• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The Authority Conflict: Machiavelli & Martin Luther

Extracts from this document...


The Authority Conflict Machiavelli and Martin Luther were two of the most profound and controversial historians of the sixteenth century. In The Prince, Machiavelli advocated unconventional measures and instructed the rulers of politically unstable Italy on gaining absolute power and setting aside moral values. Luther's On Christian Liberty considers the corruption of the Holy Roman Church and promotes the split of the secular from the spiritual. He instilled complete authority in the word of God. When comparing the different solutions concerning the problem of authority proposed by these pragmatists in the sixteenth century, it is evident that they agreed to some extent on the evil nature of human beings; however, their concepts of virtue were unique and their solutions were targeted to engage and gain support from different groups and figures of authority. Machiavelli and Luther used separate approaches and had different motives for conveying a similar message about human nature; people are inherently bad. Mankind is more prone to evil than he is to good (Taylor 23). They both agreed that men initially concern themselves with one another as means to satisfy their own desires. Luther quoted Galatians 5:17, "for the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh," to show the struggles men face upon attempting to act moral and righteous (Luther, 4). ...read more.


He illustrates his concept of virtue when he recommends that a ruler know how to suppress his human nature and assume the characteristics of a beast. "The lion is defenceless against traps and a fox is defenceless against wolves; therefore, [a prince] must be a fox in order to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten off wolves" (Machiavelli 56). He used symbolism of the fox and bear to represent deceptiveness and strength or brutality, respectively. In his view it is legitimate and necessary for a prince to deceive his adversaries and employ violence against them if the state will benefit. He referred to Alexander VI, a pope whom possessed Machiavelli's virtue, as an example showing the successfulness of being deceptive. "[Alexander's] deceptions always had the result he intended, because he was a past master in the art" (57). Though Machiavelli used ironic characteristics to illustrate his ideal of virtue, he did exclude from the definition anything that Christians would have considered morally wicked behavior. He wrote, "It cannot be called prowess to kill fellow citizens, to betray friends, to be treacherous, pitiless, irreligious (29). He does recommend to the ruler generally admirable things; however his conception of virtue is rooted in his appetite for power and the idea of getting power by any means. ...read more.


In On Christian Liberty, Luther prohibited the rebellion of citizens against the government under any circumstance. He said, "Christians should be subject to the governing authorities and be ready to do every good work...that in the liberty of the Spirit they shall by so doing serve others and the authorities themselves and obey their will freely and out of love" (Luther 58). The only exception to this rule was if the government interfered with religious matter, and then the subject could only disobey on right grounds, still submitting to the Word of God. Though these two contemporaries used distinctly different approaches to discuss the problem of conflicting authorities in 16th century Europe, they each impacted politics, religion, and thought on levels that have had lasting effects on society today. Machiavelli's principles of gaining power and authority can be applied in various fields of the modern world. Five hundred years after its introduction, the "Machiavellian" style of leadership, with its deceiving and dishonest connotation, is still used to get ahead in politics and business. Luther's notions sparked the Protestant Reformation, a testament to the impact of his ideas. The authority that he instilled in the Scripture and the morals and obedience that he promoted are responsible for the religious freedom, individual rights, and protection from central control that we enjoy today. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree 1500-1599 section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree 1500-1599 essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Was there a decisive change in ideas about masculinity and femininity

    There came "a moment when men felt that the need for social and gender order was insistent."11 The increasing democratization of religion precipitated by the Reformation meant that women now had access to the Bible and could interpret and argue points of religion.

  2. Assess the impact of the opening of the Atlantic World in the 15th, 16th ...

    Despite some early criticism of "drinking smoke," tobacco became popular among the middle classes in England. Much of the tobacco smoked in England was grown in the West Indies, and it is the West Indies being under British administration, enabled this occurrence.

  1. Anne Boleyn - historians such as G. W. Bernard, E. W. Ives and Retha ...

    Bernard then supports this evidence with letters depicting pastimes in the Queen's chambers, the Queen's recollections when she was imprisoned in the tower and what Bernard characterizes as Anne's flirtatious manner.

  2. Why Were Some of the English Poor Laws passed between 1531 and 1598 Controversial?

    For example, as afore mentioned a vagrant could simply be a person down on their luck, such as an unemployed migrant seeking work, certainly not a person who deserves to be harshly and brutally punished. That is one reason, as the evidence suggests, some of the English poor laws could

  1. Why was it so difficult to decide between true and false visions and apparitions ...

    the dilemma of distinguishing true and false visions continued with even more attack and claims from the Protestant church as to reasons why purgatory does not exist. As we have gathered from the young Catholic woman from England's apparition of the priest in 1612, with the reformation there were still many reports of individuals communicating with the dead.

  2. Free essay

    What factors drew people away from the British Isles and towards the New World?

    The fact that a cash-yielding crop could be grown as well as staple food crops, would ensure that this region would never have to again suffer the privations of the 'starving time' that had affected the initial colony in 1609.

  1. Jasmine's key worker has noticed bruising on Jasmine's legs and bottom. This could have ...

    any concerns she may have and what action she should take next. Before consulting social services the designated member of staff along with Kelly would talk their concerns over with Barbara. When talking to Barbara the staff should be open and honest about their concerns nd plans without being defensive.

  2. How religious was the tenth-century reform?

    Fleury and Ghent were later called in to help Bishop Aethelwold draw up the Regularis Concordia. Continental reform must have encouraged a desire amongst some ecclesiasts to increase the spirituality of the English Church. After all, if it had been managed on the continent, why could the same not happen in England?

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work