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[1284b] [1] and the king of the Persians frequently used to cut down the numbers of the Medes and Babylonians and the other races that had waxed proud because they had once been head of an empire. And the problem applies universally to all the forms of constitution, even the right forms; for while the divergent forms of government do this because their regard is fixed on their private advantage, nevertheless with the constitutions directed to the common good the same is the case. And this is also clear in the field of the other arts and sciences; a painter would not let his animal have its foot of disproportionately large size, even though it was an exceptionally beautiful foot, nor would a shipbuilder make the stern or some other part of a ship disproportionately big, nor yet will a trainer of choruses allow a man who sings louder and more beautifully than the whole band to be a member of it. Hence as far as this practice goes nothing prevents monarchs from being in harmony with the cities they rule, if they resort to it when their own personal rule is beneficial to the cities. Therefore in relation to acknowledged superiorities the argument for ostracism has a certain element of political justice. True, it is better for the lawgiver so to constitute the state at the outset that it does not need this medicine; but the next best course to steer, if occasion arises, is to endeavor to correct [20] the constitution by some such method of rectification. But this was not what happened with the states, for they were not looking at what was advantageous for their proper constitution, but their acts of ostracism were done in a revolutionary spirit. In the divergent forms of constitution therefore it is evident that ostracism is advantageous and just under the special constitution, though perhaps it is also evident that it is not1 just absolutely; but in the case of the best constitution there is much doubt as to what ought to be done, not as regards superiority in the other things of value, such as strength and wealth and popularity, but in the case of a person becoming exceptionally distinguished for virtue. It certainly would not be said that such a man must be banished and got out of the way; yet nevertheless no doubt men would not think that they ought to rule over such a man, for that would be the same as if they claimed to rule over Zeus, dividing up his spheres of government. It remains therefore, and this seems to be the natural course, for all to obey such a man gladly, so that men of this sort may be kings in the cities for all time.

And perhaps it is well after the subjects that have been discussed to pass over to consider royal government; for we pronounce this to be one of the correct constitutions. And it has to be considered whether it is advantageous for a city or a country that is to be well administered to be ruled by a king, or whether it is not so but some other constitution is more expedient, or whether royal rule is expedient for some states and not for others. But it is needful to decide first whether there is only one sort of kingship or whether it has several varieties.

1 Perhaps ‘not’ should be struck out; but if it stands, the clause refers to 8.5 init.—in these cases ostracism is practiced only in the interest of those in power.

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    • W. W. How, J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotus, 3.82
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