Keyword: Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius

Revealed: Machiavelli never wrote nor believed that 'the end justifies the means'

By Jean-Christophe Piot
A portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) by Santi di Tito. © dr A portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) by Santi di Tito. © dr

“The end justifies the means” is a well-known phrase that for many represents the height of political cynicism, a notion that justifies any crime, and is very often thought to have been first used by Italian Renaissance diplomat, political philosopher and writer Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli. Indeed, to be “Machiavellian” is to be underhand, cunning, unscrupulous and scheming. But, as Jean-Christophe Piot sets out here, the much-maligned Florentine thinker never wrote nor believed in the phrase that has been stuck to him.