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The Artist, the Philosopher, and the Warrior: Da Vinci, Machiavelli, and Borgia and the World They Shaped

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  638 Ratings  ·  91 Reviews
Leonardo da Vinci, Niccolò Machiavelli, and Cesare Borgia—three iconic figures whose intersecting lives provide the basis for this astonishing work of narrative history. They could not have been more different, and they would meet only for a short time in 1502, but the events that transpired when they did would significantly alter each man’s perceptions—and the course of W ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published February 22nd 2011 by Bantam (first published February 5th 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Marita
Mar 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History lovers and those interested in the Renaissance
This non-fiction book focusses on the Borgia family's pursuit of more and more power. Cesare Borgia had considerable success in the Romagna region and tried to expand all the way to and including the Kingdom of Naples, aiming to ultimately unify the Italian states with himself as ruler. He was initially a very handsome man - later he suffered the ravages of syphilis and wore a mask. He was intelligent and witty, but also cunning, cruel and ruthless. He could be very charming, and managed to both ...more
Quo
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in Renaissance History, Leeonardo da Vinci, Machiavelli, the Borgias & the Medicis
Recommended to Quo by: Read for a book discussion group
The Artist, the Philosopher & the Warrior: The Intersecting Lives of Da Vinci, Machiavelli & Borgia and the World They Shaped by Paul Strathern represents a non-fiction book that is more interesting conceptually than when actually read. The premise of Strathern's book is that Leonardo da Vinci, Machiavelli & Cesare Borgia all represented "denials of the spiritual outlook of the preceding medieval era, yet each would in their separate ways, become emblematic of an eternal aspect of th ...more
Wayland Smith
I'm an eclectic reader, and when I ran across this one being reviewed in the Washington Post, I added it to my list. Turns out that was a good call. Da Vinici, Machiavelli, and Cesare Borgia are names that ring out in history. The fact that they all knew each other intrigued me, so I wanted to see what Strathern had to say.

1500's Italy was not a peaceful place. In fact, there wasn't really an Italy. Different city states vied for power, and "noble" families within them fought each other constant
...more
Micah
Jan 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm fascinated by the fact that this turbulent, bloody thirty year period in Italy produced so much amazing art that defined the Renaissance. Leonardo da Vinci, here portrayed as somewhat of a hostage/indentured servant to Borgia, is such an interesting and complex character. He was an early vegetarian (didn't want to hurt animals) but also devised some of the most cunning and effective ways to kill human beings of that era. I guess artists -- and scientists -- have to make their daly bread.

Also
...more
Jordan
Jan 04, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The idea of this book is both excellent and intriguing, but the excecution is poor. A study of three very different men who bestride history and most fortuitiously lived at the same time and shared many experiences which deeply influenced the Renaissance and our modern world should produce some insight into the soul of the Renaissance, or at least the souls of these men who are Renaissance Men writ large. This book fails to produce this insight, primarily due to the ideas of Freudian psychology ...more
Kelly
Aug 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Paul Strathern's, 'The Artist, The Philosopher and the Warrior,' is an engaging account of some of the greatest minds of the renaissance (and arguably, history).

As I had just travelled to Italy and learned for the first time (yes, I'm a bit late to the renaissance party) about characters such as Machiavelli and Borgia, I was really interested in exploring their lives and their personalities. This book also appealed to me because I knew that it's focus on Florence would therefore lead to an expl
...more
Superfluous Man
If the book suffers from a flaw (other than its unnecessarily oversold title), it is Mr. Strathern’s strenuous efforts to work da Vinci into the story, which one presumes is a reasonable marketing ploy given the popularity of all things da Vinci these days. Leonardo is a famously enigmatic character who left behind a relatively spare record for future historians, despite the thousands of his notebook pages that have survived. Where the record is silent, Mr. Strathern invents and speculates. For ...more
Lauren Albert
I had two problems with this book. The first is that the book doesn't quite cohere--it is hard to do group biographies and this one jumps from subject to subject. The second, and sometimes related problem, is the author's tendency to speculate, sometimes without making it clear that that is what he is doing. As I've written before, most histories require an amount of speculation but it must always be limited and explicit. I say this problem is related to the first because he often discusses the ...more
Alicia
Aug 11, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This could be interesting: Niccolo Machiavelli, Caesar Borgia and Leonardo daVinci influencing one another in a riveting century I don't know all that much about. It misses the mark, and leaves the impression the brief book was tossed together to make a marketing deadline rather than a consideration of mutual impact. Borgia and Machiavelli both rise out of the pages as -- incomplete. Borgia is at times dashing, at times morally twisted, at times an enlightened conqueror. His death makes a riveti ...more
Pam Doyle
Jan 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was awesome. A good overview of Renaissance Florence and the intersection of the lives of DaVinci, Machiavelli and the Borgia's: Rodrigo, Cesare and Lucrezia from 1498 to 1512-ish. I would recommend this book 110%. I did feel like I wanted to know more about Machiavelli and/or DaVinci as a result of reading this book. Please note that this book has an extensive character list and very good maps. I learned that Machiavelli survived torture, strappado. Amazing. I never knew that.

