Графични страници
PDF файл
[blocks in formation]

§ 177 HISTORY offers us few examples of aristocratical states Aristocracy and compared with the number of nations ruled by aristocracies. kings, and of those few the greater part have been short-lived and transitory. Most of these examples are supplied by small communities which ere long changed their forms of government and became democracies, or were merged into monarchies. Some have taken the opposite course; the principle of monarchy becoming weak, gave way, as we have seen, to a powerful nobility, who broke it up into fragments, until, in a new state of things, they could not maintain themselves against the impulse towards a stronger, more national government. We are entitled, by deductions from history, to lay down the principle that aristocracy is ordinarily capable of no long continuance, when it is the sole governing, or by far the strongest power in the state.

А body of nobles, equals, rivals, jealous, cannot act with any long concert, and are not adequate to the demands made upon them by the administration of a large country. They


generally destroy their own power by factions, and disgust the lower classes by haughtiness; or one faction unites wi these against another, thus modifying and perhaps destroying the constitution.

A different subject comes before us when aristocracy, as a power or order in a state, existing by the side of other orders, is called up for consideration. Some of the most vigorous nations have had an infusion of this element in their constitutions, and the relations of a nobility to royal power and to democracy, as well as the exact place it has occupied in developing national character and strength, are second in importance to few subjects in political science. After briefly treating of aristocratical governments we will consider this, so far as it has not been considered already in connection with other forms of government.

$ 178. In Greece, as we have seen, a basileus, or king of the earlier Aristocracy or uli- type, must have existed in every independent garchy in Greece.

community of the earliest historic and prehistoric ages, with a body of privileged men by his side, the chief men of the little state. In almost every city-state a time came when the kingly power ceased, and the chief power passed into the hands of a moderate number of families of ancient descent and of considerable possessions. The genealogies of the well-born sometimes went back into the mythic period. Thus a man of Gythium in Laconia, to whom honors are decreed by the people of the place, is described on an inscription as being a descendant in the thirty-ninth generation from the Dioscuri, and in the forty-first from Hercules. The distinction made by Aristotle (Pol., iii., 5, $ 4), between aristocracy—so called because the government is in the hands of the best, or because they govern for the greatest good of the state and of their associates—and oligarchy, which aims at the interests of the wealthy, may be neglected by us as we consider the states which are governed by a privileged few. When these few are of ancient extraction, of considerabl

wealth, and in the enjoyment of high consideration among the people, the government will often be mild and patriotic. But where another class arises of newly enriched families who demand privileges which are denied them by the old families, or where a few, a faction, and that a suspicious faction, have possession of power and wield it selfishly, such governments we describe as oligarchies. But there is no marked line separating the two types.

The names given by the Greeks to the members of this upper class, varied greatly in different communities. Sometimes they are called eupatrida, or by other names denoting birth (as evyevels, well-born), or are described by their property (as the rich, the well to do, eumopou), or the land-owners, if so we may translate the word yápopot, those who had a portion of the land, a name for this class in Samos, and at Syracuse as late as the Peloponnesian war.

Their names again might be derived from their position or their culture. Of this kind were the titles, the best, å plotot, and the kaloi kuyatoi, which were used also at Athens in the times of the democracy to denote the upper, more respectable part of society. Other names came from the kind of military service which they performed. Thus they were known in some places as horsemen (inteis), since the keeping of a horse in Greece implied a higher than the ordinary amount of wealth, or possibly as hoplites,* since the heavy-armed soldier needed servants in war to hold his shield, and perform other offices. All these ways of denoting the governing class run back to the possession of wealth, especially of land, and to birth, which in time was held in less and less honor. Wealth then remained with the privileges which it brought with it, as the basis of oligarchy, and when commerce grew up in favored cities and placed wealth in new families, these, in course of time, began to feel that they were equal to the old eupatridæ. It was natural and common for the upper class to

void marriages with the new families, but this usage being broken

* Comp. Aristot. Pol., vi., or iv., 10, § 10, and vi., or iv., 3, § 4.

« ПредишнаНапред »