Menu Expand



Saracino, S. Symbolische Kommunikation über Festungen. Machiavelli und der Fortifikationsdiskurs im 16. Jahrhundert. Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung, 42(1), 1-36.
Saracino, Stefano "Symbolische Kommunikation über Festungen. Machiavelli und der Fortifikationsdiskurs im 16. Jahrhundert" Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung 42.1, , 1-36.
Saracino, Stefano: Symbolische Kommunikation über Festungen. Machiavelli und der Fortifikationsdiskurs im 16. Jahrhundert, in: Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung, vol. 42, iss. 1, 1-36, [online]


Symbolische Kommunikation über Festungen. Machiavelli und der Fortifikationsdiskurs im 16. Jahrhundert

Saracino, Stefano

Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung, Vol. 42 (2015), Iss. 1 : pp. 1–36

Additional Information

Article Details


Author Details

Dr. Stefano Saracino, Universität Wien, Institut für Byzantinistik und Neogräzistik, FWF-Projekt “Soziales Engagement in den Wiener griechischen Gemeinden (18.–20. Jahrhundert)“, Postgasse 7/1/3, 1010 Wien, Österreich


Symbolic Communication about Fortresses. Machiavelli and the Treatises on Fortification in the 16th Century

Scholarship on Machiavelli (old and new) has emphasized that the Florentine’s military theory was outdated and neglected important recent technological developments. The article questions this point of view by analyzing Machiavelli’s treatment of the topic of fortification. In his major political works Machiavelli claims that fortresses are useless from a military perspective and that they have detrimental effects on the political sphere. A close reading of the chapters concerning fortification in “Il Principe“ and the “Discorsi“ as well as of the reactions to Machiavelli’s assumptions by early modern authors of treatises on fortification reveals the Florentine’s intention to make a political, rather than a military statement in his discussion of fortresses. Using hyperbolic rhetoric and referring to the republican topos of the building of fortresses as an identification mark of tyrannical government, Machiavelli strongly condemns the attitude according to which political rulers should entrust in the coercive force of their fortresses and therefore can neglect the support and benevolence of the ruled towards the rulers. Next the article reconstructs Machiavelli’s discussion in the “Arte della Guerra“ of central strategic and technical aspects connected to the revolution of military architecture and fortification as a consequence of the introduction of artillery in warfare. In his treatment of the topic of fortification in book VII of the “Arte della Guerra“ Machiavelli reveals his considerable military expertise as well as of his keen understanding of the military practice of his days. But perhaps this is not the most essential aspect for the question in case. As the article tries to show in accordance with recent work done by historians of fortification, the rich material of early modern treatises on fortification is not relevant for military historians only. They are relevant documents for cultural historians as well. Fortresses and fortifications are not simply military buildings but artefacts with rich symbolic value. Treatises on fortification accordingly speak not only to military experts but also encompass several non-military functions and are addressed to non-military readers. This new approach to the history of fortification provides also new insights into the questions about Machiavelli’s military theory.