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Instructions for reading passages.

Passages: Defining the City State.

Passages: Defining the Citizen.

Passages: Defining the System of Government.

Passages: Defining Democracy.

Passages: Types of Democracy.

→ Passages: Creating Democracy.

Passages: Preserving Democracy.

Passages: Destroying Democracy.

Selective Bibliography.

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Democracy in the Politics of Aristotle  

Thomas R. Martin, with Neel Smith & Jennifer F.Stuart, edition of July 26, 2003

page 10 of 13

· Passages: Creating Democracy ·

1286b: 11-22: When there came to be many men alike in their excellence, they ceased to put up with kingship and instead, seeking something shared, established a polity. As they became [morally] worse and began to make a profit from common affairs [or “resources”], oligarchies arose, for they made wealth something honorable. Then these oligarchies changed first into tyrannies, and from tyrannies into democracies. For by always bringing power to ever fewer people in search of base profit, they made the multitude stronger, which attacked [the ruler(s)], and democracies arose. Now that city-states have become even larger than before, it is not very easy for any system of government but a democracy to come into existence.

1301a: 28-31: [Rule by the] people developed because those who are equal in whatever way suppose that they are quite simply equal [in all ways]. Since they are all free in like manner, they think they are quite simply equal.

1292b: 11-14: It happens that a system of government may not be democratic in terms of its laws but is still governed democratically on account of the habit and upbringing of the citizens.

1296a: 22-36: When there is factional strife between rich and poor because there is not a strong “middle” [in the citizen body], the conflict leads to either democracy or oligarchy, depending on who wins. Once the fight is decided, the victors do not establish a shared or equal system of government; rather, they establish one to their own advantage.

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1305a: 37-1305b11: Mistreating the people can lead to the overthrow of oligarchy and the establishment of [the rule of] the people, as at Istros.

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1303a: 1-10: A system of government can be changed into a democracy when the size of the multitude of the poor increases, as occurred at Tarentum, Argos, and Athens.

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1273b: 35-1274a15: Some people say that Solon did away with an excessively unmixed oligarchy [at Athens] and ended the enslavement of the people (demos), thus founding the ancestral democracy, which had a mixture of oligarchic, aristocratic, and democratic elements. In fact, what he did was to create [the rule of the] people by founding courts whose juries were drawn from the entire citizen body. Later leaders continued [to increase the power of the people], leading to the present [more democratic] democracy. It really was not Solon’s intention for this to happen. But because the people were the source of Athenian naval strength in the wars against Persia, they began to have high aspirations [for political power] and to choose unworthy demagogues as leaders when socially more respectable citizens opposed this development.

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1304a: 17-34: Changes towards democracy (or another type of government) can come about when a magistracy or some part of the city-state grows in power. This led to greater democracy at Athens after the war with Persia, when those who rowed in the fleet became the cause of the victory at Salamis and of the leadership [over its Greek allies] that Athens earned from its naval strength. So, too, at Syracuse, Chalcis, and Ambracia the people set up democracies after their participation in battle was the crucial element enabling their city-state to be victorious in war.

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page 10 of 13