The Prince

Niccolò Machiavelli

Machiavelli serves as both the narrator and a protagonist of The Prince. When released from prison in 1513, Machiavelli retreated to private life and wrote The Prince in an effort both to gain the… (read full character analysis)

Lorenzo dé Medici

The ruler of Florence from 1514 to 1519, Lorenzo dé Medici was part of the influential Medici family and the dedicatee of The Prince. Lorenzo was the nephew of pope Leo X, who appointed… (read full character analysis)

Cesare Borgia

The illegitimate son of pope Alexander VI, Cesare Borgia pursued military campaigns throughout Italy with the aid of his powerful father. After a series of impressive victories, Borgia's power diminished following Alexander's death in… (read full character analysis)

Alexander VI

Elected pope in 1492, Alexander VI was a skilled politician and leader who considerably expanded the territorial power of the Catholic Church through diplomacy and warfare. Infamous for the corruption of his papacy, Alexander sired… (read full character analysis)

Ferdinand of Aragon

With his wife, Isabella I of Castile, Ferdinand of Aragon united Spain and funded the conquest of the New World. Ruling from 1475 to 1516, Ferdinand domestically pursued a centralizing policy and developed a foreign… (read full character analysis)
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Leo X

Elected pope in 1513, Leo X was a member of the Medici family of Florence. As pope, Leo continued the warring policies of his predecessor, Julius II, and engaged in costly campaigns throughout Italy… (read full character analysis)


As Holy Roman Emperor from 1508 to 1519, Maximilian was a perennial opponent of the French and Venetians. His reign was marked by frequent forays into Italian affairs, largely motivated by his desire to regain… (read full character analysis)

Charles VIII

King of France from 1483 to 1498, Charles VIII invaded Italy in 1494, subduing Florence before marching to Naples. As a result of Charles' incursion into Florence, the ruling Medici family was deposed, leading to… (read full character analysis)

Louis XII

The successor of Charles VIII of France, Louis XII continued the Italian campaigns pursued by his predecessor, conquering Milan in 1500 and Naples in 1501. Machiavelli criticizes Louis' early decision to ally himself with Alexander(read full character analysis)

Francesco Sforza

A skilled mercenary who fought for Filippo Visconti, the Duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza married Visconti's daughter in 1441. When Visconti died, Sforza used his military prowess and his marriage to seize control of the… (read full character analysis)

Ludovico Sforza

The son of Francesco Sforza, Ludovico ruled as Duke of Milan from 1489 to 1500. Known as Il Moro, Ludovico was a ruthless ruler and a famous patron of the Italian Renaissance. Ludovico's use… (read full character analysis)


The commander of the army of Carthage, an enemy of Rome. Hannibal invaded the Roman Republic during the Second Punic War (218-201 B.C.), marching into Italy through the Iberian Peninsula and the Alps. Although Hannibal… (read full character analysis)


The son and heir of Marcus Aurelius, Commodus ruled Rome from 180 to 193 A.D. The opposite of his father, Commodus "was of a cruel, bestial disposition" and was despised by the people, which… (read full character analysis)

L. Septimius Severus

A military commander under Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, Severus became emperor of Rome in 193 A.D. Machiavelli praises Severus as a "remarkable and outstanding . . . new prince" and applauds his ability "to… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
Julius II
Reigning as pope from 1503 to 1513, Julius II supported Renaissance artists and boldly enhanced the territorial power of the Catholic Church. An able diplomat and strategist, Julius successfully curbed the influence of the Roman barons and waged war against domestic and foreign foes on the Italian peninsula.
Cyrus was the founder of the Persian Empire. Under his control, the empire spanned from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indus River, making it the largest empire in the world at that time. He died in battle in 529 B.C. Machiavelli celebrates Cyrus' skill in warfare and governance.
Alexander the Great
Alexander became King of Macedonia in 336 B.C. An extraordinarily talented ruler and military strategist, Alexander conquered Greece, Persia, and much of Asia, invading India in 327 B.C. Machiavelli praises Alexander as an exemplary ancient prince.
The mythical founder and first king of Rome. According to legend, Romulus killed his twin brother, Remus, when the brothers argued over the site for the foundation of a new city. Romulus won and named the city Rome after himself.
Julius Caesar
A successful Roman military leader, Julius Caesar became dictator of Rome and was eventually assassinated by political rivals in 44 B.C. Machiavelli states that Caesar established his power with the goodwill of the people, using the spoils of war to reward his subjects.
Marcus Aurelius
Ruled as Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 A.D. Machiavelli argues that Marcus Aurelius, who "loved justice, hated cruelty [and was] kind and courteous," maintained his position only because he "succeeded to the empire by hereditary right." During his successful reign, Rome faced considerable internal and external threats.