previous next
Besides all these significations there is yet another, that is, the order and state by which a commonweal is governed, and by which affairs are managed and administered. According to which we say that there are three sorts of policy or public government,—to wit, Monarchy, which is regality or kingship, Oligarchy, which is the government by peers and nobles, and Democracy, which is a popular or (as we term it) a free state. Now all these are [p. 397] mentioned by Herodotus in his Third Book,1 where he compares them one with another. And these seem to be the most general of all; for all other sorts are, as it were, the depravation and corruption of these, either by defect or excess; as it is in the first consonances of music, when the strings are either too straight or too slack.

Now these three sorts of government have been distributed amongst the nations that have had the mightiest and the greatest empire. Thus the Persians enjoyed regality or kingship, because their king had full absolute power in all things, without being liable to render an account to any one. The Spartans had a council consisting of a small number, and those the best and most considerable persons in the city, who despatched all affairs. The Athenians maintained popular government free and exempt from any other mixture. In which administration when there are any faults, their transgressions and exorbitances are styled tyrannies, oppressions of the stronger, unbridled licentiousness of the multitude. That is, when the prince who has the royalty permits himself to outrage whomever he pleases, and will not suffer any remonstrance to be made him concerning it, he becomes a tyrant; when a few lords or senators in whose hands the government is arrive at that arrogance as to contemn all others, they turn oppressors; and when a popular state breaks forth into disobedience and levelling, it runs into anarchy and unmeasurable liberty: and in a word, all of them together will be rashness and folly.

1 Herod. III. 82.

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 English (Harold North Fowler, 1936)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: