Aristotle Politics Book II, chapter 9

Another defect in the Lacedaemonian constitution is seen in connection with the office of ephor. The ephorate independently controls much important business. Its five members are chosen from among all the people, with the result that very often men who are not at all well-off find themselves holding this office, and their lack of means makes them open to bribery. . . . And just because the power of the ephors is excessive and dictatorial, even the Spartan kings have been forced to curry favor with them. And this has caused further damage to the constitution; what was supposed to be an aristocracy has become more like a democracy. In itself the ephorate is not a bad thing; it certainly keeps the constitution together; the people like it because it gives them a share in an office of power. So whether this is due to the lawgiver Lycurgus or to good fortune, it suits the circumstances very well. . . . But while it was necessary to select ephors from among all the citizens, the present method of selection strikes me as childish. The ephors have powers of jurisdiction also, and decide cases of importance; but considering that anybody at all may hold the office, it would be better that they should not have power to give verdicts on their own, but only to decide in accordance with stated rules and regulations. Nor does the way in which ephors live conform to the aims of the constitution. They live a life of ease, while the rest have a very high standard of strictness in living, so high indeed that they really cannot live up to it but secretly get round the law and enjoy the more sensual pleasures.

January 28, 2010 11:52 AM

John Paul Adams, CSUN

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