Amato che temuto

One of the most frequently discussed passages of Machiavelli comes in Chapter XVII of Il Principe on whether it is better to be loved or feared. The passage in the Italian reads “S’elli è meglio essere amato che temuto, o e converso.” The Italian verb is timóre, usually translated fear or awe. It comes from the Latin, timor, translated as fear, dread or alarm. It shows up in English as timorous, meaning timid or full of apprehension or fear.

“Fear” seems like a good translation, although you might substitute “awe” to get a different nuance. “Awe” could remove some of the sense of violence or threat found in “fear,” but I am pretty sure that Machiavelli intends to include that sense in his meaning. I would very much like to disagree with him and claim that it is better to be loved, but I suspect in reality it is in fact better to be feared.


~ by severalfourmany on August 25, 2007.

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