Saturday, 9 November 2013

1313a34 Tyrannies - Aristotle

Tyrannies can be preserved in two ways, which are utterly opposed to one another. One of them is the traditional way; and it is also the method of government still followed by the majority of tyrants. Many of its characteristics are supposed to have been originally instituted by Periander of Corinth; but many features may also be derived from the Persian system of government. These include measures previously mentioned as tending to the preservation of tyranny (so far as it can be preserved): the 'lopping off' of outstanding men, and the removal of men of spirit. In addition it is possible: (1) to prohibit common meals, clubs, education, and anything of a like character-or, in other words, to adopt a defensive attitude against everything likely to produce two qualities of mutual confidence and a high spirit; (2) to forbid societies for cultural purposes, and any gathering of a similar character, and to use every means for making every subject as much of a stranger as is possible to every other (since mutual acquaintance creates mutual confidence); (3) to require every resident in the city to be constantly appearing in public, and always hanging about the palace gates. (In this way they are least likely to escape notice in what they do and they will come to have a low opinion of themselves as a result of being continually in the position of slaves.) This line of policy also includes other tyrannical measures of a similar character, common in Persia and other barbarian countries. For example, a tyrant may try (4) to ensure that nothing which any of his subjects says or does escapes his notice. This entails a secret police, like the female spies employed at Syracuse, or the eavesdroppers sent by tyrant Hieron to all social gatherings and public meetings. (Men are not so likely to speak their minds if they go in fear of people like these; and if they do speak out, they are less likely to go undetected.) He may (5) sow mutual distrust and foster discord between friend and friend; between people and notables; between one section of the rich and another. Finally, it befits a tyrant (6) to impoverish his subjects-partly to prevent them having the means for maintaining a civic guard; partly to keep them so busy with their daily tasks that they have no time for plotting. One example of this policy is the building of the Egyptian pyramids: another is the lavish offerings to temples made by the family of Cypselus; a third is the erection of the temple to Olympian Zeus by the family of Peisistratus; a fourth is the additions made by Polycrates to the Samian monuments. (All these actions have the same object: to increase the poverty of the tyrant's subjects and to curtail their leisure.) The imposition of taxes produces a similar result. We may cite the example of Syracuse, where in a period of five years, during the tyrany of Dionysius the Elder, people were made to pay the whole of their property to the city. The same vein of policy also makes tyrants warmongers, with the object of keeping their subjects constantly occupied and continually in need of a leader.