Dēmos · Classical Athenian Democracy · a Stoa Publication
→ Passages: Destroying Democracy.
Thomas R. Martin, with Neel Smith & Jennifer F.Stuart, edition of July 26, 2003
page 12 of 13
1304b: 20-1305a7: The main cause of the overthrow of democracies is the outrageous behavior of demagogues. By attacking [rich] property owners they motivate them to band together out of fear, and they also spur on the people [to try to bleed the rich]. In this way democracy has been overthrown at numerous places: Cos, Rhodes, Heracleia, Megara, Cyme. This is more or less the way democracies are destroyed. To win popular support, demagogues propose unjust treatment for the notables and thus force them to band together, by making them give up their property for redivision, or by having them expend their resources on public service, or by slandering them to force confiscations of their property.
1311a: 22-26: The same beginnings lead to the overthrow of polities and monarchies alike. For those who are ruled attack monarchies on account of injustice, fear, and contempt.
1301b: 26-29: Factional conflict (
1303b: 6-7: In democracies, the notables cause factional conflict because they have [only] an equal share in things even though [in their own eyes] they are not equal [to everybody else but feel superior and therefore feel they should possess more political power, etc. than those whom they see as their inferiors].
1302a: 31-34: Factional conflict is the result of fighting to gain profit and honor and to avoid their opposites, dishonor and penalties.
Plot on a Map
1302b: 21-24: Fear causes factional conflict, both when men fear punishment for injustice they have committed and also when they fear being treated unjustly. At Rhodes, for example, the notables rebelled against the people on account of legal prosecutions that were being brought against them.
1302b: 27-33: Factional conflict occurs in democracies when the rich feel contempt for the disorder and anarchy [of the government], as at Thebes and Megara following defeats in battle and on Rhodes preceding the rebellion [of the notables].
1302b: 15-18: Factional conflict can arise when there is a person or a group whose power exceeds that of the city-state or its government. The institution of ostracism came into being to prevent this.
1308b: 20-22: Since men’s private lives can lead them to seek the overthrow of the system of government, a magistracy is needed to oversee those living against the common advantage of the city-state, for example, in a democracy those living lives disadvantageous for democracy.
1303b: 7-12: City-states sometimes fall into factions on account of their topography. At Athens, for example, the citizens ones living in the Piraeus [the harbor district] are more democratic than those in the urban center.
1302a: 8-13: Democracy is more stable and less prone to factional conflict than oligarchy. In an oligarchy there are two types of possible conflict, namely, conflict between the oligarchs themselves and conflict between the oligarchs and the people. In a democracy, however, there is only conflict between citizens favoring democracy and citizens favoring oligarchy, as no serious factional conflict arises in the people [that is, those favoring democracy] against themselves.
page 12 of 13