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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsA Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter X
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A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter X Post by :hpandw Category :Nonfictions Author :Aristotle Date :January 2011 Read :1328

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A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter X

The government of Crete bears a near resemblance to this, in some few
particulars it is not worse, but in general it is far inferior in its
contrivance. For it appears and is allowed in many particulars the
constitution of Lacedaemon was formed in imitation of that of Crete;
and in general most new things are an improvement upon the old. For
they say, that when Lycurgus ceased to be guardian to King Charilles
he went abroad and spent a long time with his relations in Crete, for
the Lycians are a colony of the Lacedaemonians; and those who first
settled there adopted that body of laws which they found already
established by the inhabitants; in like manner also those who now live
near them have the very laws which Minos first drew up.

This island seems formed by nature to be the mistress of Greece, for
it is entirely surrounded by a navigable ocean which washes almost all
the maritime parts of that country, and is not far distant on the one
side from Peloponnesus, on the other, which looks towards Asia, from
Triopium and Rhodes. By means of this situation Minos acquired the
empire of the sea and the islands; some of which he subdued, in others
planted colonies: at last he died at Camicus while he was attacking
Sicily. There is this analogy between the customs of the
Lacedaemonians and the Cretans, the Helots cultivate the grounds
(1272a) for the one, the domestic slaves for the other. Both states
have their common meals, and the Lacedaemonians called these formerly
not _psiditia but _andpia_, as the Cretans do; which proves from
whence the custom arose. In this particular their governments are also
alike: the ephori have the same power with those of Crete, who are
called _kosmoi_; with this difference only, that the number of the one
is five, of the other ten. The senators are the same as those whom the
Cretans call the council. There was formerly also a kingly power in
Crete; but it was afterwards dissolved, and the command of their
armies was given to the _kosmoi_. Every one also has a vote in their
public assembly; but this has only the power of confirming what has
already passed the council and the _kosmoi_.

The Cretans conducted their public meals better than the
Lacedaemonians, for at Lacedsemon each individual was obliged to
furnish what was assessed upon him; which if he could not do, there
was a law which deprived him of the rights of a citizen, as has been
already mentioned: but in Crete they were furnished by the community;
for all the corn and cattle, taxes and contributions, which the
domestic slaves were obliged to furnish, were divided into parts and
allotted to the gods, the exigencies of the state, and these public
meals; so that all the men, women, and children were maintained from a
common stock. The legislator gave great attention to encourage a habit
of eating sparingly, as very useful to the citizens. He also
endeavoured, that his community might not be too populous, to lessen
the connection with women, by introducing the love of boys: whether in
this he did well or ill we shall have some other opportunity of
considering. But that the public meals were better ordered at Crete
than at Lacedaemon is very evident.

The institution of the _kosmoi_, was still worse than that of the
ephori: for it contained all the faults incident to that magistracy
and some peculiar to itself; for in both cases it is uncertain who
will be elected: but the Lacedae-monians have this advantage which the
others have not, that as all are eligible, the whole community have a
share in the highest honours, and therefore all desire to preserve the
state: whereas among the Cretans the _kosmoi are not chosen out of
the people in general, but out of some certain families, and the
senate out of the _kosmoi_. And the same observations which may be
made on the senate at Lacedaemon may be applied to these; for their
being under no control, and their continuing for life, is an honour
greater than they merit; and to have their proceedings not regulated
by a written law, but left to their own discretion, is dangerous. (As
to there being no insurrections, although the people share not in the
management of public affairs, this is no proof of a well-constituted
government, as the _kosmoi have no opportunity of being bribed like
the ephori, as they live in an (1272b) island far from those who would
corrupt them.) But the method they take to correct that fault is
absurd, impolitic, and tyrannical: for very often either their
fellow-magistrates or some private persons conspire together and turn
out the _kosmoi_. They are also permitted to resign their office
before their time is elapsed, and if all this was done by law it would
be well, and not at the pleasure of the individuals, which is a bad
rule to follow. But what is worst of all is, that general confusion
which those who are in power introduce to impede the ordinary course
of justice; which sufficiently shows what is the nature of the
government, or rather lawless force: for it is usual with the
principal persons amongst them to collect together some of the common
people and their friends, and then revolt and set up for themselves,
and come to blows with each other. And what is the difference, if a
state is dissolved at once by such violent means, or if it gradually
so alters in process of time as to be no longer the same constitution?
A state like this would ever be exposed to the invasions of those who
were powerful and inclined to attack it; but, as has been already
mentioned, its situation preserves it, as it is free from the inroads
of foreigners; and for this reason the family slaves still remain
quiet at Crete, while the Helots are perpetually revolting: for the
Cretans take no part in foreign affairs, and it is but lately that any
foreign troops have made an attack upon the island; and their ravages
soon proved the ineffectualness of their laws. And thus much for the
government of Crete.

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NEXT BOOKS

A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter XI A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter XI

A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter XI
The government of Carthage seems well established, and in manyrespects superior to others; in some particulars it bears a nearresemblance to the Lacedaemonians; and indeed these three states, theCretans, the Lacedaemonians and the Carthaginians are in some thingsvery like each other, in others they differ greatly. Amongst manyexcellent constitutions this may show how well their government isframed, that although the people are admitted to a share in theadministration, the form of it remains unaltered, without any popularinsurrections, worth notice, on the one hand, or degenerating into atyranny on the other. Now the Carthaginians have these things incommon with the Lacedaemonians: public
PREVIOUS BOOKS

A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter IX A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter IX

A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter IX
There are two considerations which offer themselves with respect tothe government established at Lacedsemon and Crete, and indeed inalmost all other states whatsoever; one is whether their laws do or donot promote the best establishment possible? the other is whetherthere is anything, if we consider either the principles upon which itis founded or the executive part of it, which prevents the form ofgovernment that they had proposed to follow from being observed; nowit is allowed that in every well-regulated state the members of itshould be free from servile labour; but in what manner this shall beeffected is not so easy to
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