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I was going through Leviathan of Hobbes today and I think I spotted an error.

"and every Citizen bringing his Oystershell into the market place, written with the name of him he desired should be banished, without actuall accusing him, sometimes banished an Aristides, for his reputation of Justice;"

Would leaving out the article preceding Aristides be a correct way to rewrite this passage? Like so:

and every Citizen bringing his Oystershell into the market place, written with the name of him he desired should be banished, without actuall accusing him, sometimes banished Aristides, for his reputation of Justice;

Aristides was an Athenian statesman, more of him here

  • 1
    The Queen of England is a Windsor. – Hot Licks Jun 23 at 14:17
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    @HotLicks She's also an Elizabeth. – BoldBen Jun 23 at 14:20
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    ... She's no Jonah. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 23 at 14:23
  • And why is Leviathan usually used in non-count form? Perhaps the first translaters into English couldn't manage 'the fire-breathing dinosaur' (covered in National Geographic years ago). One assumes they bred (!) and were countable (from a distance). – Edwin Ashworth Jun 23 at 14:58
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    And I am not a Shakespeare, much to my regret. [sigh, that's a joke] – Lambie Jun 25 at 22:27
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From Wikipedia

Aristides (/ˌærəˈstaɪdiːz/; Greek: Ἀριστείδης, Aristeides; 530–468 BC) was an ancient Athenian statesman. Nicknamed "the Just", he flourished in the early quarter of Athens' Classical period and is remembered for his generalship in the Persian War. The ancient historian Herodotus cited him as "the best and most honourable man in Athens", and he received similarly reverent treatment in Plato's Socratic dialogues (...)

According to Plutarch, the rivalry between Aristides and Themistocles began in their youth, when they competed for the love of a beautiful boy called Stesilaüs from Ceos.The conflict between the two leaders ended in the ostracism of Aristides at a date variously given between 485 and 482.

Hobbes's passage is referring to a generic Aristides, i.e. a person who is known for being just.

In a similar way you might say of someone you considered a bit dictatorial:

He's a bit of a Machiavelli.

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    Very good example. It works much better than the 'unpadded' version. Other genericised people are Maverick, Jonah (both lower-casable now), Judas. And Martinet – probably most users don't realise this was an actual person. With suitable padding, quite a few more names fit the bill.'He's a real Einstein'. And once we go a little further afield: 'It's no Rome'. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 23 at 14:52
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No, in this context "an Aristides" is an example of someone who probably should not have been ostracised. It could have been written "_ ... sometimes banished an unfortunate person, for his reputation of Justice;_".

In your alternative version "sometimes banished Aristides" means that they repeatedly banished Aristides.

  • This answer is patently wrong. "They sometimes banished a [person's proper name]" is 100% correct and the meaning is: a man like Aristides. – Lambie Jun 25 at 22:29

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