This boo
...more
Margaret
This is a very interesting book looking at the lives of Leonarda Da Vinci, Niccolo Machiavelli and Cesare Borgia and how they intersected.

It's a very interesting book and I learned much about all three men that I had not previously known.

Well written and erudite, the author does repeat himself on a number of occasions, which is slightly annoying. Because we've been told what happened when the spotlight was on Machiavelli doesn't mean we need it repeated when the light switches to Leonardo or Ces
...more
Trace
Oct 31, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am interested to learn more about Leonardo, but halfway into the first chapter I've run into two historical errors, so I have to doubt the accuracy of the rest of the book. The author refers to a wooden conic tank design of Leonardo's that he never built, but it is clearly on display in the Leonardo museum in Florence. Also, the author refers to Leonardo's attention to detail in painting Luke into the Last Supper. Luke was not one of the 12 disciples, and is not in the painting. I doubt I will ...more
Margaret Sankey
Lawyers, guns and money in Renaissance Florence.
Tracey Johnson
Mar 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The author worked a little too hard trying to include Da Vinci, but it was a fascinating book nonetheless.
Sandra Ross
Nov 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was very interesting for several reasons. It caught my attention because the idea of Da Vinci, Machiavelli, and Borgia's lives being intertwined with each other seemed far-fetched because of the vast differences in these three people as individuals.

And yet, for several months in 1502 and 1503, the artist (serving as military engineer), the philosopher (officially representing Florence, imperiled economically and militarily, yet paralyzingly indecisive over political allegiances), and t
...more
Betawolf
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
This book is one of those which makes you really start to grasp the lived-in nature of history. Our central and titular characters are household names, but it would take much closer knowledge of the period for you to realise that they once met, working and talking with each other, with each having great impact on their fellows and indeed on their most famous works.

Respectively, these characters are the artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci, the clearheaded political philosopher Niccoló Machiavel
...more
Shannon
May 31, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
There were a host of problems with this book, but the biggest one was lack of proper research. I understand there may not be a wealth of information on these three men during this time of each of their lives but due to having read several other biographies it was obvious that some 'facts' were exaggerated, misrepresented or just plain wrong. It flowed as a comfortable read but wasn't worth the time - simply because I don't know if anything I read was accurate.
Livesonabike
This book had an interesting premise: da Vinci, Machiavelli and Borgia were on a campaign together in the Romagna during the mid-Renaissance, and the story follows the three men through the history of the day, claiming that their associations with one another deeply shaped all of them. It's an interesting claim, but I was thoroughly unimpressed with the way Strathern attempted to justify it.

I'll start with what I liked about it: by focusing on three very different men - one warrior, one artist,
...more
Matt Holmes
What's better than this? Just Renaissance guys bein Renaissance dudes.

This was a four-hundred something page exercise in Cesare Borgia fucking up, Machiavelli getting too big for his britches, and Leo Da Vinci wandering back and forth across Europe with a military escort.

It painted Borgia to basically be Vlad the Impaler, only slightly less racist. He was pretty crazy, real violent, and exceedingly treacherous. Naturally, he and Machiavelli became best bros, because Machiavelli seemed to have a
...more
carmen i.
Jul 08, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed


“In Italy for thirty years under the Borgia’s they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years of democracy and peace — and what did they produce? The Cuckoo Clock.” ~ Orson Welles in The Third Man.

My take on THE Plot:

In the 1500‘s, Italy was under Borgia dominion. It was the Era in which powerful families fought for supremacy and power by means of extortion,
...more
Elizabeth Sulzby
The Artist, The Philosopher, and the Warrior
by Paul Strathern

A historical account of what is known and what this historical writer (Strathern) concocts from journals, notebooks, Papal sources, etc.
Cesere Borgia, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Niccolo Machiavelli.

