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10.

Now there are three forms of constitution, and also an equal number of perversions or corruptions of those forms. The constitutions are Kingship, Aristocracy, and thirdly, a constitution based on a property classification, which it seems appropriate to describe as timocratic, although most people are accustomed to speak of it merely as a constitutional government or Republic. [2] The best of these constitutions is Kingship, and the worst Timocracy. The perversion of Kingship is Tyranny. Both are monarchies, but there is a very wide difference between them: a tyrant studies his own advantage, a king that of his subjects. For a monarch is not a king1 if he does not possess independent resources, and is not better supplied with goods of every kind than his subjects; but a ruler so situated lacks nothing, and therefore will not study his own interests but those of his subjects. (A king who is not independent of his subjects will be merely a sort of titular king.2) Tyranny is the exact opposite in this respect, for the tyrant pursues his own good. The inferiority of Tyranny among the perversions is more evident than that of Timocracy among the constitutions, for the opposite of the best must be the worst. [3]

When a change of constitution takes place, Kingship passes into Tyranny, because Tyranny is the bad form of monarchy, so that a bad king becomes a tyrant. Aristocracy passes into Oligarchy owing to badness in the rulers, who do not distribute what the State has to offer according to desert, but give all or most of its benefits to themselves, and always assign the offices to the same persons, because they set supreme value upon riches; thus power is in the hands of a few bad men, instead of being in the hands of the best men. Timocracy passes into Democracy, there being an affinity between them, inasmuch as the ideal of Timocracy also is government by the mass of the citizens, and within the property qualification all are equal. Democracy is the least bad of the perversions, for it is only a very small deviation from the constitutional form of government.3 These are the commonest ways in which revolutions occur in states, since they involve the smallest change, and come about most easily. [4]

One may find likenesses and so to speak models of these various forms of constitution in the household. The relationship of father to sons is regal in type, since a father's first care is for his children's welfare. This is why Homer styles Zeus ‘father,’ for the ideal of kingship is paternal government. Among the Persians paternal rule is tyrannical, for the Persians use their sons as slaves. The relation of master to slaves is also tyrannic, since in it the master's interest is aimed at. The autocracy of a master appears to be right, that of the Persian father wrong; for different subjects should be under different forms of rule. [5] The relation of husband to wife seems to be in the nature of an aristocracy: the husband rules in virtue of fitness, and in matters that belong to a man's sphere; matters suited to a woman he hands over to his wife. When the husband controls everything, he transforms the relationship into an oligarchy, for he governs in violation of fitness, and not in virtue of superiority. And sometimes when the wife is an heiress it is she who rules. In these cases then authority goes not by virtue but by wealth and power, as in an oligarchy. [6] The relation between brothers constitutes a sort of timocracy; they are equals, save in so far as they differ in age; hence, if the divergence in age be great, the friendship between them cannot be of the fraternal type. Democracy appears most fully in households without a master, for in them all the members are equal; but it also prevails where the ruler of the house is weak, and everyone is allowed to do what he likes.

1 Probably the text should read ‘a king is not a king at all unless—’

2 Literally, ‘a king elected by lot,’ like the annual archon at Athens, who had the title of king, but retained only certain religious functions from the primitive monarchy.

3 i.e., timocracy: see 10.1 fin.

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