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[1320a] [1] as shall best compass the results preservative of constitutions, and not think that a measure is democratic or oligarchic which will cause the state to be democratically or oligarchically governed in the greatest degree, but which will cause it to be so governed for the longest time. But the demagogues of today to court the favor of the peoples often use the law-courts to bring about confiscations of property. Hence those who are caring for the safety of the constitution must counteract this by enacting that nothing belonging to persons condemned at law shall be confiscated and liable to be carried to the public treasury, but that their property shall be consecrated to the service of religion; for male-factors will be no less on their guard, as they will be punished just the same, while the mob will less often vote guilty against men on trial when it is not going to get anything out of it. Also they must always make the public trials that occur as few as possible, checking those who bring indictments at random by big penalties; for they do not usually indict men of the people but notables, whereas even with this form of constitution it is desirable for all the citizens if possible to be friendly to the state, or failing that, at all events not to think of their rulers as enemies. And inasmuch as the ultimate forms of democracy tend to have large populations and it is difficult for their citizens to sit in the assembly without pay, and this in a state where there do not happen to be revenues is inimical to the notables [20] (for pay has to be obtained from a property-tax and confiscation, and from corruption of the law-courts, which has caused the overthrow of many democracies before now),—where therefore there happen to be no revenues, few meetings of the assembly must be held, and the law-courts must consist of many members but only sit a few days (for this not only contributes to the rich not being in fear of the cost of the system even if the well-off do not take the pay and only the poor do, but also leads to far greater efficiency in the trial of law-suits, for the well-to-do, though not wishing to be away from their private affairs for many days, are willing to leave them for a short time), while where there are revenues men must not do what the popular leaders do now (for they use the surplus for doles, and people no sooner get them than they want the same doles again, because this way of helping the poor is the legendary jar with a hole in it1), but the truly democratic statesman must study how the multitude may be saved from extreme poverty; for this is what causes democracy to be corrupt. Measures must therefore be contrived that may bring about lasting prosperity. And since this is advantageous also for the well-to-do, the proper course is to collect all the proceeds of the revenues into a fund and distribute this in lump sums to the needy, best of all, if one can, in sums large enough for acquiring a small estate, or, failing this, to serve as capital for trade or husbandry,

1 The fifty daughters of Danaus were married to their cousins, and all but one murdered their husbands on the bridal night, and were punished in Hades by having to pour water into the jar described.

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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Oedipus at Colonus, 957
  • Cross-references to this page (1):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), HESTIASIS
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