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Laws by Plato

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The genuineness of the Laws is sufficiently proved (1) by more than twenty
citations of them in the writings of Aristotle, who was residing at Athens
during the last twenty years of the life of Plato, and who, having left it
after his death (B.C. 347), returned thither twelve years later (B.C. 335);
(2) by the allusion of Isocrates

(Oratio ad Philippum missa, p.84: To men tais paneguresin enochlein kai
pros apantas legein tous sunprechontas en autais pros oudena legein estin,
all omoios oi toioutoi ton logon (sc. speeches in the assembly) akuroi
tugchanousin ontes tois nomois kai tais politeiais tais upo ton sophiston

--writing 346 B.C., a year after the death of Plato, and probably not more
than three or four years after the composition of the Laws--who speaks of
the Laws and Republics written by philosophers (upo ton sophiston); (3) by
the reference (Athen.) of the comic poet Alexis, a younger contemporary of
Plato (fl. B.C 356-306), to the enactment about prices, which occurs in
Laws xi., viz that the same goods should not be offered at two prices on
the same day

(Ou gegone kreitton nomothetes tou plousiou
Aristonikou tithesi gar nuni nomon,
ton ichthuopolon ostis an polon tini
ichthun upotimesas apodot elattonos
es eipe times, eis to desmoterion
euthus apagesthai touton, ina dedoikotes
tes axias agaposin, e tes esperas
saprous apantas apopherosin oikade.

Meineke, Frag. Com. Graec.);
(4) by the unanimous voice of later antiquity and the absence of any
suspicion among ancient writers worth speaking of to the contrary; for it
is not said of Philippus of Opus that he composed any part of the Laws,
but only that he copied them out of the waxen tablets, and was thought by
some to have written the Epinomis (Diog. Laert.) That the longest and one
of the best writings bearing the name of Plato should be a forgery, even
if its genuineness were unsupported by external testimony, would be a
singular phenomenon in ancient literature; and although the critical worth
of the consensus of late writers is generally not to be compared with the
express testimony of contemporaries, yet a somewhat greater value may be
attributed to their consent in the present instance, because the admission
of the Laws is combined with doubts about the Epinomis, a spurious
writing, which is a kind of epilogue to the larger work probably of a much
later date. This shows that the reception of the Laws was not altogether

The suspicion which has attached to the Laws of Plato in the judgment of
some modern writers appears to rest partly (1) on differences in the style
and form of the work, and (2) on differences of thought and opinion which
they observe in them. Their suspicion is increased by the fact that these
differences are accompanied by resemblances as striking to passages in
other Platonic writings. They are sensible of a want of point in the
dialogue and a general inferiority in the ideas, plan, manners, and style.
They miss the poetical flow, the dramatic verisimilitude, the life and
variety of the characters, the dialectic subtlety, the Attic purity, the
luminous order, the exquisite urbanity; instead of which they find
tautology, obscurity, self-sufficiency, sermonizing, rhetorical
declamation, pedantry, egotism, uncouth forms of sentences, and
peculiarities in the use of words and idioms. They are unable to discover
any unity in the patched, irregular structure. The speculative element
both in government and education is superseded by a narrow economical or
religious vein. The grace and cheerfulness of Athenian life have
disappeared; and a spirit of moroseness and religious intolerance has
taken their place. The charm of youth is no longer there; the mannerism of
age makes itself unpleasantly felt. The connection is often imperfect; and
there is a want of arrangement, exhibited especially in the enumeration of
the laws towards the end of the work. The Laws are full of flaws and
repetitions. The Greek is in places very ungrammatical and intractable. A
cynical levity is displayed in some passages, and a tone of disappointment
and lamentation over human things in others. The critics seem also to
observe in them bad imitations of thoughts which are better expressed in
Plato's other writings. Lastly, they wonder how the mind which conceived
the Republic could have left the Critias, Hermocrates, and Philosophus
incomplete or unwritten, and have devoted the last years of life to the

The questions which have been thus indirectly suggested may be considered
by us under five or six heads: I, the characters; II, the plan; III, the
style; IV, the imitations of other writings of Plato; V; the more general
relation of the Laws to the Republic and the other dialogues; and VI, to
the existing Athenian and Spartan states.

