Ancient Greece: Difference Between Aristocracy And Oligarchy

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HIST 1421 Introduction Ancient Greece was made up of a collection of poleis, translated as “city-state”. Each polis was politically and economically independent of one another (Cartwright, 2013). The city-states represented a large range of governmental forms. Aristotle defined six possible types of governments, all of which were represented. Taken from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Miller, 1998) Monarchy (kingship): Macedonia and Epeiros are examples of polis that were ruled by a monarch, though the monarch’s power was somewhat tempered by an assembly.(Cartwright, 2013). Sparta was well known for having two kings, though their power was only absolute during war campaigns. (Brand, n.d.). A monarchy typically put the power in the hands of a single ruler who was determined due to inheritance from the previous…show more content…
However, Aristotle considered Oligarchy to be a perversion of Aristocracy. (Miller, 1998). The difference between Aristocracy and Oligarchy, much like the difference between monarchy and tyranny is whether the government is for the people or self-interested. In practice, oligarchies were often a rule by the wealthy, and taking into consideration only the desires of the wealthy. (Gill, n.d.). In Athens, oligarchies would spring up to overthrow democracy periodically, such as in 411 BCE and in 404 BCE which was referred to as the rule of the “thirty tyrants”. (Cartwright, 2011) Polity: According to Kim (2013) when we talk about democracy, what we are referring to is actually a polity (from Aristotle’s point of view). Athens in 507 BCE is the classic example of a working democracy, which would have been considered a polity to Aristotle. In this system the power of the government is in the hands of the people, and everyone has an equal say in policy. Currently a representative democracy is more common, but in Athens every citizen (free male Athenians) had an equal vote.

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