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[1290b] [1] when the free are sovereign and an oligarchy when the rich are, but that it comes about that the sovereign class in a democracy is numerous and that in an oligarchy small because there are many men of free birth and few rich. For otherwise, suppose people assigned the offices by height, as some persons1 say is done in Ethiopia, or by beauty, that would be an oligarchy, because both the handsome and the tall are few in number. Nevertheless it is not enough to define these constitutions even by wealth and free birth only; but inasmuch as there are more elements than one both in democracy and in oligarchy, we must add the further distinction that neither is it a democracy if the free2 being few govern the majority who are not of free birth, as for instance at Apollonia on the Ionian Gulf and at Thera (for in each of these cities the offices of honor were filled by the specially noble families who had been the first settlers of the colonies, and these were few out of many), nor is it a democracy3 if the rich rule because they are in a majority, as in ancient times at Colophon (for there the majority of the population owned large property before the war against the Lydians took place), but it is a democracy when those who are free are in the majority and have sovereignty over the government, and an oligarchy when the rich and more well born [20] are few and sovereign.

It has then been stated that there are several forms of constitution, and what is the cause of this; but let us take the starting-point that was laid down before4 and say that there are more forms than those mentioned, and what these forms are, and why they vary. For we agree that every state possesses not one part but several. Therefore just as, in case we intended to obtain a classification of animals, we should first define the properties necessarily belonging to every animal (for instance some of the sense organs, and the machinery for masticating and for receiving food, such as a mouth and a stomach, and in addition to these the locomotive organs of the various species), and if there were only so many necessary parts, but there were different varieties of these (I mean for instance certain various kinds of mouth and stomach and sensory organs, and also of the locomotive parts as well), the number of possible combinations of these variations will necessarily produce a variety of kinds of animals (for it is not possible for the same animal to have several different sorts of mouth, nor similarly of ears either), so that when all the possible combinations of these are taken they will all produce animal species, and there will be as many species of the animal as there are combinations of the necessary parts:—so in the same way also we shall classify the varieties of the constitutions that have been mentioned. For states also are composed not of one but of several parts, as has been said often. One of these parts therefore is the mass of persons concerned with food who are called farmers,

1 e.g. Hdt. 3.20.

2 i.e. those of citizen birth.

3 Perhaps the Greek should be altered here to give ‘an oligarchy.’

4 See 3.1.

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  • Commentary references to this page (2):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Antigone, 393
    • W. W. How, J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotus, 9.93
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  • Cross-references in notes from this page (1):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.20
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