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Old 01-06-08, 07:02 AM
artofwar artofwar is offline
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Default comparing the art of war by sun tzu and the art of war by machiavelli

i have read the art of war by sun tzu and the art of war by machiavelli. what are the similarities and differences between the ideas of these two books?
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Old 01-06-08, 07:52 AM
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sonshi sonshi is offline
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Welcome to, artofwar. Why don't you give us <b>your</b> assessment first and perhaps others will follow.
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Old 01-18-08, 12:35 AM
Sima Guidao Sima Guidao is offline
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I recently read Machiavelli's art of war, and I can tell you that it is completely different from each other. Let me explain:

If we are to compare the MAoW with any Chinese military classic, it is to be compared to the Methods of the Sima, by Tian (or Sima) Rangju, who lived in the Spring & Autumn period (a more obscure military classic), or the Wu Zi.

* I strongly recommend the Methods of the Sima as a book, to give an indication: If you would make Il Principe and the MAoW into a single volume, you have the European equivalent of the Methods of the Sima.

The main difference is that Sun Tzu transcends his own time period while Machiavelli’s book is largely fixed in his own time period (but if it had been around, say, a century sooner, Italy would have had a second rise in power). Furthermore, Machiavelli borrows a great deal of his theories from Vegetius’ de re militarii, almost everything. But his aim was to get the Roman style of warfare rehabilitated in Italy, as the Roman Era was Italy’s time of glory. So, by this the MAoW is largely citations from the De Re Militarii with explanations and updates, like the use of pikes and fire-arms. This book actively attacks the renaissance military fashion to imitate the Macedonian/Swiss Pike-formation for a more flexible (Roman legion-style) model. He does not dismiss the pike altogether as a weapon to repulse cavalry, but states that the Romans beat Cavalry-heavy armies without using long pikes. If you want to learn what the disadvantage of the pike would have been, you should read the MAoW, which dedicates an entire paragraph to the debate of Sword & Shield v.s Pike.

Also, the MAoW, like von Clausewitz’ book stresses the importance of offering battle to the enemy and conquering or repulsing him by the means of combat, but does not dismiss the idea of defeating the enemy without firing a shot or drawing the sword like Sun Tzu does. In fact, I do not believe that Sun Tzu meant to avoid battle altogether, for he clearly states that to win, you must attack… but doing so when at a disadvantage is folly. MAoW has the famous maxim: ‘A victory in battle can put right all past mistakes”.

The format of MAoW differs from Sun Tzu, as it is written as a dialogue and thus is more akin to the WuZi (by Wu Qi). Furthermore, Fabrizio (Machiavelli’s military alter-ego) interlaces his replies to the questions asked with examples from the classical era. The copy of Sun Tzu I own does include commentaries of other Chinese military theorists like Cao Cao and Du Fu, but these have been later additions. This is more like the Methods of the Sima, because Rangju also takes examples from the past, telling how “the ancients” would govern the state and the army, and how they would organize their men. MAoW is not only a lesson in Fabrizio’s preferred kind of army (that of the ancient model), it’s also a history lesson with examples taken from the ancient wars. It really gives you the idea that Machiavelli was very educated.

Fabrizio tells his friends how he would raise, recruit, train, organize, array, march and encamp an army in very much detail, also more like the Wu Zi or the Methods. However, he does this very complete. He tells us how to set up the selection of the army, which men to recruit, exactly how to train, arm and array them with measurements of distance, what ranks the officers should hold and how big their commands should be and the number of ensigns and buglers as well as those of supply wagons and the number of cavalry for each Battalion (and where to place them on the march and in battle). These battalions are variations on the Roman Legion. The theory he gives on encamping does compare with Sun Tzu, in that he promotes the fortified camp, but gives much more technical details (measurements of space) than Sun Tzu does.
I found the MAoW a fun read, it even describes a battle out of the imagination of this Fabrizio where his idea’s are put into practice.

The contents of the MAoW are technical and practical in nature, whereas Sun Tzu’s work is more abstract. In fact, if we would still fight like in the renaissance, the MAoW would be a great companion book to Sun Tzu!

The best thing about Machiavelli's art of War, seen in it's own time, is the practical nature. The only book that really compares with it is it's own source, the De Re Militarii. No other of the books on strategy I've read handle HOW to recruit, select and train, organise and rank your men, only that you should do it.
But if you are resolved to find a Chinese classic that is a little like this one, Methods of the Sima (or Sima's rules of war) is the one you should get, as it, in a way combines "The Prince" with the art of war.
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Old 02-20-08, 08:17 PM
magenta11 magenta11 is offline
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 85



Wow... I am so thrilled to see posting like this...

I wish I could buy you a beer~ Hahaha~

So filtered and simple, clear and deep.
Thank god.

Thank you for making the comparison~
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