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Niccolo Machiavelli was born in Florence, Italy at a time when the country was in political upheaval. Italy was divided between four dominant city-states, and each of these was continually at the mercy of the stronger foreign governments of Europe. Since 1434 the wealthy Medici family ruled Florence. A reform movement, begun in 1494, temporarily interrupted their rule in which the young Machiavelli became an important diplomat. When the Medici family regained power in 1512 with the help of Spanish troops, Machiavelli was tortured and removed from public life. For the next 10 years he devoted himself to writing history, political philosophy, and even plays. He ultimately gained favor with the Medici family and was called back to public duty for the last two years of his life.