this: there is no such thing as fate or destiny, everything is in our own hands. So, take action and never leave life in the hands of fate alone.

What do you think of his work and his ideals? Which quotes from the list are your favorites? Be sure to leave a comment below.