Aristotle: Constitution of Carthage

(ca. 320s BCE)

The chief document that deals with the Constitution of Carthage is the eleventh chapter of the second book of Aristotle’s Politics (ca. 335–323 bce). This work is a response to the political philosophy of his teacher, Plato, and furthers the attempt to describe an ideal organization for a national government. In Politics Aristotle develops his idea of how cities should function from his discussion of how people ought to live, giving real-world examples of well-governed cities (Sparta, Crete, and Carthage), whose constitutions are balanced between various forms of government. Unexpectedly, in view of the well-known prejudice of Greeks and of Aristotle, in particular, against non-Greeks, or barbarians, Aristotle settles on Carthage as the closest approximation to his ideal. Partly this was because of the relatively imperfect information about Carthage available to the Greek world, allowing Aristotle to interpret the history of the city in the best light for his purposes....