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[1307b] [1] And aristocracies are most liable to undergo revolution unobserved, through gradual relaxation, just as it has been said in what has gone before about all forms of constitution in general, that even a small change may cause a revolution. For when they give up one of the details of the constitution, afterwards they also make another slightly bigger change more readily, until they alter the whole system. This occurred for instance with the constitution of Thurii. There was a law that the office of general could be held at intervals of four years, but some of the younger men, becoming warlike and winning high repute with the mass of the guards, came to despise the men engaged in affairs, and thought that they would easily get control; so first they tried to repeal the law referred to, so as to enable the same persons to serve as generals continuously, as they saw that the people would vote for themselves with enthusiasm. And though the magistrates in charge of this matter, called the Councillors, at first made a movement to oppose them, they were won over, believing that after repealing this law they would allow the rest of the constitution to stand; but later, though they wished to prevent them when other laws were being repealed, they could no longer do anything more, but the whole system of the constitution was converted into a dynasty of the men who had initiated the innovations.

And constitutions of all forms [20] are broken up some times from movements initiating from within themselves, but sometimes from outside, when there is an opposite form of constitution either near by or a long way off yet possessed of power. This used to happen in the days of the Athenians and the Spartans; the Athenians used to put down oligarchies everywhere and the Spartans democracies.

We have then approximately stated the causes that give rise to revolutions in the constitutions of states and to party factions.

The next thing to speak about is security both in general and for each form of constitution separately. First then it is clear that if we know the causes by which constitutions are destroyed we also know the causes by which they are preserved; for opposites create opposites, and destruction is the opposite of security. In well-blended constitutions therefore, if care must be taken to prevent men from committing any other breach of the law, most of all must a small breach be guarded against, for transgression of the law creeps in unnoticed, just as a small expenditure occurring often ruins men's estates; for the expense is not noticed because it does not come all at once, for the mind is led astray by the repeated small outlays, just like the sophistic puzzle, ‘if each is little, then all are a little.’1 This is true in one way but in another it is not; for the whole or total is not little, but made up of little parts. One thing therefore that we must guard against is this beginning; and the next point is that we must not put faith in the arguments strung together for the sake of tricking the multitude,

1 This is the soritesfallacy; add to one stone another, and another, and another—when do they make a heap ( σωρός)? and take away stone after stone—when do they cease to be a heap? Horace's ‘ratio ruentis acerui’ (Hor. Ep. 2.47.

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    • W. W. How, J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotus, 5.91
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