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There were many versions of Greek political ideals. Forms of government in the Greek world varied from monarchy (rule by one), aristocracy (rule by the best) and democracy (people power). These ideal forms were held to naturally degrade respectively into tyranny (rule by a despot), oligarchy (rule by the few) and ochlocracy (mob rule). Tyrants were usually populist leaders who tried to restructure a failed state of affairs, but collected odium as they needed to tax heavily in order to maintain military force to keep power. The oligarchs thought that 'rule of the few' put public affairs in the hands of the best and most talented individuals, who would act in everyone's best interests. The democrats contended that the 'the few' acted principally in their own interests, and that all citizens should participate in government. Our understanding of this in practice in detail hangs on the Athenian experience, which is best documented. From Aristotle Politics the underlying principle of Athenian democracy was liberty which was ruling and being ruled in turn, and living as each individual chooses. There are two types of equality - numerical and merit-based. The former gives equal weight to all individuals, the latter to the elite, therefore the former gives true liberty. There was also emphasis on 'justice', a many-faceted word, the underlying meaning was 'settlement' - that is justice was the settlement of problems in consonance with community standards. A third principle was support of the common good. As citizens were fully part of the state, so they were to embrace and promote it. The Athenian Democracy was based on the citizens, who performed all legislative, judicial and public service functions. The regular assembly of all citizens had sole prerogative to pass laws, large juries constituted courts (there were no judges or lawyers), and office bearers were popularly elected or chosen annually by lot and for once term only. Women, slaves and resident aliens were excluded from the body politic.

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Q: What was the ancient Greek definition of political ideals?
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