I. Already in the Philebus the distinctive character of Socrates has
disappeared; and in the Timaeus, Sophist, and Statesman his function of
chief speaker is handed over to the Pythagorean philosopher Timaeus, and
to the Eleatic Stranger, at whose feet he sits, and is silent. More and
more Plato seems to have felt in his later writings that the character and
method of Socrates were no longer suited to be the vehicle of his own
philosophy. He is no longer interrogative but dogmatic; not 'a hesitating
enquirer,' but one who speaks with the authority of a legislator. Even in
the Republic we have seen that the argument which is carried on by
Socrates in the old style with Thrasymachus in the first book, soon passes
into the form of exposition. In the Laws he is nowhere mentioned. Yet so
completely in the tradition of antiquity is Socrates identified with
Plato, that in the criticism of the Laws which we find in the so-called
Politics of Aristotle he is supposed by the writer still to be playing his
part of the chief speaker (compare Pol.).

The Laws are discussed by three representatives of Athens, Crete, and
Sparta. The Athenian, as might be expected, is the protagonist or chief
speaker, while the second place is assigned to the Cretan, who, as one of
the leaders of a new colony, has a special interest in the conversation.
At least four-fifths of the answers are put into his mouth. The Spartan is
every inch a soldier, a man of few words himself, better at deeds than
words. The Athenian talks to the two others, although they are his equals
in age, in the style of a master discoursing to his scholars; he
frequently praises himself; he entertains a very poor opinion of the
understanding of his companions. Certainly the boastfulness and rudeness
of the Laws is the reverse of the refined irony and courtesy which
characterize the earlier dialogues. We are no longer in such good company
as in the Phaedrus and Symposium. Manners are lost sight of in the
earnestness of the speakers, and dogmatic assertions take the place of
poetical fancies.

The scene is laid in Crete, and the conversation is held in the course of
a walk from Cnosus to the cave and temple of Zeus, which takes place on
one of the longest and hottest days of the year. The companions start at
dawn, and arrive at the point in their conversation which terminates the
fourth book, about noon. The God to whose temple they are going is the
lawgiver of Crete, and this may be supposed to be the very cave at which
he gave his oracles to Minos. But the externals of the scene, which are
briefly and inartistically described, soon disappear, and we plunge
abruptly into the subject of the dialogue. We are reminded by contrast of
the higher art of the Phaedrus, in which the summer's day, and the cool
stream, and the chirping of the grasshoppers, and the fragrance of the
agnus castus, and the legends of the place are present to the imagination
throughout the discourse.

The typical Athenian apologizes for the tendency of his countrymen 'to
spin a long discussion out of slender materials,' and in a similar spirit
the Lacedaemonian Megillus apologizes for the Spartan brevity (compare
Thucydid.), acknowledging at the same time that there may be occasions
when long discourses are necessary. The family of Megillus is the proxenus
of Athens at Sparta; and he pays a beautiful compliment to the Athenian,
significant of the character of the work, which, though borrowing many
elements from Sparta, is also pervaded by an Athenian spirit. A good
Athenian, he says, is more than ordinarily good, because he is inspired by
nature and not manufactured by law. The love of listening which is
attributed to the Timocrat in the Republic is also exhibited in him. The
Athenian on his side has a pleasure in speaking to the Lacedaemonian of
the struggle in which their ancestors were jointly engaged against the
Persians. A connexion with Athens is likewise intimated by the Cretan
Cleinias. He is the relative of Epimenides, whom, by an anachronism of a
century,--perhaps arising as Zeller suggests (Plat. Stud.) out of a
confusion of the visit of Epimenides and Diotima (Symp.),--he describes as
coming to Athens, not after the attempt of Cylon, but ten years before the
Persian war. The Cretan and Lacedaemonian hardly contribute at all to the
argument of which the Athenian is the expounder; they only supply
information when asked about the institutions of their respective
countries. A kind of simplicity or stupidity is ascribed to them. At
first, they are dissatisfied with the free criticisms which the Athenian
passes upon the laws of Minos and Lycurgus, but they acquiesce in his
greater experience and knowledge of the world. They admit that there can
be no objection to the enquiry; for in the spirit of the legislator
himself, they are discussing his laws when there are no young men present
to listen. They are unwilling to allow that the Spartan and Cretan
lawgivers can have been mistaken in honouring courage as the first part of
virtue, and are puzzled at hearing for the first time that 'Goods are only
evil to the evil.' Several times they are on the point of quarrelling, and
by an effort learn to restrain their natural feeling (compare Shakespeare,
Henry V, act iii. sc. 2). In Book vii., the Lacedaemonian expresses a
momentary irritation at the accusation which the Athenian brings against
the Spartan institutions, of encouraging licentiousness in their women,
but he is reminded by the Cretan that the permission to criticize them
freely has been given, and cannot be retracted. His only criterion of
truth is the authority of the Spartan lawgiver; he is 'interested,' in the
novel speculations of the Athenian, but inclines to prefer the ordinances
of Lycurgus.

The three interlocutors all of them speak in the character of old men,
which forms a pleasant bond of union between them. They have the feelings
of old age about youth, about the state, about human things in general.
Nothing in life seems to be of much importance to them; they are
spectators rather than actors, and men in general appear to the Athenian
speaker to be the playthings of the Gods and of circumstances. Still they
have a fatherly care of the young, and are deeply impressed by sentiments
of religion. They would give confidence to the aged by an increasing use
of wine, which, as they get older, is to unloose their tongues and make
them sing. The prospect of the existence of the soul after death is
constantly present to them; though they can hardly be said to have the
cheerful hope and resignation which animates Socrates in the Phaedo or
Cephalus in the Republic. Plato appears to be expressing his own feelings
in remarks of this sort. For at the time of writing the first book of the
Laws he was at least seventy-four years of age, if we suppose him to
allude to the victory of the Syracusans under Dionysius the Younger over
the Locrians, which occurred in the year 356. Such a sadness was the
natural effect of declining years and failing powers, which make men ask,
'After all, what profit is there in life?' They feel that their work is
beginning to be over, and are ready to say, 'All the world is a stage;'
or, in the actual words of Plato, 'Let us play as good plays as we can,'
though 'we must be sometimes serious, which is not agreeable, but
necessary.' These are feelings which have crossed the minds of reflective
persons in all ages, and there is no reason to connect the Laws any more
than other parts of Plato's writings with the very uncertain narrative of
his life, or to imagine that this melancholy tone is attributable to
disappointment at having failed to convert a Sicilian tyrant into a

II. The plan of the Laws is more irregular and has less connexion than any
other of the writings of Plato. As Aristotle says in the Politics, 'The
greater part consists of laws'; in Books v, vi, xi, xii the dialogue
almost entirely disappears. Large portions of them are rather the
materials for a work than a finished composition which may rank with the
other Platonic dialogues. To use his own image, 'Some stones are regularly
inserted in the building; others are lying on the ground ready for use.'
There is probably truth in the tradition that the Laws were not published
until after the death of Plato. We can easily believe that he has left
imperfections, which would have been removed if he had lived a few years
longer. The arrangement might have been improved; the connexion of the
argument might have been made plainer, and the sentences more accurately
framed. Something also may be attributed to the feebleness of old age.
Even a rough sketch of the Phaedrus or Symposium would have had a very
different look. There is, however, an interest in possessing one writing
of Plato which is in the process of creation.

We must endeavour to find a thread of order which will carry us through
this comparative disorder. The first four books are described by Plato
himself as the preface or preamble. Having arrived at the conclusion that
each law should have a preamble, the lucky thought occurs to him at the
end of the fourth book that the preceding discourse is the preamble of the
whole. This preamble or introduction may be abridged as follows:--

The institutions of Sparta and Crete are admitted by the Lacedaemonian and
Cretan to have one aim only: they were intended by the legislator to
inspire courage in war. To this the Athenian objects that the true
lawgiver should frame his laws with a view to all the virtues and not to
one only. Better is he who has temperance as well as courage, than he who
has courage only; better is he who is faithful in civil broils, than he
who is a good soldier only. Better, too, is peace than war; the
reconciliation than the defeat of an enemy. And he who would attain all
virtue should be trained amid pleasures as well as pains. Hence there
should be convivial intercourse among the citizens, and a man's temperance
should be tested in his cups, as we test his courage amid dangers. He
should have a fear of the right sort, as well as a courage of the right

