The Artist, The Philosopher, and the Warrior
By Paul Strathern
Published in 2009
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
This year, I’ve read four other Renaissance history books by Paul Strathern. I like his writing style because it is clear and simple.
Three of the most interesting figures of the Italian Renaissance met and interacted - Leonardo da Vinci, Machiavelli, and Ceasare Borgia.
Leonardo da Vinci is the well known painter, sculptor, inventor, and siege engineer. Machiavelli is an equally well known political consultant and the theorist that would shape the ideology of the George Bushes and Hillary Clintons of the world. Ceasare Borgia is less well known - he is the demon-spawn son of pope Alexander VI, and one of the most evil people all around. Let me list some of his less severe defects: he is a thief, a rapist, a murder, a liar, and a blasphemer.
The three all meet in Florence. Borgia was invading the city of Florence with his armies. Machiavelli was a political consultant at the time, and was sent as a diplomat to Borgia. Da Vinci, being a great siege engineer, was sent as tribute to serve Borgia - somewhat enslaved. Machiavelli and Da Vinci serve Borgia for a year or two (the timeline is a bit muddy in my mind), and then are allowed to return.
During their time working for Borgia, both get PTSD after seeing the mass slaughter, mass rape, and mass torture inflicted on innocents during the campagin. Da Vinci responds by refusing to do any more military work, and by painting dozens of storms and hurricanes in his notebook. His art becomes noticeably darker. Machiavelli responds by writing the prince, and training himself to be enthralled and captivated by Borgia’s methods. Borgia’s vile deeds eventually catch up to him; he is captured and executed.
This book is really excellent for people who already know the history of Da Vinci and the Borgias because it gives a lot of texture. But it can be a bit confusing for people who aren’t already into Renaissance history. I recommend it to intermediate level Renaissance history enthusiasts but not to novices.
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