previous next
[1301b] [1] for they alone can with the fullest reason be deemed absolutely unequal. And there are some men who being superior in birth claim unequal rights because of this inequality; for persons who have ancestral virtue and wealth behind them are thought to be noble.

These then roughly speaking are the starting-points and sources of factions, which give rise to party strife (and revolutions due to this take place in two ways: sometimes they are in regard to the constitution, and aim at changing from the one established to another, for instance from democracy to oligarchy, or to democracy from oligarchy, or from these to constitutional government and aristocracy, or from those to these; but sometimes the revolution is not in regard to the established constitution, but its promoters desire the same form of government, for instance oligarchy or monarchy, but wish it to be in their own control. Again it may be a question of degree; for instance, when there is an oligarchy the object may be to change to a more oligarchical government or to a less, or when there is a democracy to a more or to a less democratic government, and similarly in the case of the remaining constitutions, the aim may be either to tighten them up or to relax them. Or again the aim may be to change a certain part of the constitution, for example to establish or abolish a certain magistracy, as according to some accounts Lysander [20] attempted to abolish the kingship at Sparta and the king Pausanias the ephorate1; and also at Epidamnus the constitution was altered in part, for they set up a council instead of the tribal rulers, and it is still compulsory for the magistrates alone of the class that has political power to come to the popular assembly when an appointment to a magistracy is put to the vote; and the single supreme magistrate was also an oligarchical feature in this constitution). For party strife is everywhere due to inequality, where classes that are unequal do not receive a share of power in proportion (for a lifelong monarchy is an unequal feature when it exists among equals); for generally the motive for factious strife is the desire for equality. But equality is of two kinds, numerical equality and equality according to worth—by numerically equal I mean that which is the same and equal in number or dimension, by equal according to worth that which is equal by proportion2; for instance numerically 3 exceeds 2 and 2 exceeds 1 by an equal amount, but by proportion 4 exceeds 2 and 2 exceeds 1 equally, since 2 and 1 are equal parts of 4 and 2, both being halves. But although men agree that the absolutely just is what is according to worth, they disagree (as was said before3) in that some think that if they are equal in something they are wholly equal, and others claim that if they are unequal in something they deserve an unequal share of all things. Owing to this two principal varieties of constitution come into existence, democracy and oligarchy; for noble birth and virtue are found in few men, but the qualifications specified4 in more:

1 See 1307a 34 n.

2 This ethical arithmetic is helped out in Greek by the fact that, even without the qualification κατ᾽ ἀξίαν, ἴσος often means ‘equal to desert,’ fair, just.

3 See 1301a 27 ff. and note.

4 That is, numbers and wealth.

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.
Epidamnus (Albania) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (1):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), PHYLARCHI
  • Cross-references in notes to this page (1):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: