OLIGARCHY (Gr. 6X1701, few, apxri, 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 " iq.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.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)