The Ancient Library

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assembly of citizens6, was generally entrusted to the council, the special organ of oligarchic government.

The executive power in the early aristocracies was usually entrusted to a single magistrate, whose powers were as unlimited in scope as those of the king had been. The division of power among a number of special magis­trates was only gradually introduced with the growing complexity of political life7.

The powers both of council and of magistrates were in the early constitutions undefined and unrestricted. In this respect they recalled the king and the senate of the Heroic age; and we have now to trace the develop­ment of the third element in the Heroic state, the assembly of the commons. We saw that the commons, though they had no definite authority, were called to­gether in the agora to listen to the king or the nobles, and expressed their approval or dissent in a primitive fashion by shouting. The rise of aristocracy tended further to reduce the slight importance which they had hitherto possessed. The king was by his position raised above the nobles and was thus better able to do justice to all; but the people could expect but small consideration from rulers, whose claim to political sovereignty was based upon social superiority. Hence in many aristocratic states the assembly of the commons had to submit to a still further restriction of its powers, to be maintained on suffer­ance or to be entirely removed from the constitution8.

8 This would be the case in some of the 'oligarchies of fixed number,' for which see § 38. For the special case of the Oligarchy of the Five Thousand at Athens see below, Appendix 0.

' See Gilbert, Handinieh ii p. 323.

8 For the reduction of the power of the assembly, we may compare

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