This essay traces Biblical resonances within Machiavelli's account of Cesare Borgia, or “Duke Valentino,” in The Prince. It challenges the idea that Machiavelli's goal is to detheologize politics (in fact, my reading suggests that the founding of all principalities must be consecrated in religious terms); it dispels the notion that the “armed prophet” is armed exclusively with a sword rather than with a book; and it raises questions concerning the ambiguous meaning of “success” in a practical “how-to” manual on political success. I demonstrate that Machiavelli's intentions are not necessarily so antireligious, or even so anti-Christian, as interpreters conventionally present the Florentine's views on religion. Most fundamentally, perhaps, my interpretation prompts readers to reimagine what, on Machiavelli's view, a genuinely political founder of a Christian polity might look like.
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