At the beginning of the second book the subject of pleasure leads to
education, which in the early years of life is wholly a discipline
imparted by the means of pleasure and pain. The discipline of pleasure is
implanted chiefly by the practice of the song and the dance. Of these the
forms should be fixed, and not allowed to depend on the fickle breath of
the multitude. There will be choruses of boys, girls, and grown-up
persons, and all will be heard repeating the same strain, that 'virtue is
happiness.' One of them will give the law to the rest; this will be the
chorus of aged minstrels, who will sing the most beautiful and the most
useful of songs. They will require a little wine, to mellow the austerity
of age, and make them amenable to the laws.

After having laid down as the first principle of politics, that peace, and
not war, is the true aim of the legislator, and briefly discussed music
and festive intercourse, at the commencement of the third book Plato makes
a digression, in which he speaks of the origin of society. He describes,
first of all, the family; secondly, the patriarchal stage, which is an
aggregation of families; thirdly, the founding of regular cities, like
Ilium; fourthly, the establishment of a military and political system,
like that of Sparta, with which he identifies Argos and Messene, dating
from the return of the Heraclidae. But the aims of states should be good,
or else, like the prayer of Theseus, they may be ruinous to themselves.
This was the case in two out of three of the Heracleid kingdoms. They did
not understand that the powers in a state should be balanced. The balance
of powers saved Sparta, while the excess of tyranny in Persia and the
excess of liberty at Athens have been the ruin of both...This discourse on
politics is suddenly discovered to have an immediate practical use; for
Cleinias the Cretan is about to give laws to a new colony.

At the beginning of the fourth book, after enquiring into the
circumstances and situation of the colony, the Athenian proceeds to make
further reflections. Chance, and God, and the skill of the legislator, all
co-operate in the formation of states. And the most favourable condition
for the foundation of a new one is when the government is in the hands of
a virtuous tyrant who has the good fortune to be the contemporary of a
great legislator. But a virtuous tyrant is a contradiction in terms; we
can at best only hope to have magistrates who are the servants of reason
and the law. This leads to the enquiry, what is to be the polity of our
new state. And the answer is, that we are to fear God, and honour our
parents, and to cultivate virtue and justice; these are to be our first
principles. Laws must be definite, and we should create in the citizens a
predisposition to obey them. The legislator will teach as well as command;
and with this view he will prefix preambles to his principal laws.

The fifth book commences in a sort of dithyramb with another and higher
preamble about the honour due to the soul, whence are deduced the duties
of a man to his parents and his friends, to the suppliant and stranger. He
should be true and just, free from envy and excess of all sorts, forgiving
to crimes which are not incurable and are partly involuntary; and he
should have a true taste. The noblest life has the greatest pleasures and
the fewest pains...Having finished the preamble, and touched on some other
preliminary considerations, we proceed to the Laws, beginning with the
constitution of the state. This is not the best or ideal state, having all
things common, but only the second-best, in which the land and houses are
to be distributed among 5040 citizens divided into four classes. There is
to be no gold or silver among them, and they are to have moderate wealth,
and to respect number and numerical order in all things.

In the first part of the sixth book, Plato completes his sketch of the
constitution by the appointment of officers. He explains the manner in
which guardians of the law, generals, priests, wardens of town and
country, ministers of education, and other magistrates are to be
appointed; and also in what way courts of appeal are to be constituted,
and omissions in the law to be supplied. Next--and at this point the Laws
strictly speaking begin--there follow enactments respecting marriage and
the procreation of children, respecting property in slaves as well as of
other kinds, respecting houses, married life, common tables for men and
women. The question of age in marriage suggests the consideration of a
similar question about the time for holding offices, and for military
service, which had been previously omitted.

Resuming the order of the discussion, which was indicated in the previous
book, from marriage and birth we proceed to education in the seventh book.
Education is to begin at or rather before birth; to be continued for a
time by mothers and nurses under the supervision of the state; finally, to
comprehend music and gymnastics. Under music is included reading, writing,
playing on the lyre, arithmetic, geometry, and a knowledge of astronomy
sufficient to preserve the minds of the citizens from impiety in after-
life. Gymnastics are to be practised chiefly with a view to their use in
war. The discussion of education, which was lightly touched upon in Book
ii, is here completed.

