Existing attempts to understand the relationship between violence and stability within Classical Athens are undermined by their failure to compare democracies with oligarchies. The exclusionary policies of oligarchies created a fragile political equilibrium that required considerable regulation if oligarchic regimes were to survive. By contrast, the inclusiveness of democracies largely defused the danger that disputes would lead to regime collapse. Citizens of democracies faced fewer incentives to police their behavior, resulting in higher levels of public disorder and violence; this violence, however, was at the same time less likely to escalate into deadly force and stasis. The distinctive cultures of democracies and oligarchies were determined in part by considerations of basic political order.

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