1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Oligarchy

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OLIGARCHY (Gr. ὀλίγοι, few, ἀρχή, rule), in political philosophy, the term applied to a government exercised by a relatively small number of the members of a community. It is thus the appropriate term for what is now generally known as " aristocracy " (q.v.). The meaning of the terms has substantially altered since Plato's day, for in the Republic " oligarchy " meant the rule of the wealthy, and " aristocracy " that of the really best people.