The Art of War

The Art of War

Voltaire said, "Machiavelli taught Europe the art of war; it had long been practiced, without being known." For Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), war was war, and victory the supreme aim to which all other considerations must be subordinated. The Art of War is far from an anachronism—its pages outline fundamental questions that theorists of war continue to examine today, ma...

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Title:The Art of War
Author:Niccolò Machiavelli
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Edition Language:English

The Art of War Reviews

  • Mega

    His writings are considered immoral, he teaches you to be appear to be meek as a lamb but deadly as a lion. How to conquer, how to placate, the importance of perception and how it is better to be feared than loved.

  • Thomas

    Haven't read this in a while. It's still a great read. There are so many nuances and strategies that can be applied to all aspects of life, not just war, that can make your actions and decisions mutually beneficial for yourself and everyone involved. :)

  • Knarik

    - "Good orders without military help are disordered"

    - "A wise questioner makes one considermany things and recognize many others that one would never have recognized without being asked."

    - War makes thieves and peace hangs them.

    - Aquire fame as able not as good.

    - I am esteemed not so much because I understand war as because I also know how to counsel in peace.

    - DOn't keep beside you either too great lovers of peace or too great lovers of war.

    - A battle that you win cancels any other bad action o

    - "Good orders without military help are disordered"

    - "A wise questioner makes one considermany things and recognize many others that one would never have recognized without being asked."

    - War makes thieves and peace hangs them.

    - Aquire fame as able not as good.

    - I am esteemed not so much because I understand war as because I also know how to counsel in peace.

    - DOn't keep beside you either too great lovers of peace or too great lovers of war.

    - A battle that you win cancels any other bad action of yours, and viceversa.

    - One cannot make a foundation on other arms than one's own and one cannot order one's own arms otherwise than by way of militia.

    - Well ordered men, armed as well as unarmed, fear the laws.

    - One should change the heads each year from governement to government, because the continued authority over the same place and men generates union that can be converted to prejudice.

    - Men do not suffer from things to which they are accustomed.

    - It is more important for one to guard against being hit than it is important to hit the enemy.

    - Never order an army so that whoever fights ahead cannot be assisted by those posted behind.

    - No captain encamps near to the enemy, unless the former is arranged to do battle any time the enemy wants.

    - For in war, every other thing can in time be conquered, Hunger alone in time conquers you.

    - Make your enemy suspect his own men in whom he confides.

    - Want the trouble to follow when the enemy flees rather than the danger of conquering them when they defend themselves.

    - Guard those places better by which you think you can be hurt less.

    -Nature produces few hardy men; industry and training makes many.

    - New and sudden things frighten armies.

    - Take counsel from many on the things that you must do; what you later want to do, tell few.

    - "You should never believe that the enemy does not know his business, rather, if you want to deceive yourself less and bring on less danger, the more he appears weak, the more enemy appears more cautious, so much the more ought you to esteem (be wary) of him. And in this you have to use two different means, since you have to fear him with your thoughts and arrangements, but by words and other external demonstrations show him how much you disparage him; for this latter method causes your soldiers to have more hope in obtaining the victory, the former makes you more cautious and less apt to be deceived."

    - "Confidence is instilled by arms organization, fresh victories, and the knowledge of the Captain. Love of Country springs from nature. Necessities can be many, but that is the strongest, which constrains you either to win or to die."

    - If you should have present in your army someone who keeps the enemy advised of your designs, you cannot do better if you want to avail yourself of his evil intentions, than to communicate to him those things you do not want to do, and keep silent those things you want to do, and tell him you are apprehensive of the things of which you are not apprehensive, and conceal those things of which you are apprehensive: which will cause the enemy to undertake some enterprise, in the belief that he knows your designs, in which you can deceive him and defeat him.

  • P.H. Wilson

    Real rating: 8/10

    It is a book on military strategy, not a philosophical tome. Though most works only become philosophical thanks to the retroactive nature of the scholars that come centuries later. One should not fault the work simply because you assumed that the author wrote only in one genre. Would one lambaste Beatrix Potter's early work because they thought her book on mushrooms would be about anthropomorphic ones rather than the scientific nature that it was. That fault lies with the reader

    Real rating: 8/10

    It is a book on military strategy, not a philosophical tome. Though most works only become philosophical thanks to the retroactive nature of the scholars that come centuries later. One should not fault the work simply because you assumed that the author wrote only in one genre. Would one lambaste Beatrix Potter's early work because they thought her book on mushrooms would be about anthropomorphic ones rather than the scientific nature that it was. That fault lies with the reader. Those looking for Machiavelli's cynical humour are out of luck. So what is left if there is no philosophy or wit? A work that lays the foundation for war in Europe for the next four hundred years. And why is this of interest? To quote John Adams "I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy."

  • Irka

    An entertaining reading. In some cases you can think that over past years nothing has changed- most people tend to think that it was easoer to live and to fight in previous centuries.

  • Jeremy

    The only one of Machiavelli's major works to be published in his lifetime,

    is a survey of Machiavelli's opinions on the composition, employment, and leadership of an army.

    I found the introduction to this book by Neal Wood to be illuminating as it connected Machiavelli's views in this book to his other famous political works (

    and

    ). It also discussed Machiavelli's sources (most of his examples are from Greek and Roman history, as befitting a Renaissance boo

    The only one of Machiavelli's major works to be published in his lifetime,

    is a survey of Machiavelli's opinions on the composition, employment, and leadership of an army.

    I found the introduction to this book by Neal Wood to be illuminating as it connected Machiavelli's views in this book to his other famous political works (

    and

    ). It also discussed Machiavelli's sources (most of his examples are from Greek and Roman history, as befitting a Renaissance book) and some of the details that he got wrong.

