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The Artist, the Philosopher, and the Warrior: The Intersecting Lives of Da Vinci, Machiavelli, and Borgia and the World They Shaped Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 29, 2009
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The Renaissance was a child of many fathers--none more important than the three iconic figures whose intersecting lives provide the basis for this astonishing work of narrative history: Leonardo Da Vinci, Niccolo Machiavelli and Cesar Borgia. Each could not have been more different. They would meet only for a short time in 1502 but the events that transpired, would significantly alter their perceptions--and the course of Western history.
In 1502, Italy was riven by conflict, with the city of Florence as the ultimate prize. Machiavelli, the consummate political manipulator, attempted to placate the savage Borgia by volunteering the services of Da Vinci as Borgia’s chief military engineer. That autumn, the three men embarked together on a brief, perilous, and fateful journey through the mountains, remote villages and hill towns of the Italian Romagna--the details of which were revealed in Machiavelli’s often-daily dispatches and Da Vinci’s meticulous notebooks.
In a book that is at once a gripping adventure story and a trenchant analysis of how men make history, The Artist, the Philosopher and the Warrior limns each man’s personality, their interactions, and the forces that shaped their world. Superbly written, meticulously researched, here is a work of narrative genius--whose subject is the very nature of genius itself.
A Look Inside The Artist, the Philosopher, and the Warrior
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From Publishers Weekly
Despite the convoluted title, this latest from award-winning British novelist and historian Strathern (Napoleon in Italy) is simply a good, straightforward history of Renaissance Italy during the turbulent decade around 1500, with emphasis on several important players. Pope Alexander VI, though not in the title, is the central player. Famously corrupt and ambitious, Alexander aimed to enlarge the Papal States and his family's influence, and his son, Cesare Borgia, led papal armies in three cruelly successful campaigns. The leading diplomat of wealthy but feeble Florence, Machiavelli worked hard to fend off Borgia, but admired his brutal realism, portraying him as the ideal ruler in his classic, The Prince. Both men knew Leonardo da Vinci, and Borgia employed him as a military engineer. However, da Vinci exerted no political influence, so the author's digressions into his art and ingenious (but mostly unrealized) inventions stand apart from the narrative. Readers will reel at this meticulous popular account of Renaissance tyranny, corruption, injustice and atrocities. 8 pages of color illus., b&w illus., maps. (Sept. 29)
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In the early 1500s, Italy was broken into several competing principalities and was preyed upon by its larger and more powerful neighbors, particularly France. Cesare Borgia (and his father, Pope Alexander VI) sought to create a power base for their family in the Romagna, and perhaps to make the Papacy an inherited (rather than an elected) position to be held by their family. Machiavelli and the Florence he represented had other designs: maintain the Florentine republic and protect it from the twin threats of the Pope and the French. Between these erstwhile political rivals (and sometimes collaborators) is Da Vinci, whose patronage in Florence was perhaps the result of Machiavelli's influence, and whose mechanical and engineering skills were much sought after by Borgia. The history of these three minds, their influence on events and the rapidly changing intellectual and political climate in Italy makes for fascinating reading.
Beyond the interpersonal drama of these men, however, is their role as metaphor for broader changes taking place in Europe: nation states were emerging (hence the power and threat of France and the designs of Alexander VI), and the way in which people understood politics was also being reexamined. In fact, Strathern argues that much of _The Prince_ is influenced by Machiavelli's interactions with and observations of Cesare Borgia as he manipulated, bluffed and fought his way to power.
It is history that reads like fiction. Thoroughy researched and skillfully written, it is a fascinating examination of a crucial point in European - and world - history. Highly recommended.