previous next
[1260b] [27]

And since we take for our special consideration the study of the form of political community that is the best of all the forms for a people able to pursue the most ideal mode of life, we must also examine the other constitutions actually employed by certain of the states said to be well governed, as well as any others propounded by certain thinkers and reputed to be of merit, in order that we may discern what there is in them that is right and expedient, and also in order that it may not be thought that to seek for something different from them springs entirely from a desire to display ingenuity, but that we may be thought to enter upon this inquiry because these forms of constitution that already exist are not satisfactory.

We must first adopt as a starting-point that which is the natural point of departure for this inquiry. There are three possible systems of property: either all the citizens must own everything in common, or they must own nothing in common, or some things must be common property and others not. To have nothing in common is clearly impossible for the state is essentially a form of community, and to begin with there is bound to be a common locality: a single city occupies a single site, and the single city belongs to its citizens in common. [1261a] [1] But is it better for a city that is to be well ordered to have community in everything which can possibly be made common property, or is it better to have some things in common and others not? For example, it is possible for the citizens to have children, wives and possessions in common with each other, as in Plato's Republic, in which Socrates says that there must be community of children, women and possessions. Well then, which is preferable, the system that now obtains, or one conforming with the regulation described in the Republic1?

Now for all the citizens to have their wives in common involves a variety of difficulties; in particular,2 (1) the object which Socrates advances as the reason why this enactment should be made clearly does not follow from his arguments; also (2) as a means to the end which he asserts should be the fundamental object of the city, the scheme as actually set forth in the dialogue is not practicable; yet (3) how it is to be further worked out has been nowhere definitely stated. I refer to the ideal of the fullest possible unity of the entire state, which Socrates takes as his fundamental principle.

Yet it is clear that if the process of unification advances beyond a certain point, the city will not be a city at all for a state essentially consists of a multitude of persons, and if its unification is carried beyond a certain point, city will be reduced to family and family to individual, [20] for we should pronounce the family to be a more complete unity than the city, and the single person than the family; so that even if any lawgiver were able to unify the state, he must not do so, for he will destroy it in the process. And not only does a city consist of a multitude of human beings, it consists of human beings differing in kind. A collection of persons all alike does not constitute a state. For a city is not the same thing as a league; a league is of value by its quantity, even though it is art the same in kind (since the essential object of the league is military strength), just as a weight would be worth more if it weighed more, whereas3 components which are to make up a unity must differ in kind (and it is by this characteristic that a city will also surpass a tribe of which the population is not scattered among villages but organized like the Arcadians). Hence reciprocal equality4 is the preservative of states, as has been said before in the Ethics. For even among the free and equal this principle must necessarily obtain, since all cannot govern at once: they must hold office for a year at a time or by some other arrangement or period; and in this manner it does actually come about that all govern, just as all shoemakers would be also carpenters if the shoemakers and the carpenters kept on changing trades instead of the same persons being shoemakers and carpenters always. But since such permanence of function is better for the political community also, it is clear that it is better for the same persons to govern always, if possible; and among peoples where it is impossible because all the citizens are equal in their nature, [1261b] [1] yet at the same time it is only just, whether governing is a good thing or a bad, that all should partake in it, and for equals thus to submit to authority in turn imitates their being originally dissimilar5; for some govern and others are governed by turn, as though becoming other persons; and also similarly when they hold office the holders of different offices are different persons. It is clear then from these considerations that it is not an outcome of nature for the state to be a unity in the manner in which certain persons say that it is, and that what has been said to be the greatest good in states really destroys states; yet surely a thing's particular good acts as its preservative.—Another line of consideration also shows that to seek to unify the state excessively is not beneficial. In point of self-sufficiency the individual is surpassed by the family and the family by the state, and in principle a state is fully realized only when it comes to pass that the community of numbers is self-sufficing; if therefore the more self-sufficing a community is, the more desirable is its condition, then a less degree of unity is more desirable than a greater.

Again, even granting that it is best for the community to be as complete a unity as possible, complete unity does not seem to be proved by the formula ‘if all the citizens say “Mine” and “Not mine” at the same time,’ which Socrates6 thinks to be a sign of the [20] city's being completely one. ‘All’ is an ambiguous term. If it means ‘each severally,’ very likely this would more fully realize the state of things which Socrates wishes to produce (for in that case every citizen will call the same boy his son and also the same woman his wife, and will speak in the same way of property and indeed of each of the accessories of life) but ex hypothesi the citizens, having community of women and children, will not call them ‘theirs’ in this sense, but will mean theirs collectively and not severally, and similarly they will call property ‘theirs’ meaning the property of them all, not of each of them severally. We see then that the phrase ‘all say’ is equivocal (in fact the words ‘all,’ ‘both,’ ‘odd,’ ‘even,’ owing to their ambiguity, occasion argumentative quibbling even in philosophical discussions); hence really for all to say the same thing is in one sense admirable, although impracticable, but in another sense is not at all a sign of concord. And furthermore, the proposal has another disadvantage. Property that is common to the greatest number of owners receives the least attention; men care most for their private possessions, and for what they own in common less, or only so far as it falls to their own individual share for in addition to the other reasons, they think less of it on the ground that someone else is thinking about it, just as in household service a large number of domestics sometimes give worse attendance than a smaller number. And it results in each citizen's having a thousand sons, and these do not belong to them as individuals but any child is equally the son of anyone, so that all alike will regard them with indifference. [1262a] [1]

Again, each speaks of one of his fellow-citizens who is prospering or getting on badly as ‘my son’ only in the sense of the fractional part which he forms of the whole number—that is, he says ‘my son’ or ‘so-and-so's son,’ specifying as the father any individual of the thousand citizens or whatever the number be of which the state consists, and even this dubiously, for it is uncertain who has chanced to have had a son born to him and when born safely reared. Yet which is the better way to use the word ‘mine’—this way, each of two thousand or ten thousand people applying it to the same thing, or rather the way in which they say ‘mine’ in the actual states now? for the same person is called ‘my son’ by one man and ‘my brother’ by another, and another calls him ‘nephew,’ or by some other relationship, whether of blood or by affinity and marriage, the speaker's own in the first place, or that of his relations; and in addition someone else calls him ‘fellow-clansman’ or ‘fellow-tribesman.’ For it is better for a boy to be one's own private nephew than one's son in the way described. Moreover it would also be impossible to avoid men's supposing certain persons to be their real brothers and sons and fathers and mothers; for they would be bound to form their belief about each other by the resemblances which occur between children and parents. This indeed is said by some of those who write of travels round the world7 actually to occur; [20] they say that some of the people of Upper Libya have their wives in common, yet the children born are divided among them according to their personal resemblances. And there are some females both of the human race and of the other animals, for instance horses and cattle, who have a strong natural tendency to produce off-spring resembling the male parents, as was the case with the mare at Pharsalus named Honest Lady.8

Moreover it is not easy for those who institute this communism to guard against such objectionable occurrences as outrage, involuntary and in some cases voluntary homicide, fights, abusive language; all of which are violations of piety when committed against fathers, mothers and near relatives as if they were not relatives; but these are bound to occur more frequently when people do not know their relations than when they do, and also, when they do occur, if the offenders know their relationship it is possible for them to have the customary expiations performed, but for those who do not no expiation is possible. Also it is curious that a theorist who makes the sons common property only debars lovers from intercourse and does not prohibit love, nor the other familiarities, which between father and son or brother and brother are most unseemly, since even the fact of love between them is unseemly. And it is also strange that he deprives them of intercourse for no other reason except because the pleasure is too violent; and that he thinks it makes no difference that the parties are in the one case father or son and in the other case brothers of one another. And it seems that this community of wives and sons is more serviceable for the Farmer class than for the Guardians; [1262b] [1] for there will be less friendship among them if their children and women are in common, and unfriendliness in the subject classes is a good thing with a view to their being submissive to authority and not making revolution. But speaking generally such a law is bound to bring about the opposite state of things to that which rightly enacted laws ought properly to cause, and because of which Socrates thinks it necessary to make these regulations about the children and women. For we think that friendship is the greatest of blessings for the state, since it is the best safeguard against revolution, and the unity of the state, which Socrates praises most highly, both appears to be and is said by him to be the effect of friendship, just as we know that Aristophanes9 in the discourses on love describes how the lovers owing to their extreme affection desire to grow together and both become one instead of being two. In such a union it would be inevitable that both would be spoiled, or at least one, and in the state friendship would inevitably become watery in consequence of such association, and the expressions ‘my father’ and ‘my son’ would quite go out. For just as putting a little sugar into a quantity of water makes the mixture imperceptible, so it also must come about that the mutual relationship based on these names must become imperceptible, [20] since in the republic described by Plato there will be the least possible necessity for people to care for one another as father for sons or as son for father or as brother for brother. For there are two things that most cause men to care for and to love each other, the sense of ownership and the sense of preciousness; and neither motive can be present with the citizens of a state so constituted. Again, as to the transference of some of the children at birth from the Farmers and Artisans to the Guardians10 and of others from the Guardians to the Farmers and Artisans, there is much confusion as to how it is to be done; and the parents who give the children and the officials who transfer them are bound to know which they give to whom. And again, the things spoken of above are bound to occur even more with these transferred children, such as outrage, love-making and murder; for the children of the Guardians transferred to the other citizens will no longer speak of the Guardians as brothers and children and fathers and mothers, nor yet will those living among the Guardians so speak of the other classes, so as to be careful not to commit any such offence because of their relationship.