    Machiavelli writes the book as a question and answer session with a military expert, which became tedious as the participants kept flattering each other. Machiavelli also takes great pains to describe the composition and formations of his ideal army, which gets very long in words. The diagrams provided in the appendix were much more understandable.

    One of his interesting assertions is that armies and nations win because of their

    , which the translator left untranslated.

    can be termed as both character and fighting spirit. Machiavelli says it is built both through right living and also experience in warfare. Because any country who conquers all its neighbors will end up losing experience in fighting, Machiavelli asserts that every people will finally lose its

    and be conquered by another, but he does think that can be postponed some.

    After beginning the book with this discussion (which the introduction's author asserts connects

    with Machiavelli's other works), he moves into more specific topics of how to attack with an army, how to march an army, how to camp an army, how to attack/defend a city, and the best characteristics of a general.

    What I found most fascinating about this book was the correlaries with

    , which I recently finished. Although the authors, and the events they describe, were literally a world apart, the principles they espouse are amazingly similar. Both touch on rewards and punishments to keep discipline, the effect of terrain, supplying an army, advance and retreat, subterfuge, and more. To me, the most striking similar advice was to leave an avenue of escape for a retreating enemy because a cornered army will fight more ferociously. A sensible piece of advice, but counterintuitive. It seems principles of successful warfare were the same in Greece, Rome, or China.

    This book adds some advice on artillery, which was not treated in the Chinese military classics that I have read, because they were written earlier.

    While some of the book was tedious, the treatment of strategy and the connections I found with other books I have read made me glad I finally got around to reading it.

  • Vincent

    When most people hear the name Machiavelli, they probably consider him a one trick pony for, "The Prince." In reality, Machiavelli was a prolific writer, but his political treatise overpowers anything else.

    "The Art of War" is an interesting discussion of how armies should be armed and organized. The treatise is organized into several "books" and is shown as a discussion between three characters, one of which is Machiavelli. Based on his knowledge of Roman organization, combined with the technolo

    When most people hear the name Machiavelli, they probably consider him a one trick pony for, "The Prince." In reality, Machiavelli was a prolific writer, but his political treatise overpowers anything else.

    "The Art of War" is an interesting discussion of how armies should be armed and organized. The treatise is organized into several "books" and is shown as a discussion between three characters, one of which is Machiavelli. Based on his knowledge of Roman organization, combined with the technology of the day, he lays out a clear and well thought out plan to organize Italy's armies. This is not just a theoretical work, but one which was put into practice as well. At one point he was in charge of Florence's military forces; disregarding mercenaries in favor of citizen soldiers. This paid off as well as the city's forces defeated an invasion from another city state.

    As a practical philosophy, this might not translate fully into today's world with discussions of archers and cavalry, but it has some overarching themes that still resonate. The reliance on citizen soldiers who are professional and dedicated to the state still hold true today. This might not be useful for everyone interested in modern military theory, but it does have useful insight in the development of military organization and as a historical document.

  • Greg Brozeit

    Machiavelli is, in my view, among the most misunderstood of thinkers. In this series of discourses, he provides some insights into the nature of war and the military that were as profound when he wrote them as they are commonplace today: militias vs. standing armies, preparing for veterans, tying military goals to those of the general welfare.

    He also warned of weak “princes” who failed to understand the interconnectivity between the civil and political life and “need only know how to dream up wi

    Machiavelli is, in my view, among the most misunderstood of thinkers. In this series of discourses, he provides some insights into the nature of war and the military that were as profound when he wrote them as they are commonplace today: militias vs. standing armies, preparing for veterans, tying military goals to those of the general welfare.

    He also warned of weak “princes” who failed to understand the interconnectivity between the civil and political life and “need only know how to dream up witty replies in his study; write a beautiful letter; display intelligence and readiness in his conversation and his speech; weave a fraud; adorn himself with gems and gold; sleep and eat in a more splendid style than others; surround himself with a large number of courtesans; conduct himself in a miserly and arrogant manner with his subjects; rot in laziness; give military positions as favors; despise anyone who had shown them any praiseworthy path; and expect that their pronouncements be taken as oracles.” Did he foresee Trump half a millennium ago?

  • Joshua Guest

    Nothing like Sun Tzu's timeless treatise of the same name. Disappointing.

  • James

    This is a grind. I have read Art of War by Sun Tzu and On War (abridged) by Clausewitz. Both of those were philosophical, and got boring when they got into specific tactics. This book is incredibly boring, as it is almost entirely (obviously antiquated) tactics.

    It is also rather poorly written (or perhaps it's just a bad translation?). It is a completely flat writing style, put in the form of a dialogue about war tactics. There is none of the charm, aphorism, or wit seen in his infamous The Pri

    This is a grind. I have read Art of War by Sun Tzu and On War (abridged) by Clausewitz. Both of those were philosophical, and got boring when they got into specific tactics. This book is incredibly boring, as it is almost entirely (obviously antiquated) tactics.

    It is also rather poorly written (or perhaps it's just a bad translation?). It is a completely flat writing style, put in the form of a dialogue about war tactics. There is none of the charm, aphorism, or wit seen in his infamous The Prince, or the even better Discourses on Livy. It's a shame, too, as Machiavelli considered it his best.

    It is also a shame to me, because I had quite enjoyed learning more and more about Machiavelli, and assumed this would be more of the same. I think it would be a far better use of time to re-read Discourses, or one of the many Machiavelli biographies. There are a few on the TBR list, beyond the two I read this past summer.

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