The eighth book contains regulations for civil life, beginning with
festivals, games, and contests, military exercises and the like. On such
occasions Plato seems to see young men and maidens meeting together, and
hence he is led into discussing the relations of the sexes, the evil
consequences which arise out of the indulgence of the passions, and the
remedies for them. Then he proceeds to speak of agriculture, of arts and
trades, of buying and selling, and of foreign commerce.

The remaining books of the Laws, ix-xii, are chiefly concerned with
criminal offences. In the first class are placed offences against the
Gods, especially sacrilege or robbery of temples: next follow offences
against the state,--conspiracy, treason, theft. The mention of thefts
suggests a distinction between voluntary and involuntary, curable and
incurable offences. Proceeding to the greater crime of homicide, Plato
distinguishes between mere homicide, manslaughter, which is partly
voluntary and partly involuntary, and murder, which arises from avarice,
ambition, fear. He also enumerates murders by kindred, murders by slaves,
wounds with or without intent to kill, wounds inflicted in anger, crimes
of or against slaves, insults to parents. To these, various modes of
purification or degrees of punishment are assigned, and the terrors of
another world are also invoked against them.

At the beginning of Book x, all acts of violence, including sacrilege, are
summed up in a single law. The law is preceded by an admonition, in which
the offenders are informed that no one ever did an unholy act or said an
unlawful word while he retained his belief in the existence of the Gods;
but either he denied their existence, or he believed that they took no
care of man, or that they might be turned from their course by sacrifices
and prayers. The remainder of the book is devoted to the refutation of
these three classes of unbelievers, and concludes with the means to be
taken for their reformation, and the announcement of their punishments if
they continue obstinate and impenitent.

The eleventh book is taken up with laws and with admonitions relating to
individuals, which follow one another without any exact order. There are
laws concerning deposits and the finding of treasure; concerning slaves
and freedmen; concerning retail trade, bequests, divorces, enchantments,
poisonings, magical arts, and the like. In the twelfth book the same
subjects are continued. Laws are passed concerning violations of military
discipline, concerning the high office of the examiners and their burial;
concerning oaths and the violation of them, and the punishments of those
who neglect their duties as citizens. Foreign travel is then discussed,
and the permission to be accorded to citizens of journeying in foreign
parts; the strangers who may come to visit the city are also spoken of,
and the manner in which they are to be received. Laws are added respecting
sureties, searches for property, right of possession by prescription,
abduction of witnesses, theatrical competition, waging of private warfare,
and bribery in offices. Rules are laid down respecting taxation,
respecting economy in sacred rites, respecting judges, their duties and
sentences, and respecting sepulchral places and ceremonies. Here the Laws
end. Lastly, a Nocturnal Council is instituted for the preservation of the
state, consisting of older and younger members, who are to exhibit in
their lives that virtue which is the basis of the state, to know the one
in many, and to be educated in divine and every other kind of knowledge
which will enable them to fulfil their office.

III. The style of the Laws differs in several important respects from that
of the other dialogues of Plato: (1) in the want of character, power, and
lively illustration; (2) in the frequency of mannerisms (compare
Introduction to the Philebus); (3) in the form and rhythm of the
sentences; (4) in the use of words. On the other hand, there are many
passages (5) which are characterized by a sort of ethical grandeur; and
(6) in which, perhaps, a greater insight into human nature, and a greater
reach of practical wisdom is shown, than in any other of Plato's writings.

1. The discourse of the three old men is described by themselves as an old
man's game of play. Yet there is little of the liveliness of a game in
their mode of treating the subject. They do not throw the ball to and fro,
but two out of the three are listeners to the third, who is constantly
asserting his superior wisdom and opportunities of knowledge, and
apologizing (not without reason) for his own want of clearness of speech.
He will 'carry them over the stream;' he will answer for them when the
argument is beyond their comprehension; he is afraid of their ignorance of
mathematics, and thinks that gymnastic is likely to be more intelligible
to them;--he has repeated his words several times, and yet they cannot
understand him. The subject did not properly take the form of dialogue,
and also the literary vigour of Plato had passed away. The old men speak
as they might be expected to speak, and in this there is a touch of
dramatic truth. Plato has given the Laws that form or want of form which
indicates the failure of natural power. There is no regular plan--none of
that consciousness of what has preceded and what is to follow, which makes
a perfect style,--but there are several attempts at a plan; the argument
is 'pulled up,' and frequent explanations are offered why a particular
topic was introduced.

