Constitution of Athens and Related Texts

Constitution of Athens and Related Texts

Constitution of Athens and Related Texts

Constitution of Athens and Related Texts

Excerpt

Aristotle's Constitution of Athens formed part of an extensive collection of histories of the constitutions of one hundred and fifty-eight cities and tribes, most of them Greek. More than two hundred fragments from this collection have been preserved in quotations by later Greek authors, eighty-six of which are taken from the Constitution of Athens. But, since the majority of these quotations are found in the works of ancient lexicographers, grammarians, and scholiasts, who were interested mainly in anecdotes, mythological details, strange customs, proverbs, and the like, they contain very little that is of interest to the student of politics.

Some of the quotations from the Constitution of Athens are, indeed, more informative; but even so, it was quite impossible to form, on this basis, an adequate idea of the contents and the nature of this work. In 1880, there were found two small leaves from a papyrus codex containing passages on the Athenian constitution which, by some scholars, were identified as belonging to the lost work of Aristotle. These leaves, which were acquired by the Egyptian Museum at Berlin, contain passages from what is now counted as Chapters 12-13 and Chapters 21-22 of the present treatise.

In 1890, the British Museum acquired from an unknown source four papyrus rolls containing a continuous text on the history of the Athenian constitution, which were first edited by F. C. Kenyon in January, 1891. Though the text is mutilated at the beginning and the end, and, therefore, the name of the author and the title of the work are missing in the papyrus, Kenyon was convinced from the beginning that the papyrus treatise was identical with Aristotle's famous work. Nevertheless, in the years immediately following its first publication, many scholars tried to prove either that the treatise must be the work of a later . . .

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