previous next
[1281a] [1] which in our view constitutes a happy and noble life; the political fellowship must therefore be deemed to exist for the sake of noble actions, not merely for living in common. Hence those who contribute most to such fellowship have a larger part in the state than those who are their equals or superiors in freedom and birth but not their equals in civic virtue, or than those who surpass them in wealth but are surpassed by them in virtue.

It is therefore clear from what has been said that all those who dispute about the forms of constitution assert a part of the just principle.

But it is a matter of question what ought to be the sovereign power in the state. Clearly it must be either the multitude, or the rich, or the good, or the one man who is best of all, or a tyrant. But all of these arrangements appear to involve disagreeable consequences. For instance, if the poor take advantage of their greater numbers to divide up the property of the rich, is not this unjust? No, it may be said, for it was a resolution made by the supreme authority in just form. Then what must be pronounced to be the extreme of injustice? And again, when everybody is taken into account, suppose the majority share out among themselves the property of the minority, it is manifest that they are destroying the state; but assuredly virtue does not destroy [20] its possessor, and justice is not destructive of the state, so that it is clear that this principle also cannot be just. Also it follows from it that all the actions done by a tyrant are just, for his use of force is based upon superior strength, as is the compulsion exerted by the multitude against the rich. But is it just that the minority and the rich should rule? Suppose therefore they also act in the same way and plunder and take away the property of the multitude, is this just? If it is, so also is the plunder of the rich by the multitude. It is clear therefore that all these things are bad and not just. But ought the good to rule, and be in control of all classes? If so, then it follows that all the other classes will be dishonored,1 if they are not honored by holding the offices of government; for we speak of offices as honors, and if the same persons are always in office the rest must necessarily be excluded from honor. But is it better for the most virtuous individual to be the ruler? But that is still more oligarchical, for the people excluded from honor will be more numerous. But perhaps some one would say that in any case it is a bad thing for a human being, having in his soul the passions that are the attributes of humanity, to be sovereign, and not the law. Suppose therefore that law is sovereign, but law of an oligarchic or democratic nature, what difference will it make as regards the difficulties that have been raised? for the results described before will come about just the same.

Most of these points therefore must be discussed on another occasion; but the view that it is more proper for the multitude to be sovereign than the few of greatest virtue might be thought to be explicable and to have some justification, and even to be the true view. For it is possible that the many, though not individually good men,

1 The term is technical and means disfranchisement and loss of civic rights.

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 Greek (1957)
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 References (3 total)
  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • E.C. Marchant, Commentary on Thucydides Book 1, 1.13
  • Cross-references in notes to this page (2):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: