Printer Friendly

Book V: Chapter X 


It now remains that we speak of monarchies, their causes of corruption, and means of preservation; and indeed almost the same things which have been said of other governments happen to kingdoms and tyrannies; for a kingdom partakes of an aristocracy, a tyranny of the worst species of an oligarchy and democracy; for which reason it is the worst that man can submit to, as being composed of two, both of which are bad, and collectively retains all the corruptions and all the defects of both these states. These two species of monarchies arise from principles contrary to each other: a kingdom is formed to protect the better sort of people against the multitude, and kings are appointed out of those, who are chosen either for their superior virtue and actions flowing from virtuous principles, or else from their noble descent; but a tyrant is chosen out of the meanest populace; an enemy to the better sort, that the common people may not be oppressed by them. That this is true experience convinces us; for the generality of tyrants were indeed mere demagogues, who gained credit with the people by oppressing the nobles. Some tyrannies were established in this manner after the cities were considerably enlarged--others before that time, by kings who exceeded the power which their country allowed them, from a desire of governing despotically: others were founded by those who were elected to the superior offices in the state; for formerly the people appointed officers for life, who came to be at the head of civil and religious affairs, and these chose one out of their body in whom the supreme power over all the magistrates was placed. By all these means it was easy to establish a tyranny, if they chose it; for their power was ready at hand, either by their being kings, or else by enjoying the honours of the state; thus Phidon at Argos and other tyrants enjoyed originally the kingly power; Phalaris and others in Ionia, the honours of the state. Pansetius at Leontium, Cypselus at Corinth, Pisistratus at Athens, Dionysius at Syracuse, and others, acquired theirs by having been demagogues. A kingdom, as we have said, partakes much of the nature of an aristocracy, and is bestowed according to worth, as either virtue, family, beneficent actions, or these joined with power; for those who have been benefactors to cities and states, or have it in their powers to be so, have acquired this honour, and those who have prevented a people from falling into slavery by war, as Codrus, or those who have freed them from it, as Cyrus, or the founders of cities, or settlers of colonies, as the kings of Sparta, Macedon, and Molossus. A king desires to be the guardian of his people, that those who have property may be secure in the possession of it, and that the people in general meet with no injury; but a tyrant, as has been often said, has no regard to the common good, except for his own advantage; his only object is pleasure, but a king's is virtue: what a tyrant therefore is ambitious of engrossing is wealth, but a king rather honour. The guards too of a king are citizens, a tyrant's foreigners.

That a tyranny contains all that is bad both in a democracy and an oligarchy is evident; with an oligarchy it has for its end gain, as the only means of providing the tyrant with guards and the luxuries of life; like that it places no confidence in the people; and therefore deprives them of the use of arms: it is also common to them both to persecute the populace, to drive them out of the city and their own habitations. With a democracy it quarrels with the nobles, and destroys them both publicly and privately, or drives them into banishment, as rivals and an impediment to the government; hence naturally arise conspiracies both amongst those who desire to govern and those who desire not to be slaves; hence arose Periander's advice to Thrasybulus to take off the tallest stalks, hinting thereby, that it was necessary to make away with the eminent citizens. We ought then in reason, as has been already said, to account for the changes which arise in a monarchy from the same causes which produce them in other states: for, through injustice received, fear, and contempt, many of those who are under a monarchical government conspire against it; but of all species of injustice, injurious contempt has most influence on them for that purpose: sometimes it is owing to their being deprived of their private fortunes. The dissolution too of a kingdom and a tyranny are generally the same; for monarchs abound in wealth and honour, which all are desirous to obtain. Of plots: some aim at the life of those who govern, others at their government; the first arises from hatred to their persons; which hatred may be owing to many causes, either of which will be sufficient to excite their anger, and the generality of those who are under the influence of that passion will join in a conspiracy, not for the sake of their own advancement, but for revenge. Thus the plot against the children of Pisistratus arose from their injurious treatment of Harmodius's sister, and insulting him also; for Harmodius resenting the injury done to his sister, and Aristogiton the injury done to Harmodius. Periander the tyrant of Ambracia also lost his life by a conspiracy, for some improper liberties he took with a boy in his cups: and Philip was slain by Pausanias for neglecting to revenge him of the affront he had received from Attains; as was Amintas the Little by Darda, for insulting him on account of his age; and the eunuch by Evagoras the Cyprian in revenge for having taken his son's wife away from him ....

