Dēmokratia : The Prehistory of a Word in Relation to the Greek Typology of Constitutions

Sammanfattning: This thesis discusses how the term δημοκρατία relates to the classical Greek typology of constitutions. The two other major constitutional terms, μοναρχία and ὀλιγαρχία, have another suffix than δημοκρατία. As there are no explanations for this division between -αρχία and -κρατία in Classical Greek literature, the thesis attempts an explanation through investigating and comparing the words underlying these suffixes, ἀρχή and κράτος. It has often been assumed that ἀρχή refers to less oppressive power than κράτος. Older scholarship has also held that δημοκρατία is calqued on μοναρχία and ὀλιγαρχία but with the suffix changed, which could possibly highlight the pejorative character of δημοκρατία. This thesis considers that assumption an article of faith: the chronology of the terms (probably μοναρχία—δημοκρατία—ὀλιγαρχία) in fact suggests that it is -αρχία that is pejorative: ὀλιγαρχία was coined, in a time when μοναρχία was in disrepute, probably as a way to criticize moderate democrats resisting ”radical democracy” in Athens for being tyrants in disguise. This criticism was possible because ἀρχή, due to political developments in radically democratic Athens, was polysemous and could refer both to supreme power and to non-supreme offices. Ὀλιγαρχία could then technically refer to both those who wanted fewer offices and to those who wanted a few to rule supreme, but the morphological resemblance to μοναρχία rather implied the latter even when referring to the former. As for κράτος, the thesis argues that it is rooted in hubris, but makes it possible to construct justice out of hubris. Furthermore, it is argued that κράτος can be understood as approaching legitimate power, at least in tragedy and in the epics. It was strongly connected to Zeus and to manhood, to forthrightness and to the capacity of creating military victories (the latter being a reason for the common mistranslation of κράτος as “victory”). Negative allusions to kratos in Archaic poetry indicate that kratos by then was considered a dead or dormant capacity that should lie dead or dormant. It is possible that δημοκρατία revived this capacity; that the term implies a kind of transgression that also serves to re-establish legitimate monarchic power (monarchic because the collective Dēmos is one). No definitive conclusions can, however, be drawn. Although the collective dēmos is often portrayed as Zeus or as a king in contemporary art, this is possibly an effect of the word rather than its cause. In the end, the conclusion that can be drawn without too much speculation is that δημοκρατία was so named either because the democrats claimed supreme power over and beyond that of the magistrates, neutralizing the notion of rank, or because -αρχία was considered a slur, or both.