Such therefore may be our decision as to community of children and women.

In connection with this we have to consider the due regulation of property in a community that is to have the best political institutions: should property be owned in common or privately? This question might indeed be considered separately from the system laid down by law with regard to the children and the women: [1263a] [1] I mean, even if there be separate families as is now the case with all nations, is it better for both the ownership and the employment of property to be in common. . . ,11 for example, should the farms be separate property but the farm-produce be brought into the common stock for consumption (as is the practice with some non-Greek races); or on the contrary should the land be common and farmed in common, but the produce be divided for private use (and this form of communism also is said to prevail among some of the barbarians); or should both farms and produce be common property? Now if the tillers of the soil be of a different class12 there might be another and easier system, but if the citizens do the work for themselves, the regulations for the common ownership of property would give more causes for discontent; for if both in the enjoyment of the produce and in the work of production they prove not equal but unequal, complaints are bound to arise between those who enjoy or take much but work little and those who take less but work more. And in general to live together and share all our human affairs is difficult, and especially to share such things as these. And this is shown in the partnerships of fellow-travellers, for almost the greatest number of them quarrel because they come into collision with one another as a result of ordinary matters and trifles; and also we come into collision most with those of our servants [20] whom we employ most often for ordinary attendance. Community of property therefore involves these and other similar difficulties; and the present system, if further improved by good morals and by the regulation of correct legislation, would be greatly superior. For it will possess the merit of both systems, by which I mean the advantage of property being common and the advantage of its being private. For property ought to be common in a sense but private speaking absolutely. For the superintendence of properties being divided among the owners will not cause these mutual complaints, and will improve the more because each will apply himself to it as to private business of his own; while on the other hand virtue will be exercised to make ‘friends' goods common goods,’ as the proverb13 goes, for the purpose of use. Such a system exists even now in outline in some states, showing that it is not impracticable, and especially in the ones that are well-administered parts of it are realized already and parts might be realized; for individuals while owning their property privately put their own possessions at the service of their friends and make use of their friends' possessions as common property; for instance in Sparta people use one another's slaves as virtually their own, as well as horses and hounds, and also use the produce in the fields throughout the country if they need provisions on a journey. It is clear therefore that it is better for possessions to be privately owned, but to make them common property in use; and to train the citizens to this is the special task of the legislator. And moreover to feel that a thing is one's private property makes an inexpressibly great difference for pleasure; for the universal feeling of love for oneself is surely not purposeless, but a natural instinct. [1263b] [1] Selfishness on the other hand is justly blamed; but this is not to love oneself but to love oneself more than one ought, just as covetousness means loving money to excess—since some love of self, money and so on is practically universal. Moreover, to bestow favors and assistance on friends or visitors or comrades is a great pleasure, and a condition of this is the private ownership of property. These advantages therefore do not come to those who carry the unification of the state too far; and in addition to this they manifestly do away with the practice of two virtues, temperance in relation to women (for it is a noble deed to refrain from one through temperance when she belongs to another) and liberality in relation to possessions (for one will not be able to display liberality nor perform a single liberal action, since the active exercise of liberality takes place in the use of possessions).

Such legislation therefore has an attractive appearance, and might be thought to be humane; for he who is told about it welcomes it with gladness, thinking that it will result in a marvellous friendliness of everybody towards everybody, especially when somebody denounces the evils at present existing in states as due to the fact that [20] wealth is not owned in common— I mean lawsuits between citizens about breach of contract, and trials for perjury, and the flattery of the rich. But the real cause of all these evils is not the absence of communism, but wickedness, since we see far more quarrels occurring among those who own or use property in common than among those who have their estates separate; but we notice that those who quarrel as a result of their partnerships are few when compared with the total number of private owners. And again it is just to state not only all the evils that men will lose by adopting communism, but also all the good things; and life in such circumstances is seen to be utterly impossible. The cause of Socrates' error must be deemed to be that his fundamental assumption was incorrect. It is certain that in a way both the household and the state should be a unit, but they should not be so in every way. For in one way the state as its unification proceeds will cease to be a state, and in another way, though it continues a state, yet by coming near to ceasing to be one it will be a worse state, just as if one turned a harmony into unison or a rhythm into a single foot. The proper thing is for the state, while being a multitude, to be made a partnership and a unity by means of education, as has been said before and it is strange that the very philosopher who intends to introduce a system of education and thinks that this will make the city morally good should fancy that he can regulate society by such measures as have been mentioned instead of by manners and culture and laws, just as the legislator introduced community of property in Sparta and Crete by the institution of public messes. [1264a] [1] And this very point also must not be ignored, that attention must be paid to length of time and to the long period of years, in which it would not have escaped notice if these measures were good ones; for nearly all of them have been discovered already, although some of them have not been collected together and others though brought to knowledge are not put into practice. And their value would become most manifest if one could see such a constitution in actual process of formation; for one will only be able to construct Plato's state by introducing its partitions and dividing up the community into common messes and also into brotherhoods and tribes. So that in the upshot no other regulation will have been enacted except the exemption of the Guardians from the work of agriculture, which is a measure that even now the Spartans attempt to introduce.

Moreover, the working of the constitution as a whole in regard to the members of the state has also not been described by Socrates, nor is it easy to say what it will be. Yet the general mass of the citizens of the other classes make almost the bulk of the state, and about these no definite regulations are laid down, as to whether the Farmers also are to have their property in common or to hold it in private ownership, and also whether community of wives and children is to apply to them or not. For if the Farmers are to have the same complete communism, what will be the difference between them and the Guardian class? or what advantage will they gain by submitting to their government? or what consideration will induce them to submit to [20] the government, unless the Guardians adopt some clever device like that of the Cretans? These have conceded to their slaves all the same rights as they have themselves except that they are forbidden gymnastic exercises and the possession of arms. But if the family life and property of the Farmers are to be such as they are in other states, what sort of communism will there be? For there will inevitably be two states in one, and these antagonistic to one another. For Socrates makes the Guardians a sort of garrison, while the Farmers, Artisans and other classes are the citizens.14 But quarrels and lawsuits and all the other evils which according to Socrates exist in actual states will all be found among his citizens too. Yet he says that owing to their education they will not need many regulations such as city and market by-laws and the other regulations of that sort, although he assigns his education only to the Guardians. Again, he makes the Farmers the masters of the estates, for which they pay rent; but they are likely to be far more unmanageable and rebellious than the classes of helots, serfs and slaves in certain states today. However, whether this communism is to be compulsory for the Farmers in the same way as for the Guardians or whether it is not, has as a matter of fact not been definitely stated anywhere, nor is there any information about the connected questions, what are to be the political functions and the education of the lower classes, and the laws affecting them. But it is not easy to discover the answers to these questions, yet the character of the lower classes is of no small importance for the preservation of the community of the Guardians. [1264b] [1] But again, if Socrates intends to make the Farmers have their wives in common but their property private, who is to manage the household in the way in which the women's husbands will carry on the work of the farms? And if the property and the wives of the Farmers are to be common . . . 15

It is also strange that Socrates employs the comparison of the lower animals to show that the women are to have the same occupations as the men, considering that animals have no households to manage. Also Socrates' method of appointing the magistrates is not a safe one. For he makes the same persons hold office always; but this occasions rebellion even among people of no special distinction, much more so then among high-spirited and warlike men. But it is clear that he is compelled to make the same persons govern always, for the god-given admixture of gold in the soul is not bestowed on some at one time and others at another time, but is always in the same men, and Socrates says that at the moment of birth some men receive an admixture of gold and others of silver and those who are to be the Artisans and Farmers an admixture of copper and iron. And again, although he deprives the Guardians of happiness, he says that it is the duty of the law-giver to make the whole city happy. But it is not possible for the whole to be happy unless most or all of its parts, or some of them, possess happiness. For happiness is not a thing of the same sort [20] as being an even number: that may belong to a whole but not to either of its parts, but happiness cannot belong to the whole and not to its parts. But yet, if the Guardians are not happy, what other class is? For clearly the Artisans and the general mass of the vulgar classes are not.

