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Introduction.

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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.

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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 9 of 13

· Passages: Types of Democracy ·

1289a: 8-10: Multiple types of democracy happen to exist, despite some people saying there is only one type. [The same remark occurs at 1289a: 22-25, 1291b: 15-16, and 1316b: 36.]

1317a: 22-33: There are two reasons why there are several different types of democracy: their majorities or “peoples” are of different kinds (for example, farmers as opposed to craftsmen or laborers), and they can have different combinations of the institutions that make them democratic.

1289a: 22-23: The same laws cannot be advantageous for every type of democracy.

1291b: 30-1292a13: [This passage appears to list five types of democracy, but the next two passages list only four.]

  • The first type of democracy is particularly based on equality, where neither the rich nor the poor has pre-eminent authority, but both are similar [in their authority]. Still, since the majority rules and the “people” will be in the majority, this is a democracy.
  • Another type is when citizens have to meet a financial assessment to qualify for service in public offices, but the amount is low and any citizen possessing the required amount can have a share.
  • Another type is when anyone whose citizenship is not open to dispute [because they are descended from a family of citizens whose citizenship has never been questioned?] can have a share, and the law rules.
  • Another type is when absolutely everyone, so long as they are citizens [and even if they became citizens in a special way, such as being made citizens in political revolution, and did not inherit their citizenship], can have a share in public offices, and law rules.
  • Another type is the same in the other ways [as in type no. 4?] but the multitude rules, not law. This happens when decrees [passed by the multitude] have authority rather than the law having authority. Here demagogues arise, and the multitude becomes a monarch.

1292b: 22-1293a12: [There are only four types of democracy listed in this passage.]

  • One type of democracy is when farmers and those possessing a moderate amount of property have authority. They govern themselves in accordance with law because their work leaves them little leisure time. They therefore meet in the assembly only as absolutely necessary [to make decisions on matters not covered by the code of law]. A share [in the system of government] is open to anyone as soon as they meet the financial assessment set by law. They cannot be at leisure [for public service in governing] unless there is public revenue [to subsidize their participation].
  • A second type is when anyone whose citizenship is beyond question by his descent is entitled to have a share but only those with leisure [for public service in governing] actually have a share. The laws rule because there is no public revenue.
  • A third type is when all who are free are entitled to a share in the system of government, but they do not in fact take part for the reason previously stated. Therefore, law necessarily rules.
  • A fourth type is the last type to arise in cities. Since cities have become far larger than before and have public revenue from which to pay subsidies for public service, everyone is now able to participate. Even the poor have the leisure for public service thanks to the payments. Their private business and affairs are not an impediment for their public service, but such things are an impediment for the rich, who therefore frequently avoid service in the assembly or the courts. In this way the multitude of the poor wins authority over the system of government, not the laws.

1296b: 24-31: Where the quantity of the multitude of the poor is so large as to overbalance the quality of the rich, according to the formula just explained [in the text preceding this passage], there democracy springs up naturally. What type of democracy it is will depend on what type of population is preeminent. For example, if it is a multitude of farmers, then it will be the first type of democracy it is the first kind. If it is a multitude of craftsmen and wage-earners, then it will be the final type, and so on with the types in between.

1318b: 6-1319a3: There being four types of democracy, the best is the first in the arrangement previously mentioned [namely, in 1292b22-1293-1293a12, as listed above]. This type of democracy has a multitude that is mostly farmers or herders, whose work keeps them too busy to meet frequently in the assembly. They do not wish to serve in offices, where there is no great profit in it. Everyone will elect magistrates and conduct audits of them and serve in the courts, but those elected to office will meet financial assessments or, if there is no such requirement, will be capable people.

Plot on a Map
Aphytis (in text as “Aphyteans”).

1319a: 4-19: This is the best democracy because of what sort of people ( demos ) it has. If one would like to institute a farming demos , one should look to the law of the Aphyteans, who divide their little amount of land into very small plots so that everyone, even the poor, has enough land to meet the financial requirement for sharing in citizenship.

1319a: 20-38: Next best to having a multitude consisting of farmers is to have a herding people. The herding class have strong bodies and dispositions fit for military service. The other sorts of multitudes from which democracies are constituted are far worse. For craftsmen, merchants, and laborers lead lives devoid of excellence, and they are always in the marketplace and in the city and thus able to attend assemblies. It is easier to create a good democracy in a place where the fields of the city-state are located at some distance from the city and the multitude must dwell out in the country [to work in the fields and are thus not easily able to come to the urban center to attend meetings]. Even where there is a crowd of merchants, assemblies should not be held without the multitude from the country.

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Athens.

1319b: 1-32: The final type of democracy, in which everyone is in the partnership, is not easy for every city to maintain, nor is it easy for this type to endure because its laws and its habits are not well composed. Demagogues expand its citizen body by allowing in those of illegitimate birth or born to only one citizen parent. If the rabble grow too numerous, they create disorder and can provoke the notable members of the population to resistance against the democracy. This type of democracy is made stronger by introducing institutions to mix everyone up together, as Cleisthenes did at Athens. This type of democracy promotes disorderly living, with a lack of control over women, children, and slaves, and a toleration for everyone living as he pleases, for the many prefer living like this to living with prudence and moderation.

1298b: 13-19: The democracy today considered the most democratic—namely, the type in which the people ( demos ) has authority even over the laws—arranges things to serve its own advantage in the deliberative body: they pay the poor to attend.

1305a: 28-32: A change from ancestral democracy to the newest democracy can occur. If the people elect the magistrates and there is no minimum financial requirement, then those eager for office act as demagogues to accomplish this and give the people authority over the laws.

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Leucas.

1266b: 21-24: The system of government at Leucas became excessively democratic when offices were no longer filled according to the established minimum property requirement based on “old allotments” of land [but instead the requirement was lowered].

1312b: 4-6: The final type of democracy is a tyranny.

1313b: 32-41 The final form of democracy has characteristics of tyranny: women dominate in the household so that they can denounce their husbands, slaves lack discipline, and flatterers—demagogues—are held in honor. The people wish to be a monarch.

1295b: 39-1296a5: It is best for citizens in a city-state to possess a moderate amount of wealth because where some have a lot and some have none the result is the ultimate democracy or unmixed oligarchy. Tyranny can result from both these extremes. It is much less likely to spring from moderate systems of government.

1311a: 15-16: Taking after democracy, tyranny makes war on the notables in the citizen body.

1276a: 12-14: Some democracies, like tyrannies, rest on force and are not directed toward the common advantage.

1277b: 1-3: In some places in the old days, before the development of “ultimate” democracy, craftsmen were barred from office.

1312b: 35-38: Ultimate democracy, like unmixed and final oligarchy, is really a tyranny divided [among a multitude of persons].

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