Often times we get stuck in the rut of thinking that all these famous historical people had it all figured out. Much you read, especially any of the so-called trendy Stoic advice, lauds ancient beardy types as having infinite wisdom that somehow was lost to the ages. There is an incessant idealisation of the past as not only better but as being somehow perfect in being without the typical bullshit of our daily lives.
Somehow absent from our collective pasts and essentially the history of our civilisation clogged sinks and just not being satisfied with the quality of socks on offer. This is clearly not the case but reading this sort of thing does make me feel better about the world somehow. This apparently wasn’t any different for Machiavelli whose treatises on power and manipulation are still pervasive to this day, despite him looking like this.
“So those are great angles into history. Meanwhile, there’s a great historian friend of mine, Guido Ruggiero, who does Renaissance stuff, and he has a wonderful book called Machiavelli in Love, which is actually a collection of different short studies of zooming into the Renaissance, and giving you slices of daily life and the real interactions of human beings, to remind you that these people who are big names - you know, people we think of as marble busts on pedestals, like Machiavelli - you feel different once you’ve read the personal letter where Machiavelli is complaining that his salary is late, and his shirt has holes in it, and he has to go to work and he’s going to be embarrassed because he doesn’t have anything clean to wear, and can his wife please send him some new shirts? He has to worry about laundry, like everybody else, and money, like everybody else. Which isn’t what we imagine, we imagine these great figures as never having our mundane problems of it being laundry day.”