The Ancient Library
 

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2 CLASSIFICATION OF CONSTITUTIONS. [CH. L

the first we find constitutional forms and political parties described in moral terms, and this tendency did much to confuse the political terminology of the Greeks*. The use of such terms could never be altogether consistent, for the advocates of oligarchy and democracy used identical phrases of praise and abuse, and applied them, as might suit their purpose or occasion, to describe opposite parties and dif­ferent forms of government6.

There is no rhetorical commonplace so constantly em­ployed as the comparison of the three constitutions or the contrast of the principles of oligarchy and democracy : it was a universal topic with the rhetors and sophists, who taught their pupils the stock descriptions of each consti­tution, and directed them to adapt their epithets and suit their conclusions to the taste of their audience8. By the time of Herodotus this criticism of constitutions was already in fashion, and the scientific terms of monarchy, oligarchy and democracy had been introduced7. The his-

4 It will be seen below how inconsistent and ambiguous the use of many political terms is.

5 It would be beside my purpose to discuss this subject here: but there is abundant evidence in the orators that the epithets and qualities, which are supposed to have acquired a special political application in the mouths of oligarchs, were employed in an absolutely opposite way by speakers wishing to say pleasant things to a democracy. Instances could be quoted of evpofila, euroi-la. and <rw<ppoir<jini (the particular virtues of oligarchies) attributed to the democratic constitution: while iroinjpla, ^o-^Srjpia., B/Spis and the like are supposed to be innate characteristics of oligarchy.

6 Examples of this practice are quoted in the text: it is described in Isocr. xii 111 TOus,TOtoi5rou$ tirfiStiv alaOwrai to^s t^tous ir/>o*aretXij/4-Htvo\n...firl rbv \byov ol/iai rpf^faBtu rial irepl Ttav iro\iTctui>.

7 Thus itovvtLpyir), Tvpafvis, t\tya.pxiri occur in the debate in iii 80—82. He uses SJjuot there to describe democracy: but in vi 43 found.

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