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[1310a] [1] so that when men destroy these classes by laws carried to excess they destroy the constitutions. And a mistake is made both in democracies and in oligarchies—in democracies by the demagogues, where the multitude is supreme over the laws; for they always divide the state into two by fighting with the well-to-do, but they ought on the contrary always to pretend to be speaking on behalf of men that are well-to-do, while in democracies the oligarchical statesmen ought to pretend to be speaking on behalf of the people, and the oligarchics ought to take oath in terms exactly opposite to those which they use now, for at present in some oligarchies they swear, “And I will be hostile to the people and will plan whatever evil I can against them,”1 but they ought to hold, and to act the part of holding, the opposite notion, declaring in their oaths, “I will not wrong the people.” But the greatest of all the means spoken of to secure the stability of constitutions is one that at present all people despise: it is a system of education suited to the constitutions. For there is no use in the most valuable laws, ratified by the unanimous judgement of the whole body of citizens, if these are not trained and educated in the constitution, popularly if the laws are popular, oligarchically if they are oligarchical; for there is such a thing as want of self-discipline in a state, as well as in an individual.But to have been educated [20] to suit the constitution does not mean to do the things that give pleasure to the adherents of oligarchy or to the supporters of democracy, but the things that will enable the former to govern oligarchically and the latter to govern themselves democratically. But at present in the oligarchies the sons of the rulers are luxurious, and the sons of the badly-off become trained by exercise and labor, so that they are both more desirous of reform and more able to bring it about; while in the democracies thought to be the most democratic the opposite of what is expedient has come about. And the cause of this is that they define liberty wrongly (for there are two things that are thought to be defining features of democracy, the sovereignty of the majority and liberty); for justice is supposed to be equality, and equality the sovereignty of what ever may have been decided by the multitude, and liberty doing just what one likes. Hence in democracies of this sort everybody lives as he likes, and ‘unto what end he listeth,’ as Euripides2 says. But this is bad; for to live in conformity with the constitution ought not to be considered slavery but safety.

This therefore, speaking broadly, is a list of the things that cause the alteration and the destruction of constitutions, and of those that cause their “security and continuance.”

It remains to speak of monarchy, the causes that destroy it and the natural means of its preservation.

1 The ‘scoffing anapaestic cadence’ of this oath has been noted. In 411 B.C. the democratic reaction at Athens swore ‘to be enemies of the Four Hundred and to hold no parley with them.’

2 Fragment 883, from an unknown play.

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    • T. G. Tucker, Commentary on Thucydides: Book 8, 8.54
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