Few philosophers are more often referred to and more often misunderstood than Machiavelli. He was truly a product of the Renaissance, and he was as much a revolutionary in the field of political philosophy as Leonardo or Michelangelo were in painting and sculpture. He watched his native Florence lose its independence to the French, thanks to poor leadership from the Medici successors to the great Lorenzo (Il Magnifico). Machiavelli was a keen observer of people, and he spent years studying events and people before writing his famous books. Descended from minor nobility, Machiavelli grew up in a household that was run by a vacillating and incompetent father. He was well educated and smart, and he entered government service as a clerk. He eventually became an important figure in the Florentine state but was defeated by the deposed Medici and Pope Julius II. He was tortured but eventually freed by the restored Medici. No longer employed, he retired to his home to write the books for which he is remembered. Machiavelli had seen the best and the worst of human nature, and he understood how the world operated. He drew his observations from life, and he was appropriately cynical in his writing, given what he had personally experienced. He was an outstanding writer, and his work remains fascinating nearly 500 years later.