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[1276a] [1] whether, if a man is not rightly a citizen, he is a citizen at all, as ‘wrongly’ means the same as ‘not truly.’ But we sometimes see officials governing wrongly, as to whom we shall not deny that they do govern, but shall say that they do not do it rightly, and a citizen is defined by a certain function of government (a citizen, as we said, is one who shares in such and such an office); therefore it is clear that even persons wrongly admitted to citizenship are to be pronounced to be citizens, although the question whether they are so rightly or not rightly is connected with the question that was propounded before.1 For some persons raise the question, When is an occurrence the act of the state and when is it not? for example, when the government has been altered from oligarchy or tyranny to democracy. In such circumstances some people claim that the new government should not discharge public debts, on the ground that the money was borrowed by the tyrant and not by the state, and should repudiate many other similar claims also, because some forms of government rest upon force and are not aimed at the welfare of the community. If therefore some democracies also are governed in that manner, the acts of the authorities in their case can only be said to be the acts of the state in the same sense as the public acts emanating from an oligarchy or a tyranny are said to be. Akin to this controversy seems to be the subject, What exactly is the principle on which we ought to pronounce a city to be the same city as it was before, or not the same but a different city? The most obvious mode of inquiring into this difficulty [20] deals with place and people: the place and the people may have been divided, and some may have settled in one place, and some in another. In this form the question must be considered as easier of solution; for, as ‘city’ has several meanings, the inquiry so put is in a way not difficult.2 But it may similarly be asked, Suppose a set of men inhabit the same place, in what circumstances are we to consider their city to be a single city? Its unity clearly does not depend on the walls, for it would be possible to throw a single wall round the Peloponnesus; and a case in point perhaps is Babylon, and any other city that has the circuit of a nation rather than of a city; for it is said that when Babylon was captured a considerable part of the city was not aware of it three days later. But the consideration of this difficulty will be serviceable for another occasion, as the student of politics must not ignore the question, What is the most advantageous size for a city, and should its population be of one race or of several? But are we to pronounce a city, where the same population inhabit the same place, to be the same city so long as the population are of the same race, in spite of the fact that all the time some are dying and others being born, just as it is our custom to say that a river or a spring is the same river or spring although one stream of water is always being added to it and another being withdrawn from it, or are we to say that though the people are the same people for the similar reason of continuity, yet the city is a different city?

1 The question, What is a state? 1274b 34.

2 i.e. πόλις means both (1) ‘city’ (and also ‘citadel’) and (2) ‘state,’ a collection of citizens; and if the citizens divide and settle in two different ‘cities’ with different governments, they are clearly not the same ‘state’ as before.

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    • W. W. How, J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotus, 1.178
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