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For Aristotle, there was an essential distinction between the two Greek forms of monarchia (one-man-rule), namely basileia, traditional kingship according to established forms of law, and tyrannis, the rule of a tyrant. They differed in their very origin. Kingship, says Aristotle, 'came into existence for the purpose of helping the better classes [hoi epieikeis--just another name for the propertied class] against the demos' (common people), whereas tyrants arose 'from among the common people and masses, in opposition to the notables [hoi gnorimoi], so that the demos should not suffer injustice at their hands ... The great majority of the tyrants began as demagogues, so to speak, and won confidence by calumniating the notables' (Pol. V. 10, 1310). A little later he says that the king 'wishes to be guardian of society, so that those who possess property may suffer no injustice and the demos may not be subjected to arrogant treatment', whereas the tyrant does just the opposite and in practice considers only his own interests. The tyrants, who had fulfilled their historic role long before Aristotle's day and by this time were often the oppressive and despotic figures he conceives most tyrants to have been, receive almost uniformly hostile treatment in our surviving sources. One single figure emerges only slightly tarnished: the Athenian tyrant Peisistratus, who receives some positive encomia from Herodotus, Thucydides and Aristotle.

I must not leave the subject of Greek tyranny without recalling some passages in Marx, inspired by the seizure of power in France by Louis Napoleon in December 1851: these are cited in II.iii above.

Ste. Croix, The Class truggle in the Ancient Greek World, p 284
by Cat on Mon Jan 11th, 2021 at 03:00:18 PM EST
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