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[1290a] [1] and indeed any other similar distinction that in the discussion of aristocracy has been stated to constitute a part of the state (for there we distinguished how many necessary parts there are of which every state must consist); for sometimes all of these parts participate in the constitution and sometimes a smaller or a larger number of them. It is clear therefore that there must necessarily be several forms of constitution differing in kind from one another, inasmuch as these parts differ in kind among themselves. For a constitution means the arrangement of the magistracies, and this all people plan out either according to the power of those who share political rights, or according to some common equality between them, I mean for example between the poor or between the rich, or some equality common to them both.1 It follows therefore that there are as many forms of constitution as there are modes of arrangement according to the superiorities and the differences of the sections. But the forms mostly are thought to be two—just as in the case of the winds we speak of some as north and some as south and regard the rest as deviations from these,2 so also of constitutions there are held to be two forms, democracy and oligarchy; for men reckon aristocracy as a kind of oligarchy because it is oligarchy of a sort, and what is called constitutional government as democracy, just as in the case of the winds they reckon the west wind as a kind of north wind and the east wind as a kind of south wind. [20] And the case is similar with musical modes, as some people say: for there too they posit two kinds, the Dorian mode and the Phrygian, and call the other scales some of them Dorian and the others Phrygian. For the most part therefore they are accustomed to think in this way about the constitutions; but it is truer and better to class them as we did, and assuming that there are two well-constructed forms, or else one, to say that the others are deviations, some from the well-blended constitution and the others from the best one, the more tense and masterful constitutions being oligarchic and the relaxed and soft ones demotic.

But it is not right to define democracy, as some people are in the custom of doing now, merely as the constitution in which the multitude is sovereign (for even in oligarchies and everywhere the majority is sovereign) nor oligarchy as the constitution in which a few are sovereign over the government. For if the whole number were thirteen hundred, and a thousand of these were rich and did not give the three hundred poor a share in the government although they were free-born and like themselves in all other respects, no one would say that this people was governed democratically; and similarly also if there were few poor, but these more powerful than the rich who were more numerous, no one would call such a government a democracy either, if the other citizens being rich had no share in the honors. Rather therefore ought we to say that it is a democracy

1 This clause looks like an interpolation.

2 Aristotle refers to this view in Aristot. Meteor. 364a 19, saying that west winds are classed with north and east winds with south, because wind from the setting sun is cooler and from the rising sun warmer. He notes that north and south winds are the most frequent, Aristot. Meteor. 361a 6; this may have suggested the idea that they were the typical winds.

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hide References (2 total)
  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Basil L. Gildersleeve, Pindar: The Olympian and Pythian Odes, 1
  • Cross-references to this page (1):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), MU´SICA
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