I started reading in this area because of the new SHOtime series, The Borgias. I had read earlier that Machiavelli was said to base The Prince and other writings on his experience with the Borgia family. (Now I worry that the series will only be
...more
D.w.
Dec 13, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
This book took me nearly 2 years to read from start to finish. Of course I read about 150 other books in between starting and finishing it so I want to decipher why.

For me, it really was that this was a poorly written book. It wanted to be one thing and failed at it, then tried to be another, and was terrible in its effort. First I thought the author wanted us to be presented with a great piece of history, beyond what you would find in a textbook, or a dissertation.

As I read this though, we hear
...more
Mohammed Rahman
Jan 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The Artist, the Philosopher, and the Warrior" by Paul Strathern was quite a bit to read. Not because it was bad, but because it gave you such insight into the life of the well know Leonardo da Vinci, as well as Niccolo Machiavelli and Cesare Borgia. The book was detailed with information and commentary the lives of these people, giving it a special touch. Also,it was filled with quotes from the works of each person, so you know that these accounts are real. Furthermore, it explains later how th ...more
Margaret
In different ways, Cesare Borgia, Leonardo da Vinci, and Niccolo Machiavelli are all men who shaped what we know as the Italian Renaissance. Here, Strathern discusses their achievements and examines the ways in which these intersected. The ties between Machiavelli and Borgia are well-documented (after all, the ideal ruler of Machiavelli's most famous work is modelled after Borgia), as are those between Borgia and Leonardo, who worked at Florence's request as Borgia's military engineer for a time ...more
Tom Riggall
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating account of a turbulent time in Italian history, told brilliantly around the lives of three of the most important figures of the period. Strathern's prose is excellently written, meticulously detailed while still being enjoyable and easy to follow, and devotes equal attention to each of the main characters.

I have become a bit of a Da Vinci/Italian Renaissance fanatic over the last few years and picked up this book to feed my seemingly insatiable hunger for this knowledge. I was defi
...more
John Shideler
Jul 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Not knowing much about any of these historical figures besides what is widely know about da Vinci (artist, inventor, thinker), Machiavelli (wrote The Prince), and knowing nothing about Borgia, I found this to be a particularly enjoyable read. History is one of my passions and I enjoy learning new things about historical figures and the times in which they lived.

Some have said in their reviews that da Vinci was forced into this book, which I can both understand and also disagree with. Leonardo's
...more
Stian
Jun 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't speak much for its qualities as a historical biography, I'm not well versed in those, not a connoisseur in any way. I'm not an expert of the time period, and I don't know about the accuracy of the claims put forth or the validity of the speculation.

But I haven't ever bonded more with any character, fictional or real or in any genre of literature, than I did with Leonardo da Vinci, Niccolo Machiavelli and Cesare Borgia as I read Strathern's book. Through his outstanding narrative, I was f
...more
Nelson Rosario
Nov 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memory
I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would enjoy it when I was about a third of the way into reading it. The book starts off slow, and methodically goes through the early years of Leonardo, Machiavelli, and Borgia. The title is a bit sensational, but fairly accurate. This is a book about three important renaissance figures and how they impacted their world.

The book reads more like a history textbook than a narrative which contributed to the difficulty I had advancing in the book. I found th
...more
Shaun
Jan 31, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Paul Strathern brings to life three of the Renaissance's biggest contributors - All exemplifying the different ideals of this cruel yet fascinating era. The book serves as an introduction to the lives of Da Vinci, Machiavelli and Borgia and certainly whetted my appetite to learn more about renaissance Italy and in particular - the fantastic mind of Da Vinci.
However, there are times when I feel the author runs away with an educated guess than working with the facts i.e. Machiavelli's 'Florentine
...more
Ethan Auten
This book had a lot of good information concerning Cesare Borgia and Niccolò Machiavelli. However, trying to add Leonardo da Vinci to the mix of the story, in my opinion, was a stretch. The writing concerning da Vinci was poorly written in the fact that Strathern was trying to draw conclusions based off of snippets of information that could have been taken to mean a dozen other different things. In fact, the claim that Leonardo was as important to the Renaissance was never proven. Strathern hims ...more
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Paul Strathern (born 1940) is a British writer and academic. He was born in London, and studied at Trinity College, Dublin, after which he served in the Merchant Navy over a period of two years. He then lived on a Greek island. In 1966 he travelled overland to India and the Himalayas. His novel A Season in Abyssinia won a Somerset Maugham Award in 1972.

Besides five novels, he has also written nume
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More about Paul Strathern...

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