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[1287a] [1]

Our discussion has now reached the case of the king who acts in all matters according to his own will, and we must examine this type of royalty. For the so-called constitutional monarchy, as we said,1 is not a special kind of constitution (since it is possible for a life-long generalship to exist under all constitutions, for example under a democracy and an aristocracy, and many people make one man sovereign over the administration, for instance there is a government of this sort in Epidamnus,2 and also at Opus3 to a certain smaller extent); but we have now to discuss what is called Absolute Monarchy, which is the monarchy under which the king governs all men according to his own will. Some people think that it is entirely contrary to nature for one person to be sovereign over all the citizens where the state consists of men who are alike; for necessarily persons alike in nature must in accordance with nature have the same principle of justice and the same value, so that inasmuch as for persons who are unequal to have an equal amount of food or clothing is harmful for their bodies, the same is the case also in regard to honors; similarly therefore it is wrong for those who are equal to have inequality, owing to which it is just for no one person to govern or be governed more than another, and therefore for everybody to govern and be governed alike in turn. And this constitutes law for regulation is law. Therefore it is preferable for the law to rule rather than any one of the citizens, [20] and according to this same principle, even if it be better for certain men to govern, they must be appointed as guardians of the laws and in subordination to them; for there must be some government, but it is clearly not just, men say, for one person to be governor when all the citizens are alike. It may be objected that any case which the law appears to be unable to define, a human being also would be unable to decide. But the law first specially educates the magistrates for the purpose and then commissions them to decide and administer the matters that it leaves over ‘according to the best of their judgement,’4 and furthermore it allows them to introduce for themselves any amendment that experience leads them to think better than the established code. He therefore that recommends that the law shall govern seems to recommend that God and reason alone shall govern, but he that would have man govern adds a wild animal also; for appetite is like a wild animal, and also passion warps the rule even of the best men. Therefore the law is wisdom without desire. And there seems to be no truth in the analogy which argues from the arts5 that it is a bad thing to doctor oneself by book, but preferable to employ the experts in the arts. For they never act contrary to principle from motives of friendship, but earn their fee when (for instance) they have cured their patients, whereas holders of political office usually do many things out of spite and to win favor; since when people suspect even the physicians of being in the confidence of their enemies and of trying to make away with them for gain, in that case they would sooner look up the treatment in the books.

1 See 10.3.

2 Durazzo, on the Adriatic.

3 Chief town of Locri, near the Straits of Euboea

4 This formula came in the oath taken by the dicasts at Athens.

5 i.e. the practical sciences, of which medicine is taken as an example.

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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Antigone, 737
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    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), MONA´RCHIA
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