Niccolo Machiavelli was born in Florence, Italy on May 3, 1469. His family owned farm and rental properties and Machiavellis father, Bernardo, practiced law. Machiavelli received a quality, classical education, characteristic of the humanist traditions of Renaissance Italy. As a young boy, Machiavelli showed great interest in the works of ancient Latin writers, such as Dante, Livy, and Cicero.
In Machiavellis youth, Florence was ruled by Lorenzo de Medici, or Lorenzo the Magnificent, the great liberal statesman, patron of the arts, and man of letters. After Lorenzos death, Florence went through a period of political instability, starting with the French invasion of Charles VIII (1494) and ending with the rise and fall of Savaronola, a Dominican friar, who through his prophetic sermons established a theocratic state until its fall in 1498. At the age of 29, Machiavelli, who never held a governmental position before, became second chancellor of the newly established Republic of Florence. Machiavellis position gave him access to the major political and military players of Europe. As a diplomat, Machiavelli traveled extensively and met such leaders as Louis XII of France, Cesare Borgia, Emperor Maximilian II, and Pope Julius II. During his diplomatic missions, he took notes of these men, which would prove useful in writing The Prince. Machiavelli was considered a tireless worker and eventually became a trusted advisor to the gonfaloniere, or chief magistrate, Piero Soderini. But in 1512, the Republic of Florence fell to the Spanish army of the Holy League. The Medici family regained control of Florence and Machiavelli was dismissed from his position. A year later, he was accused of taking part in a conspiracy against the Medici rulers. Imprisoned and tortured, he was eventually cleared of the charges and released.
Over a decade of living and breathing politics came to an abrupt end and Machiavelli had a difficult time adjusting to civilian life. He was forced to withdraw to a small farm in San Casciano near Florence. In a letter to his friend, Francesco Vettori, Machiavelli describes how he ends his uneventful days. Changed into his courtly robes, he writes, “I enter the ancient courts of bygone men where, having received a friendly welcome, I feed on the food that is mine alone and that I was born for.”