"The best thing for a republic or monarchy is not have someone in charge who governs well for as long as he lives; it is better to have someone who organizes the state so that when he dies it will continue without him" (Machiavelli, Discourses, ch. 11).
Scion of a Florentine family of minor noble extraction, Niccolò Machiavelli was born into a world beset on all sides with social and political strife. The Florence in which Machiavelli came of age was sharply divided along the axes of religious asceticism and aristocratic extravagance, the former personified by the book-burning Dominican friar Savonarola, the latter by the de facto ruler of the city, Lorenzo de’ Medici (appropriately dubbed “The Magnificent”). This tension between adherence to spiritual ideals and the pursuit of temporal riches is entirely characteristic of the Renaissance, during which religious fervor and worldly ambition often found themselves at loggerheads.