In Chapter 3 of the Prince Machiavelli offers this advice to the prince who would hold a newly acquired territory:

[T]o send colonies to one or two places, which may be as keys to that state, for it necessary either to do this or else to keep there a great number of cavalry and infantry. A prince does not spend much on colonies, for with little or no expense he can send them out and keep them there, and he offends a minority only of the citizens from whom he takes lands and houses to give them to the new inhabitants; and those whom he offends, remaining poor and scattered, are never able to injure him; whilst the rest being uninjured are easily kept quiet, and at the same time are anxious not to err for fear it should happen to them as it has to those who have been despoiled.

Unless I am very much mistaken, he has his favourite ancient Romans in mind and their method of holding and policing territory by veterans' colonies.

However, I do not recall any instances of medieval or Renaissance colonies of this kind which Machiavelli might have had in mind. Indeed, he gives no illustration of his colonies advice, while he copiously illustrates other advice with contemporary examples.

So I wonder if I missed some cases - or perhaps Machiavelli was being here more of bit of an antiquarian? (like he is a lot of times in his Art of War)

P.S. My wife suggested one great example - the Ulster Plantation. But probably Machiavelli was not sufficiently clairvoyant to know about it.

  • One of my three favorite historical documents!
    – andy256
    May 31, 2015 at 8:43
  • 1
    Reading Macciavelli's text, and given the time it was written, I would think more of granting municipal charters to strategic towns than direct land assignation (although those still existed, for example in 1571 there was a settlement of people in the Alpujarras, Spain, after the muslim population still living there was expelled en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpujarras).
    – SJuan76
    Jun 1, 2015 at 10:09
  • @SJuan76 Interesting example, thanks! Jun 1, 2015 at 11:53

3 Answers 3


I am sure there were a lot of small colonies, but historically speaking nobody was interested in recording groups of Italians from one city moving to another city. The Italians had numerous colonies in the Greek islands, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and in Dalmatia. As an example, Pula, which has a very nice harbor has always had a very strong Italian influence, being colonized by Venice, Genoa and Pisa at various times. Even today people speak Italian in Pula.

  • ...Corfu for Venice.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 1, 2015 at 0:06

A medieval example quite similar to Roman colonies may be Alghero. Since the city offered a fierce resistance to Aragonese rule, its population was replaced by Catalan colonists in 1354 and the city became an Aragonese stronghold in the long time rebellious Sardinia. As a result, Catalan language is still spoken nowadays in Alghero.

  • Very very interesting! Never knew about that before. Aug 31, 2018 at 19:26

Maybe situation in Bohemia after Thirty years war ? Expulsion of protestant elities (together with confiscation of their properties) by Austrian Emperor ? And grating their properties to catholic aristocracy ?

  • This is more than a century after Machiavelli died.
    – Spencer
    Sep 1, 2018 at 2:12

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