What does Machiavelli say about friends of my enemies? I read the Prince, and some continental stuff relating it to Marxism, such as Specters of Marx. The former mostly seemed like practical, in some sense morally ruthless, advice. Does he have specific advice about this, and if not a principle then how can it be translated into contemporary class struggle?

I'm specifically interested in what "The Prince" should do about them? One example would be political allies of someone you are at war with who have not declared war.

war is an extension of politics.

How is this different from other philosophies of war?

  • 1
    Not sure if he thought it is beneficial to write about friends of enemies.
    – rus9384
    Feb 6, 2019 at 16:07
  • i guess solidarity is not a political position, dunno @Gordon
    – user35983
    Feb 6, 2019 at 17:09
  • thanks for your comments @Gordon i disagree with the last one, but that's ok too
    – user35983
    Feb 6, 2019 at 17:32
  • it's 95% education, health and feelings of security. imvho @Gordon and if we have these then why not end the nightmare of being ruled by someone else?
    – user35983
    Feb 6, 2019 at 17:34
  • I don't object to the goals you mention in your comment, but I had in mind some of the difficulties in achieving them.
    – Gordon
    Feb 6, 2019 at 21:43

1 Answer 1


Machiavelli found the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" advice to be cheap and short-sighted, at least for a ruler. It is not that he was concerned with moral virtues, but rather he saw shifting alliances as ineffective in the long run, and fostering loyalties and respect as more effective. Better yet, converting enemies into friends (Ch.20 of the Prince). So he advises picking a side and sticking to it:

"A prince is also esteemed when he shows himself a true friend or a true enemy, that is, when, without reservation, he takes his stand with one side or the other. This is always wiser than trying to be neutral, for if two powerful neighbors of yours fall out they are either of such sort that the victor may give you reason to fear him or they are not. In either case it will be better for you to take sides and wage an honest war."

I doubt that Machiavelli would have objected to the original Kautilya's quip (trivialized into the enemy of my enemy proverb in 1700-s, long after Machiavelli's time), "a king whose territory has a common boundary with that of an enemy is an ally", but his contemporaneous Italy was not exactly a country of fixed boundaries. Of course, he not only had no objection to enticing others to follow the proverb, when it suits him (and exterminating them otherwise), but encourages it in his praise of Cesare Borjia from Discourses:

"He who considers it necessary to secure himself against enemies in his new principality, to win friends, to overcome either by force or fraud, to make himself beloved and feared by the people, to be followed and revered by the soldiers, to exterminate those who have power or reason to hurt him, to change the old order of things for new, to be severe and gracious, magnanimous and liberal, to destroy a disloyal soldiery and to create new, to maintain friendship with kings and princes in such a way that they must help him with zeal and offend with caution, cannot find a better example than the actions of this man.”"

  • i have no idea if you've misread my question. my enemy's enemy is not the same as my enemy's friend. i'm asking what can be inferred from the latter
    – user35983
    Feb 7, 2019 at 3:37
  • it's an interesting and well written answer, so i can upvote, but not accept it
    – user35983
    Feb 7, 2019 at 13:48

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