The Republic discussed by Socrates therefore possesses these difficulties and also others not smaller than these.

And almost the same holds good of the Laws also, which was written later, so that it will be advantageous to make some small examination of the constitution described in that book as well. For in the Republic Socrates has laid down details about very few matters—regulations about community of wives and children and about property, and the structure of the constitution (for the mass of the population is divided into two parts, one forming the Farmer class and the other the class that defends the state in war, and there is a third class drawn from these latter that forms the council and governs the state), but about the Farmers and the Artisans, whether they are excluded from government or have some part in it, and whether these classes also are to possess arms and to serve in war with the others or not, on these points Socrates has made no decision, but though he thinks that the women ought to serve in war with the Guardians and share the same education, the rest of the discourse he has filled up with external topics, and about the sort of education which it is proper for the Guardians to have.16 [1265a] [1] But though the Laws consists for the most part of a treatise on law, the author has said a little about the form of the constitution, and in a desire to make this more suitable for adoption by actual states he brings it round by degrees back to the other form, that of the Republic. For except community in wives and property, he assigns all his other regulations in the same form to both states, for he prescribes for both the same scheme of education, and a life detached from menial tasks, and similarly as regards common meals, except that in the state described in the Laws he says there are to be common meals for women also, and he makes the Republic consist of a class possessing arms that numbers a thousand, but the state of the Laws has five thousand.

Now it is true that all the discourses of Socrates possess brilliance, cleverness, originality and keenness of inquiry, but it is no doubt difficult to be right about everything: for instance with regard to the size of population just mentioned it must not be over-looked that a territory as large as that of Babylon will be needed for so many inhabitants, or some other country of unlimited extent, to support five thousand men in idleness and another swarm of women and servants around them many times as numerous. It is proper no doubt to assume ideal conditions, but not to go beyond all bounds of possibility. And it is said that in laying down the laws the legislator must have his attention fixed on two things, [20] the territory and the population. But also it would be well to add that he must take into account the neighboring regions also, if the city is to live a life of politics17 (for it is necessary for it to use for war not only such arms as are serviceable within its own territory but also such as are serviceable against places outside it); and if one does not accept such a description whether for the life of the individual or for the common life of the state, yet it is none the less necessary for the citizens to be formidable to their enemies not only when they have entered the country but also when they have left it.18 Also the amount of property requires consideration: would it not perhaps be better to define it differently, by a clearer formula? The writer says that it ought to be sufficiently large for the citizens ‘to live a temperate life’—as if one were to say ‘to live a good life’; but really that phrase is too general, since it is possible to live temperately yet miserably. But a better definition would be ‘to live temperately and liberally’ (for if the two are separated a liberal mode of life is liable to slip into luxury and a temperate one into a life of hardship), since surely these are the only desirable qualities relating to the use of wealth—for instance you cannot use wealth gently or bravely, but you can use it temperately and liberally, so that it follows that these are qualities that have to do with wealth. And it is also strange that although equalizing properties the writer does not regulate the number of the citizens, but leaves the birth-rate uncontrolled, on the assumption that it will be sufficiently levelled up to the same total owing to childless marriages, however many children are begotten, [1265b] [1] because this seems to take place in the states at present. But this ought to be regulated much more in the supposed case than it is now, for now nobody is destitute, because estates are divided among any number, but then, as division of estates will not be allowed, the extra children will necessarily have nothing, whether they are fewer in number or more. And one might think that restriction ought to be put on the birth-rate rather than on property, so as not to allow more than a certain number of children to be produced, and that in fixing their number consideration should be paid to the chances of its happening that some of the children born may die, and to the absence of children in the other marriages; but for the matter to be left alone, as it is in most states, is bound to lead to poverty among the citizens, and poverty produces sedition and crime. The Corinthian Phidon19 in fact, one of the most ancient lawgivers, thought that the house-holds and the citizen population ought to remain at the same numbers, even though at the outset the estates of all were unequal in size; but in Plato's Laws the opposite is the case.20 However, we must say later what we think would be a better system in these matters; but another question omitted in the Laws is how the rulers will be different from the classes ruled; the writer prescribes [20] that the rulers are to stand in the same relation to the ruled as the warp of cloth stands to the woof by being made of different wool.21 And inasmuch as he allows a man's total property to be increased up to five times its original value, for what reason should not an increase in his landed estate be allowed up to a certain point? Also it must be considered whether the proposed separation of homesteads is not inexpedient for household economy—for the writer allotted two homesteads separate from one another to each citizen; but it is difficult to manage two households.22 And the whole constitution is intended, it is true, to be neither a democracy nor an oligarchy, but of the form intermediate between them which is termed a republic, for the government is constituted from the class that bears arms. If therefore he introduces this constitution as the one most commonly existing of all forms of constitution in the actual states, he has perhaps made a good proposal, but if he introduces it as the next best to the first form of constitution, it is not a good proposal; for very likely one might approve the Spartan constitution more highly, or perhaps some other form nearer to an aristocracy. In fact some people assert that the best constitution must be a combination of all the forms of constitution, and therefore praise the constitution of Sparta (for some people say that it consists of oligarchy, monarchy and democracy, meaning that the kingship is monarchy and the rule of the ephors oligarchy, but that an element of democracy is introduced by the rule of the ephors because the ephors come from the common people; while others pronounce the ephorate a tyranny but find an element of democracy in the public mess-tables and in the other regulations of daily life). [1266a] [1] In Plato's Laws on the other hand it is stated that the best constitution must consist of a combination of democracy and tyranny,23 which one might refuse to count as constitutional governments at all, or else rank as the worst of all constitutions. A better theory therefore is put forward by those who intermingle a larger number of forms, for the constitution composed of a combination of a larger number of forms is better. In the next place, the constitution in the Laws proves as a matter of fact not to contain any element of monarchy at all, but its factors are taken from oligarchy and democracy, and for the most part it tends to incline towards oligarchy. This appears from the regulations for the appointment of the magistrates; for their selection by lot from a list previously elected by vote is a feature common to both oligarchy and democracy, but the compulsion put upon the richer citizens to attend the assembly and vote for magistrates or perform any other political function, while the others are allowed to do as they like, is oligarchical, as is the endeavor to secure that a majority of the magistrates shall be drawn from the wealthy and that the highest offices shall be filled from the highest of the classes assessed by wealth. But the writer also makes the election of the council oligarchical for everybody is compelled to elect, but from the first property-class, and then again an equal number from the second class, and then from the members of the third class, except that it was not to be compulsory for all to vote for those to be elected from the members of the third or the fourth class, and to elect from the fourth class was only compulsory for the members of the first and second classes; and afterwards from those thus selected he says that they are to appoint [20] an equal number from each class. Thus those who elect the members from the highest property classes will be more numerous and better,24 because some of the lower orders will abstain from voting25 as it is not compulsory. Accordingly that it is not proper to establish a constitution of this character from a blend of democracy and monarchy appears clearly from these considerations, and from what will be said later when our inquiry comes to deal with this class of constitution; also the provision for the election of the rulers from among candidates chosen at a preliminary election is dangerous, for if even a moderate number of people choose to combine into a party, the elections will always go according to their wish.

Such are the points as to the constitution in the Laws.

There are also certain other constitutional schemes, some drawn up by amateurs and others by philosophers and statesmen, but all of them are nearer to those which have been actually established and by which states are governed at present than are both of those which have been considered; for nobody else has introduced the innovation of community of children and women, nor that of public meals for the women, but they start rather with the necessary reforms. For some persons think that the right regulation of property is the most important; for the question of property, they say, is universally the cause of party strife. Therefore the Chalcedonian Phaleas26 was the first who introduced this expedient; for he says that the citizens' estates ought to be equal [1266b] [1] and he thought that this would not be difficult to secure at the outset for cities in process of foundation, while in those already settled, although it would be a more irksome task, nevertheless a levelling would most easily be effected by the rich giving dowries but not receiving them and the poor receiving but not giving them. Plato when writing the Laws thought that up to a certain point inequality ought to be allowed, but that no citizen should be permitted to acquire more land than would make his estate five times the size of the smallest, as has also been said before.