Many also who have had their bodies scourged with stripes have, through resentment, either killed those who caused them to be inflicted or conspired against them, even when they had kingly power, as at Mitylene Megacles, joining with his friends, killed the Penthelidee, who used to go about striking those they met with clubs. Thus, in later times, Smendes killed Penthilus for whipping him and dragging him away from his wife. Decamnichus also was the chief cause of the conspiracy against Archelaus, for he urged others on: the occasion of his resentment was his having delivered him to Euripides the poet to be scourged; for Euripides was greatly offended with him for having said something of the foulness of his breath. And many others have been killed or conspired against on the same account. Fear too is a cause which produces the same effects, as well in monarchies as in other states: thus Artabanes conspired against Xerxes through fear of punishment for having hanged Darius according to his orders, whom he supposed he intended to pardon, as the order was given at supper-time. Some kings also have been [1312a] dethroned and killed in consequence of the contempt they were held in by the people; as some one conspired against Sardanapalus, having seen him spinning with his wife, if what is related of him is true, or if not of him, it may very probably be true of some one else. Dion also conspired against Dionysius the Younger, seeing his subjects desirous of a conspiracy, and that he himself was always drunk: and even a man's friends will do this if they despise him; for from the confidence he places in them, they think that they shall not be found out. Those also who think they shall gain his throne will conspire against a king through contempt; for as they are powerful themselves, and despise the danger, on account of their own strength, they will readily attempt it. Thus a general at the head of his army will endeavour to dethrone the monarch, as Cyrus did Astyages, despising both his manner of life and his forces; his forces for want of action, his life for its effeminacy: thus Suthes, the Thracian, who was general to Amadocus, conspired against him. Sometimes more than one of these causes will excite men to enter into conspiracies, as contempt and desire of gain; as in the instance of Mithridates against Ariobarzanes. Those also who are of a bold disposition, and have gained military honours amongst kings, will of all others be most like to engage in sedition; for strength and courage united inspire great bravery: whenever, therefore, these join in one person, he will be very ready for conspiracies, as he will easily conquer. Those who conspire against a tyrant through love of glory and honour have a different motive in view from what I have already mentioned; for, like all others who embrace danger, they have only glory and honour in view, and think, not as some do, of the wealth and pomp they may acquire, but engage in this as they would in any other noble action, that they may be illustrious and distinguished, and destroy a tyrant, not to succeed in his tyranny, but to acquire renown. No doubt but the number of those who act upon this principle is small, for we must suppose they regard their own safety as nothing in case they should not succeed, and must embrace the opinion of Dion (which few can do) when he made war upon Dionysius with a very few troops; for he said, that let the advantage he made be ever so little it would satisfy him to have gained it; and that, should it be his lot to die the moment he had gained footing in his country, he should think his death sufficiently glorious. A tyranny also is exposed to the same destruction as all other states are, from too powerful neighbours: for it is evident, that an opposition of principles will make them desirous of subverting it; and what they desire, all who can, do: and there is a principle of opposition in one state to another, as a democracy against a tyranny, as says Hesiod, "a potter against a potter;" for the extreme of a democracy is a tyranny; a kingly power against an aristocracy, from their different forms of government--for which reason the Lacedaemonians destroyed many tyrannies; as did the Syracusians during the prosperity of their state. Nor are they only destroyed from without, but also from within, when those who have no share in the power bring about a revolution, as happened to Gelon, and lately to Dionysius; to the first, by means of Thrasybulus, the brother of Hiero, who nattered Gelon's son, and induced him to lead a life of pleasure, that he himself might govern; but the family joined together and endeavoured to support the tyranny and expel Thrasybulus; but those whom they made of their party seized the opportunity and expelled the whole family. Dion made war against his relation Dionysius, and being assisted by the people, first expelled and then killed him. As there are two causes which chiefly induce men to conspire against tyrants, hatred and contempt, one of these, namely hatred, seems inseparable from them. Contempt also is often the cause of their destruction: for though, for instance, those who raised themselves to the supreme power generally preserved it; but those who received it from them have, to speak truth, almost immediately all of them lost it; for, falling into an effeminate way of life, they soon grew despicable, and generally fell victims to conspiracies. Part of their hatred may be very fitly ascribed to anger; for in some cases this is their motive to action: for it is often a cause which impels them to act more powerfully than hatred, and they proceed with greater obstinacy against those whom they attack, as this passion is not under the direction of reason. Many persons also indulge this passion through contempt; which occasioned the fall of the Pisistratidae and many others. But hatred is more powerful than anger; for anger is accompanied with grief, which prevents the entrance of reason; but hatred is free from it. In short, whatever causes may be assigned as the destruction of a pure oligarchy unmixed with any other government and an extreme democracy, the same may be applied to a tyranny; for these are divided tyrannies.

Kingdoms are seldom destroyed by any outward attack; for which reason they are generally very stable; but they have many causes of subversion within; of which two are the principal; one is when those who are in power [1313a] excite a sedition, the other when they endeavour to establish a tyranny by assuming greater power than the law gives them. A kingdom, indeed, is not what we ever see erected in our times, but rather monarchies and tyrannies; for a kingly government is one that is voluntarily submitted to, and its supreme power admitted upon great occasions: but where many are equal, and there are none in any respect so much better than another as to be qualified for the greatness and dignity of government over them, then these equals will not willingly submit to be commanded; but if any one assumes the government, either by force or fraud, this is a tyranny. To what we have already said we shall add, the causes of revolutions in an hereditary kingdom. One of these is, that many of those who enjoy it are naturally proper objects of contempt only: another is, that they are insolent while their power is not despotic; but they possess kingly honours only. Such a state is soon destroyed; for a king exists but while the people are willing to obey, as their submission to him is voluntary, but to a tyrant involuntary. These and such-like are the causes of the destruction of monarchies.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters