• 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 ...

    during the 1560's set up the basis on which the evolution of small scale agriculture to that of a lager and more intensive degree. Tobacco was introduced to Europe by the Spanish, who had learned to smoke it from Native Americans.

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

    Bernard also regards a letter written by Chapuys, in which he states that Cromwell informed him he had managed the affair, as a reference to Cromwell's part in the investigation, trial and execution or as evidence of Chapuys's dislike for Anne and his unreliability as a source.

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

    . . This was the principle adopted in the poor law of 1531 and its successors."2 Nevertheless the polarization between the deserving and undeserving, was not always as clear cut as the sixteenth stereotypes would leave us to believe.

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

    The protestant church, by contrast, stressed that the matter of what happened to us when we died was dictated by our actions on earth, we did not get any second chances. As well as the problem of the Protestants attack on the Roman Catholic Church concerning force hopes of purgatory,

  2. Free essay

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

    Although prices went down, production escalated through this period. This is supported by the statement in Hugh Brogans book that 'in 1619 they produced 20,000 pounds of tobacco at three shillings a pound. By 1639 this had expanded to 1,500,000 pounds at three pence a pound and by 1640 Virginia

  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?

    This meant strict observance of Rule of Saint Benedict, the encouragement of monks to develop a personal spiritual life, and stressing the importance of the liturgy. English observers cannot have failed to be impressed by the extent of religious devotion evident in places such as Cluny, and unsurprisingly monks from

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