But those who bring in legislation of this sort must also not overlook this point, which is overlooked at present, that when regulating the amount of property legislators ought also to regulate the size of the family; for if the number of children becomes too large for the property, the law is quite sure to be broken, and apart from the breach of the law it is a bad thing that many citizens who were rich should become poor, for it is difficult for such men not to be advocates of a new order. That a level standard of property affects the community of the citizens in an important manner some men even in old times clearly have recognized; for example there is the legislation of Solon, and other states have a law prohibiting the acquisition of land to any amount that the individual may desire; and similarly there is legislation to prevent the sale of estates, as at Locri there is a law [20] that a man shall not sell unless he can prove that manifest misfortune has befallen him and also there is legislation to preserve the old allotments, and the repeal of this restriction at Leucas made the Leucadian constitution excessively democratic, for it came about that the offices were no longer filled from the established property-qualifications. But it is possible that equality of estates may be maintained, but their size may be either too large and promote luxury, or too small, causing a penurious standard of living; it is clear therefore that it is not enough for the lawgiver to make the estates equal, but he must aim at securing a medium size. And again, even if one prescribed a moderate property for all, it would be of no avail, since it is more needful to level men's desires than their properties, and this can only be done by an adequate system of education enforced by law. But perhaps Phaleas would say that he himself actually prescribes this, as he considers it fundamentally necessary for states to have equality in these two things, property and education. But the nature of the education needs to be defined: it is no use merely for it to be one and the same for all, for it is possible for all to have one and the same education but for this to be of such a nature as to make them desirous of getting more than their share of money or honor or both; moreover27 civil strife is caused not only by inequality of property but also by inequality of honors, though the two motives operate in opposite ways—the masses are discontented if possessions are unequally distributed, [1267a] [1] the upper classes if honors are equally distributed, bringing it about that “ Noble and base in equal honor stand.28
” Nor do men do wrong for the sake of the bare necessities only, the sort of wrongdoing for which Phaleas thinks that equality of substance is a cure—preventing highway robbery by removing the motive of cold or hunger; men also do wrong to gain pleasure and to satisfy desire. For if they have a desire above the bare necessities of existence, they will transgress to cure this desire; and moreover not because of desire only, but in order that they may enjoy the pleasures that are not associated with pains. What remedy then is there for these three classes of offenders? For the first class, a modest competence and work; for the second, temperance; and as for the third sort, any people who desire pleasures that depend on themselves would require no cure for their desires save that which is derived from philosophy, for the other pleasures require the aid of fellow-creatures. Since clearly the greatest transgressions spring from a desire for superfluities, not for bare necessaries (for example, men do not become tyrants in order to avoid shivering with cold, and accordingly high honors are awarded to one who kills a tyrant, but not to one who kills a thief); so that the method of the constitution of Phaleas is efficacious only against the minor social disorders. Again, Phaleas desires to frame institutions for the most part which will lead to a right state of affairs in the internal relations of the citizens, but the legislator should also have regard to relations with the neighboring peoples and with all foreign nations. [20] It is essential therefore for the constitution to be framed with a view to military strength, about which Phaleas has said nothing. And the same is true also about property; for the citizens should not only possess enough to meet their requirements in civic life, but also to encounter the perils that face them from outside; hence they should possess neither so large an amount of wealth that it will be coveted by their neighbors and by stronger states while its possessors will be unable to repel their assailants, nor yet so small an amount as not to be capable of sustaining a war even against equal and similar states. Phaleas, it is true, has laid down no rule at all, but the question must not be overlooked, what amount of wealth is advantageous. Perhaps therefore the best limit to prescribe is that it must not profit a stronger people to make war upon the state because of its excessive wealth, but only just as it might do even if the citizens had not got so much property. For example, when Autophradates was about to lay siege to Atarneus,29 Eubulus bade him consider how long it would take him to capture the place, and then calculate what his expenditure would be for that period, for he himself was willing for the payment of a smaller sum than that to evacuate Atarneus at once; these words caused Autophradates to ponder and led him to abandon the siege. Now equality of property among the citizens is certainly one of the factors that contribute to the avoidance of party faction; it is not however a particularly important one. For the upper classes may resent it on the ground that their merits are not equal, owing to which we actually see them often attacking the government and rebelling; [1267b] [1] and also the baseness of human beings is a thing insatiable, and though at the first a dole of only two obols30 is enough, yet when this has now become an established custom, they always want more, until they get to an unlimited amount; for appetite is in its nature unlimited, and the majority of mankind live for the satisfaction of appetite. The starting-point in such matters therefore, rather than levelling estates, is to train those that are respectable by nature so that they may not wish for excessive wealth, and to contrive that the base may not be able to do so, and this is secured if they are inferior in number and not unjustly treated. And also we cannot approve what Phaleas has said about equality of property, for he makes the citizens equal in respect of landed estate only, but wealth also consists in slaves and cattle and money, and there is an abundance of property in the shape of what is called furniture; we must therefore either seek to secure equality or some moderate regulation as regards all these things, or we must permit all forms of wealth. And it is clear from Phaleas's legislation that he makes the citizen-population a small one, inasmuch as all the artisans are to be publicly owned slaves and are not to furnish any complement of the citizen-body. But if it is proper to have public slaves, the laborers employed upon the public works ought to be of that status (as is the case at Epidamnus and as Diophantus once tried to institute at Athens).

These remarks may serve fairly well to indicate such merits [20] and defects as may be contained in the constitution of Phaleas.

