previous next
[1307a] [1] for some men being in distress because of the war put forward a claim to carry out a re-division of the land of the country). Also if a man is great and capable of being yet greater, he stirs up faction in order that he may be sole ruler (as Pausanias who commanded the army through the Persian war seems to have done at Sparta, and Hanno1 at Carthage).

But the actual overthrow of both constitutional governments and aristocracies is mostly due to a departure from justice in the actual framework of the constitution. For what starts it in the case of a constitutional government is that it does not contain a good blend of democracy and oligarchy; and in the case of an aristocracy it is the lack of a good blend of those two elements and of virtue, but chiefly of the two elements (I mean popular government and oligarchy), for both constitutional governments and most of the constitutions that are called aristocracies aim at blending these. For this2 is the point of distinction between aristocracies and what are called constitutional governments, and it is owing to this that some of them3 are less and others more stable; for the constitutions inclining more towards oligarchy men call aristocracies and those inclining more to the side of the multitude constitutional governments, owing to which those of the latter sort are more secure than the others, for the greater number is the stronger, and also men are more content when they have an equal amount, whereas the owners of wealthy properties, if the constitution gives them the superior position, [20] seek to behave insolently and to gain money. And speaking broadly, to whichever side the constitution leans, that is the side to which it shifts as either of the two parties increases its own side—a constitutional government shifts to democracy and an aristocracy to oligarchy, or to the opposite extremes, that is, aristocracy to democracy (for the poorer people feeling they are unjustly treated pull it round to the opposite) and constitutional governments to oligarchy (for the only lasting thing is equality in accordance with desert and the possession of what is their own). And the change mentioned4 came about at Thurii, for because the property-qualification for honors was too high, the constitution was altered to a lower property-qualification and to a larger number of official posts, but because the notables illegally bought up the whole of the land (for the constitution was too oligarchical, so that they were able to grasp at wealth) . . .5 And the people having been trained in the war overpowered the guards, until those who were in the position of having too much land relinquished it.

Besides, as all aristocratic constitutions are inclined towards oligarchy, the notables grasp at wealth (for example at Sparta the estates are coming into a few hands); and the notables have more power to do what they like, and to form marriage connections with whom they like (which was the cause of the fall of the state of Locri, as a result of the marriage with Dionysius,6 which would not have taken place in a democracy; nor in a well-blended aristocracy).

1 Perhaps Hanno who fought in Sicily against the elder Dionysius circa 4OO B.C.

2 i.e. their mode of blending oligarchy and democracy.

3 The writer loosely speaks of aristocracies and polities as a single class, differing only in degree of concentration of power in the hands of the upper classes.

4 i.e. from aristocracy to democracy. Possibly these events occurred after the defeat of Athens at Syracuse in 413 B.C., when the Athenian party at Thurii was banished (Lysias 835 D). The events in 8 were perhaps in the fourth century.

5 Probably a clause meaning ‘civil strife ensued’ has been lost.

6 See 1259a 28 n. He married in 397 B.C. the daughter of a Locrian citizen, who bore him the younger Dionysius.

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.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Thurii (2)
Syracuse (Italy) (1)
Sicily (Italy) (1)
Locri (Italy) (1)
Carthage (Tunisia) (1)
Athens (Greece) (1)

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

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
413 BC (1)
397 BC (1)
hide References (1 total)
  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Trachiniae, 1227
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: