Aristotle, Politics

LCL 264: 210-211

Go To Section
Go To Section


1279 b συμβεβηκός ἐστιν, τὸ μὲν ταῖς ὀλιγαρχίαις τὸ δὲ ταῖς δημοκρατίαις, διὰ τὸ τοὺς μὲν εὐπόρους ὀλίγους πολλοὺς δ᾿ εἶναι τοὺς ἀπόρους πανταχοῦ (διὸ καὶ οὐ συμβαίνει τὰς ῥηθείσας αἰτίας γίνεσθαι 40διαφορᾶς), ᾧ δὲ διαφέρουσιν ἥ τε δημοκρατία καὶ 1280 aἡ ὀλιγαρχία ἀλλήλων πενία καὶ πλοῦτός ἐστιν· καὶ ἀναγκαῖον μὲν ὅπου ἂν ἄρχωσι διὰ πλοῦτον, ἄν τ᾿ ἐλάττους ἄν τε πλείους, εἶναι ταύτην ὀλιγαρχίαν, ὅπου δ᾿ οἱ ἄποροι, δημοκρατίαν, ἀλλὰ συμβαίνει, καθάπερ εἴπομεν, τοὺς μὲν ὀλίγους εἶναι 5τοὺς δὲ πολλούς, εὐποροῦσι μὲν γὰρ ὀλίγοι τῆς δ᾿ ἐλευθερίας μετέχουσι πάντες, δι᾿ ἃς αἰτίας ἀμφισβητοῦσιν ἀμφότεροι τῆς πολιτείας.

Ληπτέον δὲ πρῶτον τίνας ὅρους λέγουσι τῆς8 ὀλιγαρχίας καὶ δημοκρατίας, καὶ τί τὸ δίκαιον τό τε ὀλιγαρχικὸν καὶ δημοκρατικόν. πάντες γὰρ 10ἅπτονται δικαίου τινός, ἀλλὰ μέχρι τινὸς προέρχονται, καὶ λέγουσιν οὐ πᾶν τὸ κυρίως δίκαιον. οἷον δοκεῖ ἴσον τὸ δίκαιον1 εἶναι, καὶ ἔστιν, ἀλλ᾿ οὐ πᾶσιν ἀλλὰ τοῖς ἴσοις· καὶ τὸ ἄνισον δοκεῖ δίκαιον εἶναι, καὶ γάρ ἐστιν, ἀλλ᾿ οὐ πᾶσιν ἀλλὰ τοῖς ἀνίσοις· οἱ δὲ τοῦτ᾿ ἀφαιροῦσι, τὸ οἷς, καὶ κρίνουσι 15κακῶς. τὸ δ᾿ αἴτιον ὅτι περὶ αὑτῶν ἡ κρίσις, σχεδὸν δ᾿ οἱ πλεῖστοι φαῦλοι κριταὶ περὶ τῶν οἰκείων. ὥστ᾿ ἐπεὶ τὸ δίκαιον τισίν, καὶ διῄρηται9 τὸν αὐτὸν τρόπον ἐπί τε τῶν πραγμάτων


Politics, III. V.

of oligarchies in the one case and democracies in the other, due to the fact that the rich are few and the poor are many everywhere (so that it is not really the case that the points mentioned constitute a specific difference), but that the real thing in which democracy and oligarchy differ from each other is poverty and wealth; and it necessarily follows that wherever the rulers owe their power to wealth, whether they be a minority or a majority, this is an oligarchy, and when the poor rule, it is a democracy, although it does accidentally happen, as we said, that where the rulers hold power by wealth they are few and where they hold power by poverty they are many, because few men are rich but all men possess freedom, and wealth and freedom are the grounds on which the two classes lay claim to the government.8 And first we must ascertain what are stated to be The distribution of power. Justice is not the equality of the unequal: the determining qualities of oligarchy and democracy, and what is the principle of justice under the one form of government and under the other. For all men lay hold on justice of some sort, but they only advance to a certain point, and do not express the principle of absolute justice in its entirety. For instance, it is thought that justice is equality, and so it is, though not for everybody but only for those who are equals; and it is thought that inequality is just, for so indeed it is, though not for everybody, but for those who are unequal; but these partisans strip away the qualification of the persons concerned, and judge badly. And the cause of this is that they are themselves concerned in the decision, and perhaps most men are bad judges9 when their own interests are in question. Hence inasmuch as ‘just’ means just for certain persons, and it is divided in the same way in relation to the

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.aristotle-politics.1932