previous next
[1292a] [1] And another kind of democracy is for all the citizens that are not open to challenge1 to have a share in office, but for the law to rule; and another kind of democracy is for all to share in the offices on the mere qualification of being a citizen, but for the law to rule. Another kind of democracy is where all the other regulations are the same, but the multitude is sovereign and not the law; and this comes about when the decrees of the assembly over-ride the law. This state of things is brought about by the demagogues; for in the states under democratic government guided by law a demagogue does not arise, but the best classes of citizens are in the most prominent position; but where the laws are not sovereign, then demagogues arise; for the common people become a single composite monarch, since the many are sovereign not as individuals but collectively. Yet what kind of democracy Homer2 means by the words ‘no blessing is the lordship of the many’—whether he means this kind or when those who rule as individuals are more numerous, is not clear. However, a people of this sort, as being monarch, seeks to exercise monarchic rule through not being ruled by the law, and becomes despotic, so that flatterers are held in honor. And a democracy of this nature is comparable to the tyrannical form of monarchy, because their spirit is the same, and both exercise despotic control over the better classes, and the decrees voted by the assembly [20] are like the commands issued in a tyranny, and the demagogues and the flatterers are the same people or a corresponding class, and either set has the very strongest influence with the respective ruling power, the flatterers with the tyrants and the demagogues with democracies of this kind. And these men cause the resolutions of the assembly to be supreme and not the laws, by referring all things to the people; for they owe their rise to greatness to the fact that the people is sovereign over all things while they are sovereign over the opinion of the people, for the multitude believes them. Moreover those who bring charges against the magistrates say that the people ought to judge the suits, and the people receive the invitation gladly, so that all the magistracies are put down. And it would seem to be a reasonable criticism to say that such a democracy is not a constitution at all; for where the laws do not govern there is no constitution, as the law ought to govern all things while the magistrates control particulars, and we ought to judge this to be constitutional government; if then democracy really is one of the forms of constitution, it is manifest that an organization of this kind, in which all things are administered by resolutions of the assembly, is not even a democracy in the proper sense, for it is impossible for a voted resolution to be a universal rule.

Let this be our discussion of the different kinds of democracy.

Of the kinds of oligarchy, one is for the magistracies to be appointed from property-assessments so high that the poor who are the majority have no share in the government, but for the man who acquires the requisite amount of property to be allowed to take part in it;

1 i.e. on the score of birth, cf. 5.4.

2 Hom. Il. 2.204

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 Greek (1957)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (3 total)
  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Antigone, 663
  • Cross-references to this page (1):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), BOU´KOLOI
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (1):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: