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ὀλιγαρχία, “the rule of the few”). A name given in Greek writers to that form of constitution where a portion of the community, privileged either by reason of nobility of birth or by wealth, are exclusively, or at least in preference to others, in possession of power. The former case is an example of an absolute despotism; the latter resulted where the magistracies, though filled exclusively from the privileged classes, nevertheless depended on popular election; or where the mass of the people possessed a share in deliberation or in the drawing up of decrees, while to the privileged body was reserved the right of making proposals, convoking and presiding over the assemblies, and ratifying the decrees. See Polyb. vi. 4; Aristot. Pol. iv. 4; Wachsmuth, Hellenische Alterthumskunde; and Whibley, Greek Oligarchies (N. Y. 1896).

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