Was Plato an Aristocrat

Aristocracy vs Oligarchy

Oligarchy and aristocracy are classical regimes or forms of government discussed by Plato, the Greek philosopher. The other forms of government discussed by him are Timocracy, democracy, and tyranny. He believed aristocracy to be the best form of governance with tyranny being the worst. He also believed that oligarchy resulted with degeneration of aristocracy. But before we can take a plunge into these concepts, it is necessary to know the differences between aristocracy and oligarchy that confuse many because of their similarities. Depending upon circumstances, there can be both oligarchy and aristocracy in place in a country. Let us take a closer look.


Aristocracy comes from Aristokratia, a Greek word meaning rule of the best. This is why both Aristotle and Plato considered aristocracy to be the best type of governance. The term came into prominence in the context of ancient Greece where a class of eminent citizens was deemed best qualified to rule the people. These people belonged to upper class and were referred to as aristocrats. They enjoyed powers and privileges that were not available to the common people. These people belonging to upper class formed the government that was also considered the best and the most able government. Whether or not aristocracy is superior to other forms of governance may be debatable but the fact that aristocrats belonged to upper class of the society is confirmed.


Oligarchy is the rule of the chosen few, and these chosen few happen to be the rich and the privileged in Oligarchy. The society is divided between the rich and the poor, and the rich are entrusted with the power to rule the people. In an oligarchy, there are the chosen few who are in charge of administration and these people are there either because of having been born in a certain class or because they have wealth or control the resources. Oligarchy should not be confused with monarchy as privileged people in oligarchy need not have the blue blood as is necessary in monarchies.

What is the difference between Aristocracy and Oligarchy?

• Oligarchy is the rule of the few in a generic way whereas aristocracy is a form of governance where administration or power is in the hands of a special class of people having privileges.

• Aristocrats are not connected to royal families through blood, but they are second in the social hierarchy.

• In some places, one can find both oligarchy and aristocracy being practiced.

• Some experts consider oligarchy to be a degenerated form of aristocracy.

• Plato considered aristocracy to be the best form of governance with the most competent and able people in charge whereas, in oligarchy, the focus is upon division between rich and poor.

• Oligarchy is seen as a rule of the powerful and corrupt officials whereas aristocracy is considered a refined version of oligarchy.

Filed Under: GovernmentTagged With: aristocracy, Oligarchy