Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Aristotle on Woman leadership around Democracies

And what's around Democracy [Control by the People], 
however, engenders Final Tyranny for All [a Tyrant's Total Control]:

καὶ τὰ περὶ τὴν δημοκρατίαν
δὲ γιγνόμενα τὴν τελευταίαν τυραννικὰ πάντα,

Control by Wives, 
particularly around the household

τε περὶ τὰς οἰκίας,

gives birth to reports 
against Husbands

ἵν᾽ ἐξαγγέλλωσι
κατὰ τῶν ἀνδρῶν

and to undisciplined Slaves 
for this same reason.

καὶ δούλων ἄνεσις
διὰ τὴν αὐτὴν αἰτίαν: 

Neither Slaves nor Wives, in fact, can turn on

οὔτε γὰρ ἐπιβουλεύουσιν οἱ δοῦλοι καὶ αἱ γυναῖκες
τοῖς τυράννοις,

They're just as much blessings to the days 
and necessarily blessings to the minds
of the Tyrannies
as they are to the Democracies.

ὐημεροῦντάς τε
ἀναγκαῖον εὔνους εἶναι
καὶ ταῖς τυραννίσι
καὶ ταῖς δημοκρατίαις: 

from the Politics (Bekker page 1313b, between and around lines 35 -40)


Kristen said...

I'm not sure I'm following this. Is this the origin of the tired argument that easing tyranny for the sake of freedom will lead to uppitiness, which will lead to chaos, which will lead to more tyranny?

J. K. Gayle said...

Who should follow Aristotle? He considered non-Greek men, non-Athenian men really, to be barbarians. This is his treatise on politics, for elite Greek men only, in which he says,

Now nature has distinguished between the female and the slave. For she is not niggardly, like the smith who fashions the Delphian knife for many uses; she makes each thing for a single use, and every instrument is best made when intended for one and not for many uses. But among barbarians no distinction is made between women and slaves, because there is no natural ruler among them: they are a community of slaves, male and female. Wherefore the poets say,

"It is meet that Hellenes should rule over barbarians; "

as if they thought that the barbarian and the slave were by nature one.

That's a translation by Benjamin Jowett.

And so I was trying above just to consider the possibility that Aristotle was talking in the same treatise about women in the household in a democracy. In other words, he's prescribing roles and rules for wives of husbands. He's observing the dangers. My translation of the Greek quoted in the post is much different from Jewett's. I was reading very quickly. Jewett says:

Again, the evil practices of the last and worst forms of democracy are all found in tyrannies. Such are the power given to women in their families in the hope that they will inform against their husbands, and the licence which is allowed to slaves in order that they may betray their masters; for slaves and women do not conspire against tyrants; and they are of course friendly to tyrannies and also do democracies.