The fictions of the Laws have no longer the verisimilitude which is
characteristic of the Phaedrus and the Timaeus, or even of the Statesman.
We can hardly suppose that an educated Athenian would have placed the
visit of Epimenides to Athens ten years before the Persian war, or have
imagined that a war with Messene prevented the Lacedaemonians from coming
to the rescue of Hellas. The narrative of the origin of the Dorian
institutions, which are said to have been due to a fear of the growing
power of the Assyrians, is a plausible invention, which may be compared
with the tale of the island of Atlantis and the poem of Solon, but is not
accredited by similar arts of deception. The other statement that the
Dorians were Achaean exiles assembled by Dorieus, and the assertion that
Troy was included in the Assyrian Empire, have some foundation (compare
for the latter point, Diod. Sicul.). Nor is there anywhere in the Laws
that lively enargeia, that vivid mise en scene, which is as characteristic
of Plato as of some modern novelists.

The old men are afraid of the ridicule which 'will fall on their heads
more than enough,' and they do not often indulge in a joke. In one of the
few which occur, the book of the Laws, if left incomplete, is compared to
a monster wandering about without a head. But we no longer breathe the
atmosphere of humour which pervades the Symposium and the Euthydemus, in
which we pass within a few sentences from the broadest Aristophanic joke
to the subtlest refinement of wit and fancy; instead of this, in the Laws
an impression of baldness and feebleness is often left upon our minds.
Some of the most amusing descriptions, as, for example, of children
roaring for the first three years of life; or of the Athenians walking
into the country with fighting-cocks under their arms; or of the slave
doctor who knocks about his patients finely; and the gentleman doctor who
courteously persuades them; or of the way of keeping order in the theatre,
'by a hint from a stick,' are narrated with a commonplace gravity; but
where we find this sort of dry humour we shall not be far wrong in
thinking that the writer intended to make us laugh. The seriousness of age
takes the place of the jollity of youth. Life should have holidays and
festivals; yet we rebuke ourselves when we laugh, and take our pleasures
sadly. The irony of the earlier dialogues, of which some traces occur in
the tenth book, is replaced by a severity which hardly condescends to
regard human things. 'Let us say, if you please, that man is of some
account, but I was speaking of him in comparison with God.'

The imagery and illustrations are poor in themselves, and are not assisted
by the surrounding phraseology. We have seen how in the Republic, and in
the earlier dialogues, figures of speech such as 'the wave,' 'the drone,'
'the chase,' 'the bride,' appear and reappear at intervals. Notes are
struck which are repeated from time to time, as in a strain of music.
There is none of this subtle art in the Laws. The illustrations, such as
the two kinds of doctors, 'the three kinds of funerals,' the fear potion,
the puppet, the painter leaving a successor to restore his picture, the
'person stopping to consider where three ways meet,' the 'old laws about
water of which he will not divert the course,' can hardly be said to do
much credit to Plato's invention. The citations from the poets have lost
that fanciful character which gave them their charm in the earlier
dialogues. We are tired of images taken from the arts of navigation, or
archery, or weaving, or painting, or medicine, or music. Yet the
comparisons of life to a tragedy, or of the working of mind to the
revolution of the self-moved, or of the aged parent to the image of a God
dwelling in the house, or the reflection that 'man is made to be the
plaything of God, and that this rightly considered is the best of him,'
have great beauty.