Hippodamus31 son of Euryphon, a Milesian (who invented the division of cities into blocks and cut up Piraeus, and who also became somewhat eccentric in his general mode of life owing to a desire for distinction, so that some people thought that he lived too fussily, with a quantity of hair32 and expensive ornaments, and also a quantity of cheap yet warm clothes not only in winter but also in the summer periods, and who wished to be a man of learning in natural science generally), was the first man not engaged in politics who attempted to speak on the subject of the best form of constitution. His system was for a city with a population of ten thousand, divided into three classes; for he made one class of artisans, one of farmers, and the third the class that fought for the state in war and was the armed class. He divided the land into three parts, one sacred, one public and one private: sacred land to supply the customary offerings to the gods, common land to provide the warrior class with food, and private land to be owned by the farmers. He thought that there are only three divisions of the law, since the matters about which lawsuits take place are three in number—outrage, damage, homicide. He also proposed to establish one supreme court of justice, to which were to be carried up all the cases at law thought to have been decided wrongly, and this court he made to consist of certain selected elders. [1268a] [1] He held that the verdicts in the courts ought not to be given by ballot, but that each juryman should bring a tablet on which if he found a simple verdict of guilty he should write the penalty, and if simply not guilty leave a blank, but if he found the prisoner guilty on some counts but not on others he should state this; for the present state of the law he thought unsatisfactory, since it forces jurors to commit perjury by giving either the one verdict or the other. He proposed a law that those who discovered something of advantage to the state should receive honor, and that the children of those who died in war should have their maintenance from the state, in the belief that this had never yet been provided by law among other people—but as a matter of fact this law exists at present both at Athens and in others of the cities. The governing officials were all to be chosen by the assembly of the people, and this he made to consist of the three classes of the city; and the officials elected were to superintend the business of the community and the affairs of foreign residents and of orphans. These then are the greatest number and the most noteworthy of the provisions in the system of Hippodamus. But doubt might be raised first of all about the division of the general mass of the citizens. The artisans, the farmers and the military class all participate in the government, though the farmers have not got arms and the artisans neither arms nor land, [20] which makes them almost the slaves of those who possess the arms. Therefore for them to share in all the offices is impossible (for it is inevitable that both military commanders and civic guards and in general the most important offices should be appointed from those that have the arms); but if they do not share in the government of the state, how is it possible for them to be friendly towards the constitution? But it may be said that the ruling class as possessing the arms is bound to be stronger than both classes. But this is not easy if they are not numerous and if this be the case, why should the other classes participate in the government and control the appointment of the rulers?33 Again, what use are the farmers to the state? artisans there must necessarily be (for every state requires artisans), and they can make a living as in the other states from the practice of their craft; but as for the farmers, although it would have been reasonable for them to be a portion of the state if they provided the class possessing the arms with its food, as it is they have private land of their own and farm it for themselves. And again, if the common land from which those who fight for the state are to have their food is to be farmed by themselves, the military class would not be different from the agricultural, but the legislator intends it to be; while if the cultivators of the common land are to be a different set of people from both those who cultivate the private farms and the soldiers, this will be yet a forth section of the state, holding no part in it but quite estranged from the government. But yet if one is to make those who cultivate the private and the common land the same people, the amount of the produce from the farms which each man will cultivate will be scanty for two households, [1268b] [1] and moreover why are they not both to take food for themselves and to supply it to the soldiers direct from the land and from the same allotments? All these points therefore involve much confusion. Also the law about trials is unsatisfactory—the requirement that the verdict shall be given on separate counts when the charge in the indictment is single, and the conversion of the juror into an arbitrator. A qualified verdict is practicable in an arbitration even when there are several arbitrators (for they confer with one another about their verdict), but it is not practicable in the law-courts, but the contrary to this is actually provided for by most lawgivers, who prohibit consultation between the jurymen. Then the verdict will inevitably be a confused one when the juror thinks that the defendant is liable for damages but not in so large an amount as the plaintiff claims; for the plaintiff will sue for twenty minae34 and the juror will adjudge ten minae (or the former some larger and the latter some smaller sum), and another juror five minae, and yet another four (and so they will obviously go on making fractions), while others will award the whole sum, and others nothing; what then will be the method of counting the votes? Again, nobody compels the juror to commit perjury who, if the indictment has been drawn in simple form, gives a simple verdict of acquittal or condemnation, and gives it justly; for the juror [20] who gives a verdict of acquittal does not give judgement that the defendant owes nothing, but that he does not owe the twenty minae for which he is sued; it is only the juror who gives a verdict condemning the defendant when he does not think that he owes twenty minae who commits perjury. As for the view that an honor ought to be awarded to those who invent something advantageous to the state, legislation to this effect is not safe, but only specious to the ear; for it involves malicious prosecutions and, it may even happen, constitutional upheavals. And the matter leads to another problem and a different inquiry: some persons raise the question whether to alter the ancestral laws, supposing another law is better, is harmful or advantageous to states. Hence it is not easy to give a speedy agreement to the above proposal to honor reformers, if really it is disadvantageous to alter the laws; yet it is possible that persons may bring forward the repeal of laws or of the constitution as a benefit to the community. And since we have made mention of this question, it will be better if we set out a few further observations about it, for, as we said, it involves difficulty. And it might be thought that it would be better for alteration to take place; at all events in the other fields of knowledge this has proved beneficial—for example, medicine has been improved by being altered from the ancestral system, and gymnastic training, and in general all the arts and faculties so that since statesmanship also is to be counted as one of these, it is clear that the same thing necessarily holds good in regard to it as well. And it might be said that a sign of this has occurred in the actual events of history, for (one might argue) the laws of ancient times were too simple and uncivilized: the Hellenes, for instance, used both to carry arms and to purchase their wives from one another, and all the survivals of the customs of antiquity existing anywhere are utterly foolish, [1269a] [1] as for example at Cyme there is a law relating to trials for murder, that if the prosecutor on the charge of murder produces a certain number of his own relatives as witnesses, the defendant is guilty of the murder. And in general all men really seek what is good, not what was customary with their forefathers; and it is probable that primitive mankind, whether sprung from the earth35 or the survivors of some destructive cataclysm,36 were just like ordinary foolish people, as indeed is actually said of the earth-born race, so that it is odd that we should abide by their notions. Moreover even written codes of law may with advantage not be left unaltered. For just as in the other arts as well, so with the structure of the state it is impossible that it should have been framed aright in all its details; for it must of necessity be couched in general terms, but our actions deal with particular things. These considerations therefore make it clear that it is proper for some laws sometimes to be altered. But if we consider the matter in another way, it would seem to be a thing that needs much caution. For when it is the case that the improvement would be small, but it is a bad thing to accustom men to repeal the laws lightly, it is clear that some mistakes both of the legislator and of the magistrate should be passed over; for the people will not be as much benefited by making an alteration as they will be harmed by becoming accustomed to distrust their rulers. Also, the example from the case of the arts is a mistake, [20] as to change the practice of an art is a different thing from altering a law; for the law has no power to compel obedience beside the force of custom, and custom only grows up in long lapse of time, so that lightly to change from the existing laws to other new laws is to weaken the power of the law. Again, even if alteration of the laws is proper, are all the laws to be open to alteration, and in every form of constitution, or not? and is any chance person to be competent to introduce alterations or only certain people? for there is a great difference between these alternatives. Therefore let us abandon this inquiry for the present, since it belongs to other occasions.

On the subject of the constitution of Sparta and that of Crete, and virtually in regard to the other forms of constitution also, the questions that arise for consideration are two, one whether their legal structure has any feature that is admirable or the reverse in comparison with the best system, another whether it contains any provision that is really opposed to the fundamental principle and character of the constitution that the founders had in view.

Now it is a thing admitted that a state that is to be well governed must be provided with leisure from menial occupations; but how this is to be provided it is not easy to ascertain. The serf class in Thessaly repeatedly rose against its masters, and so did the Helots at Sparta, where they are like an enemy constantly sitting in wait for the disasters of the Spartiates. Nothing of the kind has hitherto occurred in Crete, the reason perhaps being that the neighboring cities, [1269b] [1] even when at war with one another, in no instance ally themselves with the rebels, because as they themselves also possess a serf class this would not be for their interest; whereas the Laconians were entirely surrounded by hostile neighbors, Argives, Messenians and Arcadians. For with the Thessalians too the serf risings originally began because they were still at war with their neighbors, the Achaeans, Perraebi and Magnesians. Also, apart from other drawbacks, the mere necessity of policing a serf class is an irksome burden—the problem of how intercourse with them is to be carried on: if allowed freedom they grow insolent and claim equal rights with their masters, and if made to live a hard life they plot against them and hate them. It is clear therefore that those whose helot-system works out in this way do not discover the best mode of treating the problem. Again, the freedom in regard to women is detrimental both in regard to the purpose of the constitution and in regard to the happiness of the state. For just as man and wife are part of a household, it is clear that the state also is divided nearly in half into its male and female population, so that in all constitutions in which the position of the women is badly regulated one half of the state must be deemed to have been neglected in framing the law. And this has taken place in the state under consideration, [20] for the lawgiver wishing the whole city to be of strong character displays his intention clearly in relation to the men, but in the case of the women has entirely neglected the matter; for they live dissolutely37 in respect of every sort of dissoluteness, and luxuriously. So that the inevitable result is that in a state thus constituted wealth is held in honor, especially if it is the case that the people are under the sway of their women, as most of the military and warlike races are, except the Celts and such other races as have openly held in honor passionate friendship between males. For it appears that the original teller of the legend had good reason for uniting Ares with Aphrodite, for all men of martial spirit appear to be attracted to the companionship either of male associates or of women. Hence this characteristic existed among the Spartans, and in the time of their empire many things were controlled by the women; yet what difference does it make whether the women rule or the rulers are ruled by the women? The result is the same. And although bravery is of service for none of the regular duties of life, but if at all, in war, even in this respect the Spartans' women were most harmful; and they showed this at the time of the Theban invasion,38 for they rendered no useful service, as the women do in other states, while they caused more confusion than the enemy. It is true therefore that at the outset the freedom allowed to women at Sparta seems to have come about with good reason, [1270a] [1] for the Spartans used to be away in exile abroad for long periods on account of their military expeditions, both when fighting the war against the Argives and again during the war against the Arcadians and Messenians; but when they had turned to peaceful pursuits, although they handed over themselves to the lawgiver already prepared for obedience by military life (for this has many elements of virtue), as for the women it is said that Lycurgus did attempt to bring them under the laws, but since they resisted he gave it up. So the Spartan women are, it is true, responsible for what took place, and therefore manifestly for this mistake among the rest; although for our own part we are not considering the question who deserves excuse or does not, but what is the right or wrong mode of action. But, as was also said before, errors as regards the status of women seem not only to cause a certain unseemliness in the actual conduct of the state but to contribute in some degree to undue love of money. For next to the things just spoken of one might censure the Spartan institutions with respect to the unequal distribution of wealth. It has come about that some of the Spartans own too much property and some extremely little; owing to which the land has fallen into few hands, and this has also been badly regulated by the laws; [20] for the lawgiver made it dishonorable to sell a family's existing estate, and did so rightly, but he granted liberty to alienate land at will by gift or bequest; yet the result that has happened was bound to follow in the one case as well as in the other. And also nearly two-fifths of the whole area of the country is owned by women, because of the number of women who inherit estates and the practice of giving large dowries; yet it would have been better if dowries had been prohibited by law or limited to a small or moderate amount . . .39 But as it is he is allowed to give an heiress in marriage to whomever he likes; and if he dies without having made directions as to this by will, whoever he leaves as his executor bestows her upon whom he chooses. As a result of this40 although the country is capable of supporting fifteen hundred cavalry and thirty thousand heavy-armed troopers, they numbered not even a thousand. And the defective nature of their system of land-tenure has been proved by the actual facts of history: the state did not succeed in enduring a single blow,41 but perished owing to the smallness of its population. They have a tradition that in the earlier reigns they used to admit foreigners to their citizenship, with the result that dearth of population did not occur in those days, although they were at war for a long period; and it is stated that at one time the Spartiates numbered as many as ten thousand. However, whether this is true or not, it is better for a state's male population to be kept up by measures to equalize property. The law in relation to parentage is also somewhat adverse to the correction of this evil. [1270b] [1] For the lawgiver desiring to make the Spartiates as numerous as possible holds out inducements to the citizens to have as many children as possible: for they have a law releasing the man who has been father of three sons from military service, and exempting the father of four from all taxes. Yet it is clear that if a number of sons are born and the land is correspondingly divided there will inevitably come to be many poor men.

