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The Aristocratic Temper of Greek Civilization$
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Chester G. Starr

Print publication date: 1992

Print ISBN-13: 9780195074581

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195074581.001.0001

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Political Power

Political Power

Chapter:
(p.17) Chapter 2 Political Power
Source:
The Aristocratic Temper of Greek Civilization
Author(s):

Chester G. Starr

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195074581.003.0003

This chapter shows that aristocrats were politically essential, but they were also harnessed within the polis. The Greek upper classes might dress and otherwise live more elegantly than common folk, but they had neither inherited titles nor positions guaranteed to them by rank. As Aristotle observed repeatedly in his great work, the Politics, the objective of the polis was to secure justice for its citizens, and consequently equality was a basic necessity. Aristotle's advice that in democracies the rich should not be exploited ruthlessly whereas in oligarchies the well-to-do should not abuse their power was not always observed in practice, but the basic thrust of the theory of the polis always had its influence as a check and force for balance. On the surface, however, Greek history was the product, save to some degree at Athens, of the upper classes.

Keywords:   polis, aristocrats, Aristotle, Athens, oligarchy, upper classes

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