Politeia, the word translated as ‘constitution’, is in the Politics Aristotle’s label for the good form of democracy, where power rests with the hoplite class but not all free men and the hoplites rule in the common interest. It should also be mentioned the different derivations, for example isopoliteia (equal citizenship) or sympoliteia (joint citizenship). Politeia was the Aristotelian term for any constitution (i.e. concept, that Aristotle termed politeia and the Romans res publica), and sometimes for the ideal constitution in which the people as a whole ruled in the interests of everyone, as opposed to democratia in which the masses ruled in their own interest.

The word politeia actually means ‘citizenship’ in the abstract, i.e. being a citizen of a polis. But from this basic meaning two other senses developed: (1) in a concrete sense the word politeia could mean the whole citizen body; and (2) in an abstract sense it came to mean the political structure of the citizen body, and in that sense it can be translated by words like ‘form of government’ or ‘constitution’: a modern political scientist might prefer ‘political system’.

Moreover, the politeia can be seen as the 'soul of the city', and as such, the basis of its laws. For Socrates, it is also the context within which philosophy emerges and is the great rival to philosophical authority.


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