Moreover the regulations for the Ephorate42 are also bad. For this office has absolute control over their most important affairs, but the Ephors are appointed from the entire people, so that quite poor men often happen to get into the office, who owing to their poverty used to be43 easily bought. This was often manifested in earlier times, and also lately in the affair44 at Andros; for certain Ephors were corrupted with money and so far as lay in their power ruined the whole state. And because the office was too powerful, and equal to a tyranny, the kings also were compelled to cultivate popular favor, so that in this way too the constitution was jointly injured, for out of an aristocracy came to be evolved a democracy. Thus this office does, it is true, hold together the constitution—for the common people keep quiet because they have a share in the highest office of state, so that whether this is due to the lawgiver or [20] has come about by chance, the Ephorate is advantageous for the conduct of affairs; for if a constitution is to be preserved, all the sections of the state must wish it to exist and to continue on the same lines; so the kings are in this frame of mind owing to their own honorable rank, the nobility owing to the office of the Elders, which is a prize of virtue, and the common people because of the Ephorate, which is appointed from the whole population—but yet the Ephorate, though rightly open to all the citizens, ought not to be elected as it is now, for the method is too childish.45 And further the Ephors have jurisdiction in lawsuits of high importance, although they are any chance people, so that it would be better if they did not decide cases on their own judgement but by written rules and according to the laws. Also the mode of life of the Ephors is not in conformity with the aim of the state, for it is itself too luxurious, whereas in the case of the other citizens the prescribed life goes too far in the direction of harshness, so that they are unable to endure it, and secretly desert the law and enjoy the pleasures of the body. Also their regulations for the office of the Elders are not good; it is true that if these were persons of a high class who had been adequately trained in manly valor, one might perhaps say that the institution was advantageous to the state, although their life-tenure of the judgeship in important trials is indeed a questionable feature (for there is old age of mind as well as of body); [1271a] [1] but as their education has been on such lines that even the lawgiver himself cannot trust in them as men of virtue, it is a dangerous institution. And it is known that those who have been admitted to this office take bribes and betray many of the public interests by favoritism; so that it would be better if they were not exempt from having to render an account of their office, but at present they are. And it might be held that the magistracy of the Ephors serves to hold all the offices to account; but this gives altogether too much to the Ephorate, and it is not the way in which, as we maintain, officials ought to be called to account. Again, the procedure in the election of the Elders as a mode of selection is not only childish, but it is wrong that one who is to be the holder of this honorable office should canvass for it, for the man worthy of the office ought to hold it whether he wants to or not. But as it is the lawgiver clearly does the same here as in the rest of the constitution: he makes the citizens ambitious and has used this for the election of the Elders, for nobody would ask for office if he were not ambitious; yet surely ambition and love of money are the motives that bring about almost the greatest part of the voluntary wrongdoing that takes place among mankind. As to monarchy, the question whether it is not or is an advantageous institution for states to possess [20] may be left to another discussion; but at all events it would be advantageous that kings should not be appointed as they are now, but chosen in each case with regard to their own life and conduct. But it is clear that even the lawgiver himself does not suppose that he can make the kings men of high character: at all events he distrusts them as not being persons of sufficient worth owing to which the Spartans used to send kings who were enemies as colleagues on embassies, and thought that the safety of the state depended on division between the kings. Also the regulations for the the public mess-tables called Phiditia have been badly laid down by their originator. The revenue for these ought to come rather from public funds, as in Crete; but among the Spartans everybody has to contribute, although some of them are very poor and unable to find money for this charge, so that the result is the opposite of what the lawgiver purposed. For he intends the organization of the common tables to be democratic, but when regulated by the law in this manner it works out as by no means democratic; for it is not easy for the very poor to participate, yet their ancestral regulation of the citizenship is that it is not to belong to one who is unable to pay this tax. The law about the Admirals has been criticized by some other writers also, and rightly criticized; for it acts as a cause of sedition, since in addition to the kings who are military commanders the office of Admiral stands almost as another kingship. Another criticism that may be made against the fundamental principle of the lawgiver [1271b] [1] is one that Plato has made in the Laws. The entire system of the laws is directed towards one part of virtue only, military valor, because this is serviceable for conquest. Owing to this they remained secure while at war, but began to decline when they had won an empire, because they did not know how to live a life of leisure, and had been trained in no other form of training more important than the art of war. And another error no less serious than that one is this: they think that the coveted prizes of life are won by valor more than by cowardice, and in this they are right, yet they imagine wrongly that these prizes are worth more than the valor that wins them. The public finance of Sparta is also badly regulated: when compelled to carry on wars on a large scale she has nothing in the state treasury, and the Spartiates pay war taxes badly because, as most of the land is owned by them, they do not scrutinize each other's contributions. And the lawgiver has achieved the opposite result to what is advantageous—he has made the state poor and the individual citizen covetous.

So much for a discussion of the constitution of Sparta: for these are the main points in it for criticism. [20]

The Cretan constitution approximates to that of Sparta, but though in a few points it is not worse framed, for the larger part it has a less perfect finish. For the Spartan constitution appears and indeed is actually stated46 to have been copied in most of its provisions from the Cretan; and as a rule old things have been less fully elaborated than newer ones. For it is said that when Lycurgus relinquished his post as guardian of King Charilaus47 and went abroad, he subsequently passed most of his time in Crete because of the relationship between the Cretans and the Spartans; for the Lyctians48 were colonists from Sparta, and the settlers that went out to the colony found the system of laws already existing among the previous inhabitants of the place; owing to which the neighboring villagers even now use these laws in the same manner, in the belief that Minos49 first instituted this code of laws. And also the island appears to have been designed by nature and to be well situated to be under Greek rule, as it lies across the whole of the sea, round which almost all the Greeks are settled; for Crete is only a short distance from the Peloponnese in one direction, and from the part of Asia around Triopium and from Rhodes in the other. Owing to this Minos won the empire of the sea,50 and made some of the islands subject to him and settled colonies in others, but finally when making an attack on Sicily he ended his life there near Camicus.

The Cretan organization is on the same lines as that of Sparta. In Sparta the land is tilled by the Helots and in Crete by the serfs; [1272a] [1] and also both have public mess-tables, and in old days the Spartans called them not ‘phiditia’ but ‘men's messes,’ as the Cretans do, which is a proof that they came from Crete. And so also did the system of government; for the Ephors have the same power as the magistrates called Cosmi in Crete, except that the Ephors are five in number and the Cosmi ten; and the Elders at Sparta are equal in number to the Elders whom the Cretans call the Council; and monarchy existed in former times, but then the Cretans abolished it, and the Cosmi hold the leadership in war; and all are members of the Assembly, though it has no powers except the function of confirming by vote the resolutions already formed by the Elders and the Cosmi.

Now the Cretan arrangements for the public mess-tables are better than the Spartan; for at Sparta each citizen pays a fixed poll-tax, failing which he is prevented by law from taking part in the government, as has been said before; but in Crete the system is more communal, for out of all the crops and cattle produced from the public lands, and the tributes paid by the serfs, one part is assigned for the worship of the gods and the maintenance of the public services, [20] and the other for the public mess-tables, so that all the citizens are maintained from the common funds, women and children as well as men; and the lawgiver has devised many wise measures to secure the benefit of moderation at table, and the segregation of the women in order that they may not bear many children, for which purpose he instituted association with the male sex, as to which there will be another occasion51 to consider whether it was a bad thing or a good one. That the regulations for the common mess-tables therefore are better in Crete than at Sparta is manifest; but the regulations for the Cosmi are even worse than those regarding the Ephors. For the evil attaching to the office of the Ephors belongs to the Cosmi also, as the post is filled by any chance persons, while the benefit conferred on the government by this office at Sparta is lacking in Crete. At Sparta, as the election is made from all the citizens, the common people sharing in the highest office desire the maintenance of the constitution, but in Crete they do not elect the Cosmi from all the citizens but from certain clans, and the Elders from those who have held the office of Cosmos, about which regulations the same comments might be made as about what takes place at Sparta: their freedom from being called to account and their tenure for life gives them greater rank than their merit deserves, and their administration of their office at their own discretion and not under the guidance of a written code is dangerous. And the fact that the common people quietly tolerate their exclusion is no proof that the arrangement is a sound one; for the Cosmi unlike the Ephors make no sort of profit, [1272b] [1] as they live in an island remote from any people to corrupt them. Also the remedy which they employ for this defect52 is a curious one, and less characteristic of a republic than of a dynasty53: often the Cosmi are expelled by a conspiracy formed among some of their actual colleagues or the private citizens. Also the Cosmi are allowed to resign during their term of office. Now it would be preferable for all these expedients to be put in force by law rather than at the discretion of individuals, for that is a dangerous principle. And the worst expedient of all is that of the suspension of the office of Cosmi, which is often brought about by members of the powerful class who wish to escape being punished; this proves that the constitution has a republican element, although it is not actually a republic but rather a dynasty.54 And the nobles frequently form parties among the common people and among their friends and so bring about a suspension of government,55 and form factions and engage in war with one another. Yet such a state of things is virtually the same as if for a period of time the state underwent an entire revolution, and the bonds of civil society were loosened.

