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[1321a] [1] Democracies therefore generally speaking are kept safe by the largeness of the citizen-body, for this is the antithesis of justice according to desert; but oligarchy on the contrary must manifestly obtain its security by means of good organization.

And since the mass of the population falls principally into four divisions, the farming class, artisans, retail traders and hired laborers, and military forces are of four classes, cavalry, heavy infantry, light infantry and marines, in places where the country happens to be suitable for horsemanship, there natural conditions favor the establishment of an oligarchy that will be powerful (for the security of the inhabitants depends on the strength of this element, and keeping studs of horses is the pursuit of those who own extensive estates); and where the ground is suitable for heavy infantry, conditions favor the next form of oligarchy (for heavy infantry is a service for the well-to-do rather than the poor); but light infantry and naval forces are an entirely democratic element. As things are therefore, where there is a large multitude of this class, when party strife occurs the oligarchs often get the worst of the struggle; and a remedy for this must be adopted from military commanders, who combine with their cavalry and heavy infantry forces a contingent of light infantry. And this is the way1 in which the common people get the better over the well-to-do in outbreaks of party strife: [20] being unencumbered they fight easily against cavalry and heavy infantry. Therefore to establish this force out of this class is to establish it against itself, but the right plan is for the men of military age to be separated into a division of older and one of younger men, and to have their own sons while still young trained in the exercises of light and unarmed troops, and for youths selected from among the boys to be themselves trained in active operations. And the bestowal of a share in the government upon the multitude should either go on the lines stated before,2 and be made to those who acquire the property-qualification, or as at Thebes, to people after they have abstained for a time from mechanic industries, or as at Marseilles, by making a selection among members of the governing classes and those outside it of persons who deserve3 inclusion. And furthermore the most supreme offices also, which must be retained by those within the constitution, must have expensive duties attached to them, in order that the common people may be willing to be excluded from them, and may feel no resentment against the ruling class, because it pays a high price for office. And it fits in with this that they should offer splendid sacrifices and build up some public monument on entering upon office, so that the common people sharing in the festivities and seeing the city decorated both with votive offerings and with building may be glad to see the constitution enduring; and an additional result will be that the notables will have memorials of their outlay. But at present the members of oligarchies do not adopt this course but the opposite, for they seek the gains of office just as much as the honor; hence these oligarchies are well described as miniature democracies.4

1 i.e. by superior mobility.

2 4.1, 1320b 25 ff.

3 If the text is corrected it seems to mean that the list was revised from time to time and some old names taken off and new ones put on.

4 The phrase suggests that in democracy public duties are cheifly undertaken for their emoluments.

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  • Commentary references to this page (2):
    • W. W. How, J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotus, 5.78
    • T. G. Tucker, Commentary on Thucydides: Book 8, 8.64
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