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[1289a] [1] but the proper course is to bring forward an organization of such a sort that men will easily be persuaded and be able in the existing circumstances to take part in it, since to reform a constitution is no less a task than to frame one from the beginning, just as to re-learn a science is just as hard as to learn it originally; in addition therefore to the things mentioned the student of politics must also be able to render aid to the constitutions that exist already, as was also said before.1 But this is impossible if he does not know how many kinds of constitution there are; but at present some people think that there is only one kind of democracy and one kind of oligarchy, but this is not true. Hence he must take in view the different varieties of the constitutions, and know how many there are and how many are their combinations. And after this it needs this same discrimination also to discern the laws that are the best, and those that are suited to each of the forms of constitution. For the laws should be laid down, and all people lay them down, to suit the constitutions—the constitutions must not be made to suit the laws; for a constitution is the regulation of the offices of the state in regard to the mode of their distribution and to the question what is the sovereign power in the state and what is the object of each community, but laws are distinct from the principles of the constitution, and regulate how the magistrates are to govern and to guard against those [20] who transgress them. So that clearly it is necessary to be in possession of the different varieties of each form of constitution, and the number of these, even for the purpose of legislation; for it is impossible for the same laws to be expedient for all oligarchies or democracies if there are really several kinds of them, and not one sort of democracy or oligarchy only.

And inasmuch as in our first inquiry2 about the forms of the constitution we classified the right constitutions as three, kingship, aristocracy and constitutional government, and the deviations from these as three, tyranny from kingship, oligarchy from aristocracy and democracy from constitutional government, and about aristocracy and kingship we have spoken (for to study the best constitution is the same thing as to speak about the forms that bear those names, since each of them means a system based on the qualification of virtue equipped with means), and as also the question what constitutes the difference between aristocracy and kingship and when a royal government is to be adopted has been decided before, it remains to discuss the form of constitution designated by the name3 common to them all, and the other forms, oligarchy, democracy and tyranny. Now it is manifest also which of these deviations4 is the worst and which the second worst. For necessarily the deviation from the first and most divine must be the worst,5 and kingship must of necessity either possess the name only, without really being kingship,

1 Book 3.5.

2 Book 3.5.

3 i.e. πολιτεία, ‘polity,’ which denotes not only a constitution of any form, but also (like our term ‘constitutional government’) a particular form, viz., a republic, cf. Book 3.5.2.

4 The three forms of constitution last mentioned.

5 Corruptio optimi pessima, a Socratic notion: ‘the men of the best natural gifts, when educated, are the worst,’ Xen. Mem. 4.1.3.

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    • Xenophon, Memorabilia, 4.1.3
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