If a follower of Machiavelli’s treatise The Prince was sent to Dante’s Inferno, which circle of hell would he find himself in?

In The Prince, Machiavelli puts forth his treatise of how a ruler should behave and be perceived. To expound, Machiavelli’s ideal of the Prince is an opportunist proactively seeking to achieve and retain power, without regard for anyone. A Prince hides their true machinations under a facade of goodness. Hence, a Prince must be devoid of natural human emotions in order to prioritize self-interests. Ruthlessness and treachery in pursuit of power are inherent markers of a true Prince’s conduct.

Dante’s Inferno moralized the christian hell as a caste system. So much so, Dante’s hell resembles rock stratification. In hell’s caste system, the more heinous the sin the lower the sinner falls in the nine circles of the Inferno. Sinners guilty of minor offenses, such as an inability to control their desires, occupy the upper reaches of hell. The vilest of sinners are confined to the lowest depths of hell, this includes Judas Iscariot.

The Prince’s ideal behavior and actions undoubtedly are damnable offenses in Dante’s Inferno. But where would he or she fall?

One probable location for Machiavelli’s Prince is the ninth circle, the lowest circle of hell. Circle nine holds sinners guilty of treachery and the conscious murder of innocents. A stand-in candidate for the Prince, already occupying the Inferno’s ninth circle is Ruggieri degli Ubaldini, Archbishop of Pisa. In his time, Archbishop Ruggieri was involved in a local power struggle with Count Ugolino della Gherardesca. This power struggle ended with Archbishop Ruggieri viciously betraying and executing Count Ugolino. For good measure, Archbishop Ruggieri also had the innocent sons and grandsons of the count executed at the same time.

Archbishop Ruggieri actions fell in strict accord with the highest Machiavellian virtues espoused in The Prince. Therefore, loyal followers of Machiavelli’s The Prince are seated in the ninth circle of the Dante’s Inferno.

[ARCHIVE: Nov. 1998]


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