The Italian Renaissance of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries saw the rebirth of many of the ideals of classical Greece and Rome, including the ideal of self-government. Among those who celebrated the rebirth of “republican” government was Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527). Machiavelli is best known as the author of The Prince, a short book in which he apparently advocates rule by a single person who should not hesitate to use cruelty and deceit to stay in power. In his longer book, The Discourses, however, he takes a very different position. In the following excerpt from The Discourses, Machiavelli criticizes the claim that the people, acting collectively, are less wise than a single king or prince.