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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsA Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter XII
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A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter XII Post by :thquah Category :Nonfictions Author :Aristotle Date :January 2011 Read :3062

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A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter XII

Some of those persons who have written upon government had never any
share in public affairs, but always led a private life. Everything
worthy of notice in their works we have already spoke to. Others were
legislators, some in their own cities, others were employed in
regulating the governments of foreign states. Some of them only
composed a body of laws; others formed the constitution also, as
Lycurgus; and Solon, who did both. The Lacedaemonians have been
already mentioned. Some persons think that Solon was an excellent
legislator, who could dissolve a pure oligarchy, and save the people
from that slavery which hung over them, and establish the ancient
democratic form of government in his country; wherein every part of it
was so framed as to be well adapted to the whole. In the senate of
Areopagus an oligarchy was preserved; by the manner of electing their
(1274a) magistrates, an aristocracy; and in their courts of justice, a
democracy.

Solon seems not to have altered the established form of government,
either with respect to the senate or the mode of electing their
magistrates; but to have raised the people to great consideration in
the state by allotting the supreme judicial department to them; and
for this some persons blame him, as having done what would soon
overturn that balance of power he intended to establish; for by trying
all causes whatsoever before the people, who were chosen by lot to
determine them, it was necessary to flatter a tyrannical populace who
had got this power; which contributed to bring the government to that
pure democracy it now is.

Both Ephialtes and Pericles abridged the power of the Areopagites, the
latter of whom introduced the method of paying those who attended the
courts of justice: and thus every one who aimed at being popular
proceeded increasing the power of the people to what we now see it.
But it is evident that this was not Solon's intention, but that it
arose from accident; for the people being the cause of the naval
victory over the Medes, assumed greatly upon it, and enlisted
themselves under factious demagogues, although opposed by the better
part of the citizens. He thought it indeed most necessary to entrust
the people with the choice of their magistrates and the power of
calling them to account; for without that they must have been slaves
and enemies to the other citizens: but he ordered them to elect those
only who were persons of good account and property, either out of
those who were worth five hundred medimns, or those who were called
xeugitai, or those of the third census, who were called horsemen.

As for those of the fourth, which consisted of mechanics, they were
incapable of any office. Zaleucus was the legislator of the Western
Locrians, as was Charondas, the Catanean, of his own cities, and those
also in Italy and Sicily which belonged to the Calcidians. Some
persons endeavour to prove that Onomacritus, the Locrian, was the
first person of note who drew up laws; and that he employed himself in
that business while he was at Crete, where he continued some time to
learn the prophetic art: and they say, that Thales was his companion;
and that Lycurgus and Zaleucus were the scholars of Thales, and
Charondas of Zaleucus; but those who advance this, advance what is
repugnant to chronology. Philolaus also, of the family of the
Bacchiades, was a Theban legislator. This man was very fond of
Diocles, a victor in the Olympic games, and when he left his country
from a disgust at an improper passion which his mother Alithoe had
entertained for him, and settled at Thebes, Philolaus followed him,
where they both died, and where they still show their tombs placed in
view of each other, but so disposed, that one of them looks towards
Corinth, the other does not; the reason they give for this is, that
Diodes, from his detestation of his mother's passion, would have his
tomb so placed that no one could see Corinth from it; but Philolaus
chose that it might be seen from his: and this was the cause of their
living at Thebes. (1274b)

As Philolaus gave them laws concerning many other things, so did he
upon adoption, which they call adoptive laws; and this he in
particular did to preserve the number of families. Charondas did
nothing new, except in actions for perjury, which he was the first
person who took into particular consideration. He also drew up his
laws with greater elegance and accuracy than even any of our present
legislators. Philolaus introduced the law for the equal distribution
of goods; Plato that for the community of women, children, and goods,
and also for public tables for the women; and one concerning
drunkenness, that they might observe sobriety in their symposiums. He
also made a law concerning their warlike exercises; that they should
acquire a habit of using both hands alike, as it was necessary that
one hand should be as useful as the other.

As for Draco's laws, they were published when the government was
already established, and they have nothing particular in them worth
mentioning, except their severity on account of the enormity of their
punishments. Pittacus was the author of some laws, but never drew up
any form of government; one of which was this, that if a drunken man
beat any person he should be punished more than if he did it when
sober; for as people are more apt to be abusive when drunk than sober,
he paid no consideration to the excuse which drunkenness might claim,
but regarded only the common benefit. Andromadas Regmus was also a
lawgiver to the Thracian talcidians. There are some laws of his
concerning murders and heiresses extant, but these contain nothing
that any one can say is new and his own. And thus much for different
sorts of governments, as well those which really exist as those which
different persons have proposed.

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