Aristotle on Tyranny

Below is an excerpt from The History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell.

There is an interesting section on tyranny. A tyrant desires riches, whereas a king desires honour. The tyrant has guards who are mercenaries, whereas the king has guards who are citizens. Tyrants are mostly demagogues, who acquire power by promising to protect the people against the notables. In an ironically Machiavellian tone, Aristotle explains what a tyrant must do to retain power. He must prevent the rise of any person of exceptional merit, by execution or assassination if necessary. He must prohibit common meals, clubs, and any education likely to produce hostile sentiment. There must be no literary assemblies or discussions.

He must prevent people from knowing each other well, and compel them to live in
public at his gates. He should employ spies, like the female detectives at Syracuse. He must sow quarrels, and impoverish his subjects. He should keep them occupied in great works, as the king of Egypt did in getting the pyramids built. He should give power to women and slaves, to make them informers. He should make war, in order that his subjects may have something to do and be always in want of a leader (1313
a and b).

It is a melancholy reflection that this passage is, of the whole book, the one most appropriate to the present day. Aristotle concludes that there is no wickedness too great for a tyrant. There  is, however, he says, another method of preserving a tyranny, namely by moderation and by seeming religious. There is no decision as to which method is likely to prove the more successful.

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