Skip to content

Machiavelli: Is the building of fortress a Good or a Bad?

January 30, 2011

There’s a quite interesting issue from the Machiavelli’s reading The Prince, he mentions that a fortress can both do you a good and a bad; it symbolizes your statue and defend your throne,meanwhile it also takes a risk that the fortress can be in turn used as a weapon against you by your people or enemies. The later one makes a good sense for the Chinese history- The Forbidden City.

The Forbidden City served as the imperial palace for over 500 years from the Ming Dynasty to the end of Qing Dynasty. It was continuously surrounded by an extensively strong wall with pierced gate at each side, served for defending purpose and separated the imperial life from the rest of the country. And the name “Forbidden” symbolizes power, saying that no one can neither enter nor leave the City without permission from the emperor. The last emperor Puyi was repelled from the Forbidden City by the betrayal of a general in 1920.

So far we can see that the Forbidden City and the fortresses that Machiavelli brought up are alike, in the sense that they both demarcated the authority from the people.
So whether a fortress or the Forbidden City is necessary/ useful to build can be a debate. Here I did some calculations


  • A symbolization of authority
  • It serves for defending purpose in good times


  • The demarcated area will be targeted as a bullet point for terrorists, which brings along tremendous political, economical and cultural cost in long term.
    eg. collections of national treasures were evacuated from the Forbidden City to Japan and other countries during the Japanese Invasion in China in the year of 1933, only some of them were returned
  • According the Machiavelli, people who hate and despise you can easily take you down by opening the gate to invaders and foreigners.
  • Without demarcated area, people will be pleased by the equality and concern offered by the ruler
    So it’s there a perfect solution? To be respected and feared by the people, at the same time oneself and its subject can be secured?

From times to times, rulers had to make decisions for himself and his people.
In the political world, remedy or perfect
solution for one particular issue doesn’t exist.
Right amount of every single ingredient serves a nice dish. Therefore, to make a good decision,one has to make the BEST move for the issue itself and other complementary issues along with, in order to serve a decent outcome.

One Comment
  1. Melissa Boelstler permalink
    January 31, 2011 12:52 PM

    I would have to think that the cons to building the fortress would outweigh the pros by far. One pro provided was the establishment of authority. Yes, that would happen but authority that is achieved that causes the people to lose their rights to go and leave when they please, is not the type of authority over the people that a ruler should have. This could cause the people to despise and hate the ruler which could lead to uprisings and other problems within the area. The second is that it serves for defending in good times. Though this may be true, there is a con to this pro that basically causes it to become null. The con would be making this area a bullet point for terrorists. Causing terrorists to bullet point the area of rule that the ruler may have is so far from what a ruler should do. Of course they need to also have defense, but a type of defense that will attract terrorists is not the type of defense that they should look for, but instead go a different route.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: