The Ancient Library

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the classification of constitutions: the claims and character of oligarchy.

§ 1. The Popular Classification of Constitutions.

the genius of the Greeks, which has given them a sure and lasting preeminence as political inventors and political theorists, made them conscious at a comparatively early date of the variety of governments under which they lived. The ruling element, as Aristotle says, must be one man, or a few men, or the multitude1: and this distinction, which has served ever since as the basis of classification, is recorded for the first time by Pindar in language that is neither technical nor precise2. In his words 'tyranny, the ravening host and the wise wardens of the city' denote monarchy, democracy and oligarchy: and the poet reveals his preference for the government of the few by the choice of the epithets that he employs8. Thus from

1 Pol. iii 6 1279 a 25 TroAfrei/jto 5' iirrl rl> /ctfpioc r£v Ttt>\etav, fodyiai 8' efroi Kvpiav i) (no. ij 6\tyovs 17 roiis iro\Xoi/s.

2 Pyth. 2 86 (v vivra. Si ftiuui..... | irapa, TvpavvlSt, •xiaTrlrrav & \Af)pos ffrparbs, | x^*™-" irAXw oi aortal tt/^wcti. Homer II. ii 204 ofa dyaSm Tro\vKoipa.viif" els nolpavos ttrru, gives us the first reflection "on politics.

3 The political application of the commonest moral epithets is found in Tlieognis, although he does not expressly moralize on forms of govern­ment.

W. 1

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