Vickie Sullivan: Selected Publications

Machiavelli's Three Romes: Religion, Human Liberty, and Politics Reformed

Vickie Sullivan, Political Theory

Machiavelli's ambiguous treatment of religion has fueled a contentious and long standing debate among scholars. Whereas some insist that Machiavelli is a Christian, others maintain he is a pagan. Sullivan mediates between these divergent views by arguing that he is neither but that he utilizes elements of both understandings arrayed by distinguishing among the three Romes that can be understood as existing in Machiavelli's political thought: the first is the Rome of the Christian era, dominated by the pope; the second is the republican Rome of pagan times, which Machiavelli praises; and the third is an idealized Rome that is neither entirely pagan nor entirely Christian. In Part 1, Sullivan examines Machiavelli's treatment of Christian Rome to find that in his view the Church and the beliefs of Christianity have fostered grave political problems. Indeed, he contends that Christianity exercises a type of tyrannical rule over human beings. His recognition motivates his seemingly enthusiastic turn to the pagan Rome of the Discourses. Examining his treatment of pagan Rome in Part 2, Sullivan finds that Machiavelli is critical of this apparent alternative to Christian Rome. In particular, Machiavelli demonstrates that republican Rome with terms evocative of Christianity in a way that suggests Christian governance ultimately derived from pagan Rome. The ancient city is an insufficient model for the people of his times, and thus he proposes an idealized Rome that will transcend the problems both of Christian and of pagan Rome. The character of Machiavelli's new Rome provides the focus of Part 3. Sullivan argues here that Machiavell's new Rome will embody certain elements of the two other Romes yet will overcome the failings of each. She shows Machiavelli's thought to be a highly original response to what he understood to be the crisis of his times. Sullivan draws primarily from the Florentine Histories, The Prince, and the Discourses to offer a unique study of Machiavelli's political thought. Her examination of Machiavelli's three Romes will engage the readers concerned with political thought, philosophy of the state, and Machiavelli. Purchase this book >

Table of Contents:

Acknowledgements ix
Note on Texts Cited xi
Introduction 3
Part I: Christian Rome 15
1 The Church and Machiavelli's Depiction of Italy's Historical Situation 17
2 The Ravages of Christianity 36
Part II: Pagan Rome 57
3 The Foundation for Tyranny in Rome 61
4 Corruption, Youth, and Foreign Influences 81
5 Machiavelli's Ambiguous Praise of Paganism 102
Part III: Machiavelli's New Rome 119
6 Old Lands and Machiavelli's New One 123
7 A Temporal Christianity and the Princes of the Republic 147
8 Machiavelli's Rule and Human Liberty 172
Notes 191
Works Cited 221
Index 227