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Politeia (πολιτεία) is an ancient Greek word used in Greek political thought, especially that of Plato and Aristotle. Derived from the word polis ("city-state"), it has a range of meanings, from 'the rights of citizens' to a 'form of government'.

According to Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon a meaning of politeia is "the conditions and rights of the citizen, or citizenship", analogous to the Latin civitas.

Politeia, in Greek means the community of citizens in a city / state. It should not be confused with "regime" that is meant by politeuma or "Status quo" that is meant by . The regime is the word describing the political situation of the community of citizens in a city/state, and "kathestos" means also the general situation of an object, an agreement, or something else.

"Politeia" is derived from both the root word Polis meaning city/state, and from the root verb "politeuomai" that means I am acting as an active citizen of the city state.

Republic is an inadequate translation for the basic fact that people of the public are not also citizens of a city / state. A person that was ostracized from the active matrix of the city was an example of such. Another example was people that lived in the city but not being active citizens that had a say in the political processes of the community. Women, slaves and other people that were deemed unworthy for some reason were not in the active matrix of the political formations of that city state, making them not-citizens, so not part of "politeia".

In the works of Ancient Greek philosophers, the principal meaning of politeia appears to be: "how a polis is run; constitution". A politeia differs from modern written constitutions in two respects: first, not all Greek states put their laws in writing; more importantly, the Greeks did not normally distinguish between ordinary and constitutional legislation. If a certain body had the power to change the laws, it had the power to change the laws controlling its own power and membership - even to abolish itself and set up a new governing body.

  • A specific form of government. Aristotle classified constitutions on two grounds: how many citizens had a voice in making the laws; and whether they did so considering the good of all citizens, or only their own. Along with monarchy and politeia is one of the three virtuous forms of government. While monarchy is the rule by one, and aristocracy by the few, politeia is rule by the many.
  • A constitution that does not fit into this sixfold classification, because it has features of more than one of them: the constitutions of Carthage, Sparta, and [at least one of the cities of] Crete.
  • A constitution which mixes oligarchy and democracy (terms which, as used by Aristotle, refer to vicious kinds of constitutions).
  • A constitution in which the hoplites governed. This is more restrictive than the Athens of Aristotle's time. Athens was a naval power, and many citizens were allowed to vote, and served the state well in war, who could not afford massive metal armor.


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