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[1275a] [1] so that we have to consider who is entitled to the name of citizen, and what the essential nature of a citizen is. For there is often a difference of opinion as to this: people do not all agree that the same person is a citizen; often somebody who would be a citizen in a democracy is not a citizen under an oligarchy. We need not here consider those who acquire the title of citizen in some exceptional manner, for example those who are citizens by adoption; and citizenship is not constituted by domicile in a certain place (for resident aliens and slaves share the domicile of citizens), nor are those citizens who participate in a common system of justice, conferring the right to defend an action and to bring one in the law-courts (for this right belongs also to the parties under a commercial treaty, as they too can sue and be sued at law,—or rather, in many places even the right of legal action is not shared completely by resident aliens, but they are obliged to produce a patron, so that they only share in a common legal procedure to an incomplete degree), but these are only citizens in the manner in which children who are as yet too young to have been enrolled in the list and old men who have been discharged1 must be pronounced to be citizens in a sense, yet not quite absolutely, but with the added qualification of ‘under age’ in the case of the former and ‘superannuated’ or some other similar term (it makes no difference, the meaning being clear) in that of the latter. For we seek to define a citizen in the absolute sense, and one possessing no [20] disqualification of this nature that requires a correcting term, since similar difficulties may also be raised, and solved, about citizens who have been disfranchised or exiled. A citizen pure and simple is defined by nothing else so much as by the right to participate in judicial functions and in office. But some offices of government are definitely limited in regard to time, so that some of them are not allowed to be held twice by the same person at all, or only after certain fixed intervals of time; other officials are without limit of tenure, for example the juryman and the member of the assembly. It might perhaps be said that such persons are not officials at all, and that the exercise of these functions does not constitute the holding of office;2 and yet it is absurd to deny the title of official to those who have the greatest power in the state. But it need not make any difference, as it is only the question of a name, since there is no common name for a juryman and a member of the assembly that is properly applied to both. For the sake of distinction therefore let us call the combination of the two functions ‘office’ without limitation. Accordingly we lay it down that those are citizens who participate in office in this manner.

Such more or less is the definition of ‘citizen’ that would best fit with all of those to whom the name is applied. But it must not be forgotten that things in the case of which the things to which they are related differ in kind, one of them being primary, another one secondary and so on, either do not contain a common nature at all, as being what they are, or barely do so.3 Now we see that constitutions differ from one another in kind, and that some are subsequent and others prior;

1 This seems to imply that aged citizens were excused attendance at the assembly and law-courts, as well as military service

2 Or, amending the text, ‘and yet that it is absurd to deny the title of citizen to those—’

3 The meaning of this abstract principle is most easily seen from its application here: if states are generically different from one another, membership of a state, citizenship, can hardly be a single thing, and come under a single definition.

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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • T. G. Tucker, Commentary on Thucydides: Book 8, 8.97
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