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Athēnaiōn politeia


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(‘Athenian Constitution’, Aristotelian). Aristotle is credited with works on the constitutions of 158 states: a papyrus containing all but the opening few pages of the Athenian Constitution was acquired by the British Museum, and was published in 1891. The first two‐thirds (chs. 1–41) give a history of the constitution to the restoration of the democracy after the regime of the Thirty (see thirty tyrants). This part derives from a mixture of sources, and is of uneven merit, but at its best it contains valuable information which does not survive in any other text. The remaining third (42–69) gives a factual account of the working of the constitution in the author's time, and appears to be based on the laws of Athens and the author's own observation.

There has been much argument as to the authorship of the work: it was regularly attributed in antiquity to Aristotle, and was written when he was in Athens; there are some striking agreements between the Athenaion Politeia and Aristotle's Politics (e.g. that Solon should not be blamed for the extreme democracy which was built on his foundations), but also some striking disagreements (e.g. on Solon's provisions for the appointment of the archontes); except in a few passages the style differs from that of the Aristotelian corpus, but this is a different kind of work from those in the main corpus. Some scholars believe that Aristotle himself wrote the Athenaion Politeia; but Aristotle can hardly himself have written all the works attributed to him, and he was neither an Athenian nor an admirer of the Athenian democracy; so the work is more probably to be attributed to a pupil. Its value to historians is considerable, whether Aristotle was the author or not.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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