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[1295b] [1] In all states therefore there exist three divisions of the state, the very rich, the very poor, and thirdly those who are between the two. Since then it is admitted that what is moderate or in the middle is best, it is manifest that the middle amount of all of the good things of fortune is the best amount to possess. For this degree of wealth is the readiest to obey reason, whereas for a person who is exceedingly beautiful or strong or nobly born or rich, or the opposite—exceedingly poor or weak or of very mean station, it is difficult to follow the bidding of reason; for the former turn more to insolence and grand wickedness, and the latter overmuch to malice and petty wickedness, and the motive of all wrongdoing is either insolence or malice. And moreover the middle class are the least inclined to shun office and to covet office,1 and both these tendencies are injurious to states. And in addition to these points, those who have an excess of fortune's goods, strength, wealth, friends and the like, are not willing to be governed and do not know how to be (and they have acquired this quality even in their boyhood from their homelife, which was so luxurious that they have not got used to submitting to authority even in school), while those who are excessively in need of these things are too humble. Hence the latter class do not know how to govern but know how to submit to [20] government of a servile kind, while the former class do not know how to submit to any government, and only know how to govern in the manner of a master. The result is a state consisting of slaves and masters, not of free men, and of one class envious and another contemptuous of their fellows. This condition of affairs is very far removed from friendliness, and from political partnership—for friendliness is an element of partnership, since men are not willing to be partners with their enemies even on a journey. But surely the ideal of the state is to consist as much as possible of persons that are equal and alike, and this similarity is most found in the middle classes; therefore the middle-class state will necessarily be best constituted in respect of those elements2 of which we say that the state is by nature composed. And also this class of citizens have the greatest security in the states; for they do not themselves covet other men's goods as do the poor, nor do the other classes covet their substance as the poor covet that of the rich; and because they are neither plotted against nor plotting they live free from danger. Because of this it was a good prayer of Phocylides3— “ In many things the middle have the best;
Be mine a middle station.
” It is clear therefore also that the political community administered by the middle class is the best, and that it is possible for those states to be well governed that are of the kind in which the middle class is numerous, and preferably stronger than both the other two classes, or at all events than one of them, for by throwing in its weight it sways the balance and prevents the opposite extremes4 from coming into existence. Hence it is the greatest good fortune if the men that have political power possess a moderate and sufficient substance,

1 The text is an emendation; some MSS. give ‘to rule the tribe and to rule the council,’ but most have ‘to love office and rule the council,’ apparently thinking that the verb translated ‘rule the council’ meant ‘wish office.’

2 Probably Lambinus's alteration of the Greek should be accepted, giving ‘hence that state will necessarily be best governed which consists of those elements—.’

3 A gnomic poet of Miletus, born 560 B.C.

4 i.e. extreme democracy and very limited oligarchy.

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