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[1294b] [1] This then is one mode of combining the two. Another is to take the middle course between the regulations of each: for example, democracies permit membership of the assembly on no property-qualification at all or a quite small one, oligarchies on a large property-qualification, but the combination clearly is to have neither principle, but one which lies in the middle between either of these two qualifications. In the third place is a combination of the two systems, taking some features from the oligarchical law and some from the democratic; I mean, for example, that it is thought to be democratic for the offices to be assigned by lot, for them to be elected oligarchic, and democratic for them not to have a property-qualification, oligarchic to have one; therefore it is aristocratic and constitutional to take one feature from one form and the other from the other, from oligarchy that offices are to be elected, and from democracy that this is not to be on a property-qualification. This then is the mode of the mixture; and the mark of a good mixture of democracy and oligarchy is when it is possible to speak of the same constitution as a democracy and as an oligarchy; for manifestly this is so when it is said because they have been mixed well, and this is the case with the form that lies in the middle, for each of the two extreme forms can be seen in it. This is the case with the constitution of Sparta. For many people [20] endeavor to describe it as being a democracy, because its system has many democratic features, for instance first of all its regulation for the rearing of boys, since the sons of the rich are brought up in the same way as those of the poor, and are educated in a manner in which the sons of the poor also could be educated, and they are also treated similarly at the next age, and in the same manner when they are grown up, for there is nothing that distinguishes the rich man from the poor man—thus the arrangements for food are the same for all at the common messes, and the rich wear clothes such as even any poor man could procure, and also because of the two greatest offices the common people elect to one and share in the other (they elect the Elders and share in the Ephorate); but others call it an oligarchy, because it has many oligarchical features, for instance that all the offices are elective and none appointed by lot and few persons have the power to sentence to death and exile, and a number of other such matters. But in a well-constructed mixed constitution both of the two factors, and neither of them,1 should seem to be present, and it should be kept safe by its own means and not by outside aid, and by its own means not because those who desire its security are more numerous outside it2 (for even a bad constitution might possess this quality), but because no section of the state whatever would even wish for another constitution.

The proper way therefore to establish a constitutional government, and similarly also the governments named aristocracies, has now been stated.

1 A conjectural emendation removes this mysterious epigram, giving ‘and not one of the two (only).’

2 Or, if ἔξωθεν is an interpolation, ‘not merely because those (citizens) who wish it to survive are more numerous (than those who do not).’

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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • W. W. How, J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotus, 3.80
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