And it is a precarious position for a state to be in, when those who wish to attack it also have the power to do so. But, as has been said, it is saved by its locality; for distance has had the same effect as alien-acts.56 A result of this is that with the Cretans the serf population stands firm, whereas the Helots often revolt; for the Cretans [20] take no part in foreign empire, and also the island has only lately been invaded by warfare from abroad, rendering manifest the weakness of the legal system there.

Let this suffice for our discussion of this form of constitution.

Carthage also appears to have a good constitution, with many outstanding features as compared with those of other nations, but most nearly resembling the Spartan in some points. For these three constitutions are in a way near to one another and are widely different from the others—the Cretan, the Spartan and, thirdly, that of Carthage. Many regulations at Carthage are good; and a proof of a well-regulated constitution is that the populace willingly remain faithful to the constitutional system, and that neither civil strife has arisen in any degree worth mentioning, nor yet a tyrant.

Points in which the Carthaginian constitution resembles the Spartan are the common mess-tables of its Comradeships corresponding to the Phiditia, and the magistracy of the Hundred and Four corresponding to the Ephors (except one point of superiority—the Ephors are drawn from any class, but the Carthaginians elect this magistracy by merit); the kings and the council of Elders correspond to the kings and Elders at Sparta, and it is another superior feature that the Carthaginian kings are not confined to the same family and that one of no particular distinction, and also that if any family distinguishes itself . . .57 the Elders are to be chosen from these rather than by age; for as they are put in control of important matters, if they are men of no value they do great harm, [1273a] [1] and they have already injured the Spartan State.

Most of the points therefore in the Carthaginian system that would be criticized on the ground of their divergences happen to be common to all the constitutions of which we have spoken; but the features open to criticism as judged by the principle of an aristocracy or republic are some of them departures in the direction of democracy and others in the direction of oligarchy. The reference of some matters and not of others to the popular assembly rests with the kings in consultation with the Elders in case they agree58 unanimously, but failing that, these matters also lie with the people59; and when the kings introduce business in the assembly, they do not merely let the people sit and listen to the decisions that have been taken by their rulers, but the people have the sovereign decision, and anybody who wishes may speak against the proposals introduced, a right that does not exist under the other constitutions. The appointment by co-optation of the Boards of Five which control many important matters, and the election by these boards of the supreme magistracy of the Hundred, and also their longer tenure of authority than that of any other officers (for they are in power after they have gone out of office and before they have actually entered upon it) are oligarchical features; their receiving no pay and not being chosen by lot and other similar regulations must be set down as aristocratic, and so must the fact that the members of the Boards are the judges in all lawsuits, [20] instead of different suits being tried by different courts as at Sparta. But the Carthaginian system diverges from aristocracy in the direction of oligarchy most signally in respect of a certain idea that is shared by the mass of mankind; they think that the rulers should be chosen not only for their merit but also for their wealth, as it is not possible for a poor man to govern well or to have leisure for his duties. If therefore election by wealth is oligarchical and election by merit aristocratic, this will be a third system exhibited in the organization of the constitution of Carthage, for there elections are made with an eye to these two qualifications, and especially elections to the most important offices, those of the kings and of the generals. But it must be held that this divergence from aristocracy is an error on the part of a lawgiver; for one of the most important points to keep in view from the outset is that the best citizens may be able to have leisure and may not have to engage in any unseemly occupation, not only when in office but also when living in private life. And if it is necessary to look to the question of means for the sake of leisure, it is a bad thing that the greatest offices of state, the kingship and the generalship, should be for sale. For this law makes wealth more honored than worth, and renders the whole state avaricious; and whatever the holders of supreme power deem honorable, the opinion of the other citizens also is certain to follow them, and a state in which virtue is not held in the highest honor [1273b] [1] cannot be securely governed by an aristocracy. And it is probable that those who purchase office will learn by degrees to make a profit out of it, when they hold office for money spent; for it would be odd if a man of small means but respectable should want to make a profit but an inferior person when he has spent money to get elected should not want to. Hence the persons who should be in office are those most capable of holding office. And even if the lawgiver neglected to secure comfortable means for respectable people, it would at all events be better that he should provide for their leisure while in office.

And it might also be thought a bad thing for the same person to hold several offices, which is considered a distinction at Carthage. One man one job is the best rule for efficiency, and the lawgiver ought to see that this may be secured, and not appoint the same man to play the flute and make shoes. Hence except in a small city it is more statesmanlike for a larger number to share in the offices and more democratic, for it is fairer to all, as we said, and also functions are performed better and more quickly when separate than by the same people. This is clear in military and naval matters; for in both of these departments command and subordination penetrate throughout almost the whole body.60

But the constitution being oligarchical they best escape the dangers by being wealthy, as they constantly send out a portion of the common people to [20] appointments in the cities; by this means they heal the social sore and make the constitution stable. However, this is the achievement of fortune, whereas freedom from civil strife ought to be secured by the lawgiver; but as it is, suppose some misfortune occurs and the multitude of the subject class revolts, there is no remedy provided by the laws to restore tranquillity.

This then is the character of the Spartan, Cretan and Carthaginian constitutions, which are justly famous.

Of those that have put forward views about politics, some have taken no part in any political activities whatever but have passed their whole life as private citizens; and something has been said about almost all the writers of this class about whom there is anything noteworthy. Some on the other hand have been lawgivers, either for their native cities or even for certain foreign peoples, after having themselves been actively engaged in government; and of these some have been framers of laws only, and others of a constitution also, for instance Solon and Lycurgus, who instituted both laws and constitutions. The Spartan constitution has been discussed. As for Solon, he is considered by some people to have been a good lawgiver, as having put an end to oligarchy when it was too unqualified and having liberated the people from slavery and restored the ancestral democracy with a skilful blending of the constitution: the Council on the Areopagus being an oligarchic element, the elective magistracies aristocratic and the law-courts democratic. And although really in regard to certain of these features, the Council and the election of magistrates, [1274a] [1] Solon seems merely to have abstained from destroying institutions that existed already, he does appear to have founded the democracy by constituting the jury-courts from all the citizens. For this he is actually blamed by some persons, as having dissolved the power of the other parts of the community by making the law-court, which was elected by lot, all-powerful. For as the law-court grew strong, men courted favor with the people as with a tyrant, and so brought the constitution to the present democracy; and Ephialtes and Pericles docked the power of the Council on the Areopagus, while Pericles instituted payment for serving in the law-courts, and in this manner finally the successive leaders of the people led them on by growing stages to the present democracy. But this does not seem to have come about in accordance with the intention of Solon, but rather as a result of accident (for the common people having been the cause of the naval victories at the time of the Persian invasion became proud and adopted bad men as popular leaders when the respectable classes opposed their policy); inasmuch as Solon for his part appears to bestow only the minimum of power upon the people, the function of electing the magistrates and of calling them to account (for if even this were not under the control of the populace it would be a mere slave and a foreign enemy), whereas he appointed all the offices from the notable and the wealthy, the Five-hundred-bushel class [20] and the Teamsters and a third property-class called the Knighthood; while the fourth class, the Thetes, were admitted to no office.61

