previous next
[551a] in a state, and the wealthy, virtue and the good are less honored.” “Obviously.” “And that which men at any time honor they practise,1 and what is not honored is neglected.” “It is so.” “Thus, finally, from being lovers of victory and lovers of honor they become lovers of gain-getting and of money, and they commend and admire the rich man and put him in office but despise the man who is poor.” “Quite so.” “And is it not then that they pass a law [551b] defining the limits2 of an oligarchical polity, prescribing3 a sum of money, a larger sum where it is more4 of an oligarchy, where it is less a smaller, and proclaiming that no man shall hold office whose property does not come up to the required valuation? And this law they either put through by force of arms, or without resorting to that they establish their government by terrorization.5 Is not that the way of it?” “It is.” “The establishment then, one may say, is in this wise.” “Yes,” he said, “but what is the character of this constitution, and what are the defects that we said [551c] it had?”

“To begin with,” said I, “consider the nature of its constitutive and defining principle. Suppose men should appoint the pilots6 of ships in this way, by property qualification, and not allow7 a poor man to navigate, even if he were a better pilot.” “A sorry voyage they would make of it,” he said. “And is not the same true of any other form of rule?” “I think so.” “Except of a city,” said I, “or does it hold for a city too?” “Most of all,” he said, “by as much as that is the greatest and most difficult8 rule of all.” [551d] “Here, then, is one very great defect in oligarchy.” “So it appears.” “Well, and is this a smaller one?” “What?” “That such a city should of necessity be not one,9 but two, a city of the rich and a city of the poor, dwelling together, and always plotting10 against one another.” “No, by Zeus,” said he, “it is not a bit smaller.” “Nor, further, can we approve of this—the likelihood that they will not be able to wage war, because of the necessity of either arming and employing the multitude,11 [551e] and fearing them more than the enemy, or else, if they do not make use of them, of finding themselves on the field of battle, oligarchs indeed,12 and rulers over a few. And to this must be added their reluctance to contribute money, because they are lovers of money.” “No, indeed, that is not admirable.” “And what of the trait we found fault with long ago13—the fact that in such a state the citizens are busy-bodies and jacks-of-all-trades, farmers,

1 This sentence has been much quoted. Cf. Cic.Tusc. i. 2 “honos alit artes . . . iacentque ea semper, quae apud quosque inprobantur.” Themistius and Libanius worked it into almost every oration. Cf. Mrs. W. C. Wright, The Emperor Julian, p. 70, n. 3. Cf. also Stallbaum ad loc. For ἀσκεῖται cf. Pindar, Ol. viii. 22.

2 ὅρον: cf. 551 C, Laws 714 C, 962 D, 739 D, 626 B, Menex. 238 D, Polit. 293 E, 296 E, 292 C, Lysis 209 C, Aristot.Pol. 1280 a 7, 1271 a 35, and Newman i. p. 220, Eth. Nic. 1138 b 23. Cf. also τέλοςRhet. 1366 a 3. For the true criterion of office-holding see Laws 715 C-D and Isoc. xii. 131. For wealth as the criterion cf. Aristot.Pol. 1273 a 37.

3 For ταξάμενοι cf. Vol. I. p. 310, note c, on 416 E.

4 Cf. Aristot.Pol. 1301 b 13-14.

5 Cf. 557 A.

6 Cf. 488, and Polit. 299 B-C, What Plato Said, p. 521, on Euthydem. 291 D.

7 Stallbaum says that ἐπιτρέποι is used absolutely as in 575 D, Symp. 213 E, Lysis 210 B, etc. Similarly Latin permitto. Cf. Shorey on Jowett's translation of Meno 92 A-B, A. J. P. xiii. p. 367. See too Diog. L. i. 65.

8 Men are the hardest creatures to govern. Cf. Polit. 292 D, and What Plato Said, p. 635, on Laws 766 A.

9 For the idea that a city should be a unity Cf. Laws 739 D and on 423 A-B. Cf. also 422 E with 417 A-B, Livy ii. 24 “adeo duas ex una civitate discordia fecerat.” Aristot.Pol. 1316 b 7 comments ἄτοπον δὲ καὶ τὸ φάναι δύο πόλεις εἶναι τὴν ὀλιγαρχικήν, πλουσίων καὶ πενήτων . . . and tries to prove the point by his topical method.

10 Cf. 417 B.

11 For the idea that the rulers fear to arm the people cf. Thuc. iii. 27, Livy iii. 15 “consules et armare pIebem et inermem pati timebant.”

12 He plays on the word. In 565 Cὡς ἀληθῶς ὀλιγαρχικούς is used in a different sense. Cf. Symp. 181 Aὡς ἀληθῶς πάνδημος, Phaedo 80 Dεἰς Ἅιδου ὡς ἀληθῶς.

13 Cf. 374 B, 434 A, 443 D-E. For the specialty of function Cf. What Plato Said, p. 480, on Charm. 161 E.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Notes (James Adam)
load focus Greek (1903)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1366 AD (1)
1316 AD (1)
1301 AD (1)
1280 AD (1)
1273 AD (1)
1271 AD (1)
1138 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: