Day 2068, The Athenian constitutuion.

Athens – Greece, 2014

Underneath, you can read part of a text by Aristotle. It is not sure if Aristotle wrote it or one of his students; you can read more on Wikipedia. You can read the whole text on Classic Archive. I find these old texts interesting; we still live in a society with a short attention span. We might know that there were wars and pandemics before but let us not learn from those events. I am a little cynical in this regard; is it possible to learn from history? I think you can if you put in the effort, but in the real world, it is almost impossible. It is much easier for people to react to a “new” situation head-on without studying the problem and seeing if there is something to learn from the past. I can’t speak for Aristotle, but I assume that he wrote this as some kind of education for future rulers, he probably still had hope, or maybe he was just like me and liked to write about it without any expectations, just writing for an imaginary world where people read history books to see how (not) to react at current situations.   

Aristotle

The Athenian constitutuion

16

Such was the origin and such the vicissitudes of the tyranny of Pisistratus. His administration was temperate, as has been said before, and more like constitutional government than a tyranny. Not only was he in every respect humane and mild and ready to forgive those who offended, but, in addition, he advanced money to the poorer people to help them in their labours, so that they might make their living by agriculture. In this he had two objects, first that they might not spend their time in the city but might be scattered over all the face of the country, and secondly that, being moderately well off and occupied with their own business, they might have neither the wish nor the time to attend to public affairs. At the same time his revenues were increased by the thorough cultivation of the country, since he imposed a tax of one tenth on all the produce.For the same reasons he instituted the local justices,’ and often made expeditions in person into the country to inspect it and to settle disputes between individuals, that they might not come into the cityand neglect their farms. It was in one of these progresses that, as the story goes, Pisistratus had his adventure with the man of Hymettus, who was cultivating the spot afterwards known as ‘Tax-free Farm’. He saw a man digging and working at a very stony piece of ground, and being surprised he sent his attendant to ask what he got out of this plot of land. ‘Aches and pains’, said the man; ‘and that’s what Pisistratus ought to have his tenth of’. The man spoke without knowing who his questioner was; but Pisistratus was so leased with his frank speech and his industry that he granted him exemption from all taxes. And so in matters in general he burdened the people as little as possible with his government, but always cultivated peace and kept them in all quietness. Hence the tyranny of Pisistratus was often spoken of proverbially as ‘the age of gold’; for when his sons succeeded him the government became much harsher. But most important of all in this respect was his popular and kindly disposition. In all things he was accustomed to observe the laws, without giving himself any exceptional privileges. Once he was summoned on a charge of homicide before the Areopagus, and he appeared in person to make his defence; but the prosecutor was afraid to present himself and abandoned the case. For these reasons he held power long, and whenever he was expelled he regained his position easily. The majority alike of the upper class and of the people were in his favour; the former he won by his social intercourse with them, the latter by the assistance which he gave to their private purses, and his nature fitted him to win the hearts of both. Moreover, the laws in reference to tyrants at that time in force at Athens were very mild, especially the one which applies more particularly to the establishment of a tyranny. The law ran as follows: ‘These are the ancestral statutes of the ATHENIANs; if any persons shall make an attempt to establish a tyranny, or if any person shall join in setting up a tyranny, he shall lose his civic rights, both himself and his whole house.’

You can read more about Peisistratos en that period on Wikipedia

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