Laws were given62 by Zaleucus to the Epizephyrian63 Locrians and by Charondas64 of Catana to his fellow-citizens and to the other Chalcidic cities65 on the coasts of Italy and Sicily. Some persons try to connect Zaleucus and Charondas together: they say that Onomacritus first arose as an able lawgiver, and that he was trained in Crete, being a Locrian and travelling there to practise the art of soothsaying, and Thales became his companion, and Lycurgus and Zaleucus were pupils of Thales, and Charondas of Zaleucus; but these stories give too little attention to the dates. Philolaus of Corinth also arose as lawgiver at Thebes. Philolaus belonged by birth to the Bacchiad family; he became the lover of Diocles the winner66 at Olympia, but when Diocles quitted the city because of his loathing for the passion of his mother Alcyone, he went away to Thebes, and there they both ended their life. Even now people still show their tombs, in full view of each other and one of them fully open to view in the direction of the Corinthian country but the other one not; for the story goes that they arranged to be buried in this manner, Diocles owing to his hatred for his misfortune securing that the land of Corinth might not be visible from his tomb, and Philolaus that it might be from his. [1274b] [1] It was due then to a reason of this nature that they went to live at Thebes; but Philolaus became the Thebans' lawgiver in regard to various matters, among others the size of families,—the laws called by the Thebans laws of adoption; about this Philolaus enacted special legislation, in order that the number of the estates in land might be preserved. There is nothing special in the code of Charondas except the trials for false witness (for he was the first to introduce the procedure of denunciation), but in the accuracy of his laws he is a more finished workman even than the legislators of today. (Peculiar to Phaleas67 is the measure for equalizing properties; to Plato,68 community of wives and children and of property, and the common meals for the women, and also the law about drunkenness, enacting that sober persons are to be masters of the drinking-bouts, and the regulation for military training to make men ambidextrous during drill, on the ground that it is a mistake to have one of the two hands useful but the other useless.)There are laws of Draco,69 but he legislated for an existing constitution, and there is nothing peculiar in his laws that is worthy of mention, except their severity in imposing heavy punishment. Pittacus70 also was a framer of laws, but not of a constitution; a special law of his is that if men commit any offence when drunk, [20] they are to pay a larger fine than those who offend when sober; because since more men are insolent when drunk than when sober he had regard not to the view that drunken offenders are to be shown more mercy, but to expediency. Androdamas71 of Rhegium also became lawgiver to the Chalcidians in the direction of Thrace,72 and to him belong the laws dealing with cases of murder and with heiresses; however one cannot mention any provision that is peculiar to him.

Let such be our examination of the constitutional schemes actually in force and of those that have been proposed by certain persons.

1 On the following criticisms see Grote, Plato, 3, pp. 211-233.

2 (1) 1.3-7; (2) 1.8-2.11; (3) 2.11-13; also (4) other objections 2.15-16.

3 In the mss. of the Greek ‘whereas—kind’ comes below after ‘ Arcadian.’

4 As the best state consists of different classes, its unity is secured by each citizen giving services to society and receiving in return benefits proportionate to his service. Probably τὸ ἴσον is an interpolation (though Newman explains it as 'the reciprocal rendering of an equal amount of dissimilar things'): omitting τὸ ἴσον, we render ‘reciprocity’ and not ‘reciprocal equality’; cf. Aristot. Nic. Eth. 1132b 33, ‘In the interchange of services Justice in the form of Reciprocity is the bond that maintains the association: reciprocity, that is, on the basis of proportion, not on the basis of equality.’

5 The best form of constitution is where there is a superior class that governs continuously—an aristocracy; so where there are no class-distinctions, the next best thing is for all the citizens to take turns in governing and being governed, those in office for the time being forming a sort of aristocracy. Richards's alteration of the text gives ‘to take turns to govern is an imitation of original inequality and class-distinction.‘

6 The reference is to Plat. Rep. 462c. Unity is secured when everyone thinks that everything belongs equally to him and to everybody else, i.e. everything is common property.

7 Books of geography, founded on travellers' reports—a famous one by Hecataeus, scoffed at by Hdt. 4.36.

8 Or possibly ‘Docile’ ( Jackson), cf. Xen. Hunt. 7.4.

9 The comic poet, figuring as a character in Plato's Symposium, see especially Plat. Sym. 192c ff..

10 The three classes in Plato's Republic.

11 Something has clearly been lost here, signifying ‘or should there be some limited form of communism?’

12 i.e. a class of serfs, like the Helots at Sparta.

13 The saying was ascribed to Pythgagoras.

14 Or (omitting τοὺς before τεχνίτας) ‘For Socrates makes one set of men guardians, a sort of garrison, and another set farmers and artisans and citizens of the other sorts.’

15 A passage has been lost here.

16 The last clause, ‘and about—to have,’ has almost certainly been misplaced by a copyist, and should come near the beginning of the sentence, after ‘about property.’

17 i.e. a life of intercourse with other states, cf. 1327b 5. Some mss. add ‘not one of isolation’; this looks like an explanatory note interpolated.

18 Perhaps the Greek should be altered to give ‘when they are away from it.’

19 Otherwise unknown.

20 i.e. the estates are equal, and the number of households fixed, but not the number of citizens.

21 Plat. Laws 734e ff. In weaving cloth the warp (the threads set up first) must be of strong wool, the woof (the threads woven across the warp) must be softer.

22 The object was to provide a separate establishment for a married son, Plat. Laws 776a.

23 Plato wrote ‘monarchy,’ Plat. Laws 693d (cf. here 3.13).

24 i.e. a better ellective body because representative of all classes.

25 i.e. from voting for the preliminary list from the third and fourth classes.

26 Otherwise unknown.

27 Probably the Greek should be altered to give ‘because’ instead of ‘moreover.’

28 Hom. Il. 9.319

29 A stronghold on the coast of Asia Minor acquired by Eubulus, a Bithynian banker, when the Persian empire was breaking up, middle 4th century B.C.; Autophradates was a Persian general.

30 Twopence-halfpenny for a seat in the theater at Athens paid for citizens by the State after the time of Pericles.

31 A famous architect and town-planner (see 1330b 24) circa 475 B.C.

32 At Sparta men wore their hair long, but at Athens this was the mark of a dandy.

33 As military posts must be filled by the military class, the civilians will feel excluded and be disaffected; and the military class may not be strong enough to control them. Better, then, not to give full citizenship to civilians.

34 The mina, 100 drachmas, may be put at 4 pounds (gold).

35 So Hes. WD 108, Pind. N. 6.1.

36 So Plat. Laws 676 ff., Plat. Tim. 22 ff. Aristotle believed that man had existed for ever, and that the world had experienced only local cataclysms.

37 The textual emendation giving ‘live without restraint’ is probably correct.

38 Under Epaminondas, 369 B.C.

39 A clause seems to have been lost: ‘Also it would have been better to regulate by law the marriage of heiresses.’

40 i.e. the consequent fall in the number of men rich enough to keep a horse or even to provide themselves with heavy arms.

41 The battle of Leuctra, 371 B.C.

42 The five Ephors, elected for a year by the people, were the real rulers of Sparta. The two kings were hereditary; the senate of twenty-eight nobles advised them, and the Ephors presided at the Assembly of citizens over thirty years old, who voted on the measures of the Kings and Ephors but could not discuss them. The small fleet was commanded by a single admiral appointed for a year by the Ephors and not allowed to hold office twice.

43 Perhaps the Greek should be altered to give ‘are.’

44 Unknown

45 There is no clear evidence what the method was.

46 e.g. by Hdt 1.65.

47 Posthumous son of Lycurgus's elder brother King Polydectes; cf.1316a 34.

48 Lyctus was an inland city in the east of Crete, not far from Cnossus.

49 Legendary ruler of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa, and after death a judge in the lower world.

50 See Thuc. 1.4, 8. The tradition of the wealth of Minos is supported by the recent excavations at Cnossus.

51 This promise is not fulfilled

52 i.e. the defect of the undue restriction of the office.

53 See 1292b 10 n.

54 See 1292b 10 n.

55 The MSS. give ‘bring about a monarchy.’

56 Aliens required special permission to reside at Sparta, and the ephors had powers to expel them for undesirable conduct.

57 Clauses seem to have been lost concluding the account of the appointment of the Kings and turning to the Elders and their selection on grounds of wealth.

58 i.e. agree to refer or not to refer

59 i.e. even when the Kings only or the Elders only desire reference, it takes place

60 i.e. everyone in command (except the commander-in-chief) has someone of higher rank over him.

61 For Solon's classification of the citizens by the annual income of their estates see Aristot. Ath. Pol. 7.

62 Perhaps 664 B.C.

63 Zephyrium, a promontory in S. Italy.

64 See 1252b 14.

65 Colonies from Chalcis in Euboea.

66 In 728 B.C.

67 Dealt with already in 4.

68 Above, 1-3

69 Author of the first written code at Athens, 621 B.C. (though in Aristot. Ath. Pol. 4, his legislation is hardly mentioned; he appears there as the framer of the constitution).

70 Of Mitylene in Lesbos, one of the Seven Sages, dictator 589-579 B.C.

71 Otherwise unknown.

72 Chalcidice, the peninsula in the N. Aegean, was colonized from Chalcis in Euboea.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (1957)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
728 BC (1)
664 BC (1)
621 BC (1)
475 BC (1)
371 BC (1)
369 BC (1)
hide References (2 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: