Today in the Middle Ages: May 3, 1469

On May 3, 1469, Niccolo Machiavelli, Florentine political theorist, was born.

Although his name is remembered as a byword for unprincipled deceit, Machiavelli's great achievement was realism. He studied politics as it was actually practiced, rather than as ethical theory required it should have been. His treatise "The Prince," written in an unsuccessful attempt to regain a public position, continued to influence Western thought through the World War II decade.

It is seldom remembered today that Machiavelli also wrote poetry and comic drama.