2. The clumsiness of the style is exhibited in frequent mannerisms and
repetitions. The perfection of the Platonic dialogue consists in the
accuracy with which the question and answer are fitted into one another,
and the regularity with which the steps of the argument succeed one
another. This finish of style is no longer discernible in the Laws. There
is a want of variety in the answers; nothing can be drawn out of the
respondents but 'Yes' or 'No,' 'True,' 'To be sure,' etc.; the insipid
forms, 'What do you mean?' 'To what are you referring?' are constantly
returning. Again and again the speaker is charged, or charges himself,
with obscurity; and he repeats again and again that he will explain his
views more clearly. The process of thought which should be latent in the
mind of the writer appears on the surface. In several passages the
Athenian praises himself in the most unblushing manner, very unlike the
irony of the earlier dialogues, as when he declares that 'the laws are a
divine work given by some inspiration of the Gods,' and that 'youth should
commit them to memory instead of the compositions of the poets.' The
prosopopoeia which is adopted by Plato in the Protagoras and other
dialogues is repeated until we grow weary of it. The legislator is always
addressing the speakers or the youth of the state, and the speakers are
constantly making addresses to the legislator. A tendency to a paradoxical
manner of statement is also observable. 'We must have drinking,' 'we must
have a virtuous tyrant'--this is too much for the duller wits of the
Lacedaemonian and Cretan, who at first start back in surprise. More than
in any other writing of Plato the tone is hortatory; the laws are sermons
as well as laws; they are considered to have a religious sanction, and to
rest upon a religious sentiment in the mind of the citizens. The words of
the Athenian are attributed to the Lacedaemonian and Cretan, who are
supposed to have made them their own, after the manner of the earlier
dialogues. Resumptions of subjects which have been half disposed of in a
previous passage constantly occur: the arrangement has neither the
clearness of art nor the freedom of nature. Irrelevant remarks are made
here and there, or illustrations used which are not properly fitted in.
The dialogue is generally weak and laboured, and is in the later books
fairly given up, apparently, because unsuited to the subject of the work.
The long speeches or sermons of the Athenian, often extending over several
pages, have never the grace and harmony which are exhibited in the earlier
dialogues. For Plato is incapable of sustained composition; his genius is
dramatic rather than oratorical; he can converse, but he cannot make a
speech. Even the Timaeus, which is one of his most finished works, is full
of abrupt transitions. There is the same kind of difference between the
dialogue and the continuous discourse of Plato as between the narrative
and speeches of Thucydides.

3. The perfection of style is variety in unity, freedom, ease, clearness,
the power of saying anything, and of striking any note in the scale of
human feelings without impropriety; and such is the divine gift of
language possessed by Plato in the Symposium and Phaedrus. From this there
are many fallings-off in the Laws: first, in the structure of the
sentences, which are rhythmical and monotonous,--the formal and
sophistical manner of the age is superseding the natural genius of Plato:
secondly, many of them are of enormous length, and the latter end often
forgets the beginning of them,--they seem never to have received the
second thoughts of the author; either the emphasis is wrongly placed, or
there is a want of point in a clause; or an absolute case occurs which is
not properly separated from the rest of the sentence; or words are
aggregated in a manner which fails to show their relation to one another;
or the connecting particles are omitted at the beginning of sentences; the
uses of the relative and antecedent are more indistinct, the changes of
person and number more frequent, examples of pleonasm, tautology, and
periphrasis, antitheses of positive and negative, false emphasis, and
other affectations, are more numerous than in the other writings of Plato;
there is also a more common and sometimes unmeaning use of qualifying
formulae, os epos eipein, kata dunamin, and of double expressions, pante
pantos, oudame oudamos, opos kai ope--these are too numerous to be
attributed to errors in the text; again, there is an over-curious
adjustment of verb and participle, noun and epithet, and other artificial
forms of cadence and expression take the place of natural variety:
thirdly, the absence of metaphorical language is remarkable--the style is
not devoid of ornament, but the ornament is of a debased rhetorical kind,
patched on to instead of growing out of the subject; there is a great
command of words, and a laboured use of them; forced attempts at metaphor
occur in several passages,--e.g. parocheteuein logois; ta men os tithemena
ta d os paratithemena; oinos kolazomenos upo nephontos eterou theou; the
plays on the word nomos = nou dianome, ode etara: fourthly, there is a
foolish extravagance of language in other passages,--'the swinish
ignorance of arithmetic;' 'the justice and suitableness of the discourse
on laws;' over-emphasis; 'best of Greeks,' said of all the Greeks, and
the like: fifthly, poor and insipid illustrations are also common:
sixthly, we may observe an excessive use of climax and hyperbole, aischron
legein chre pros autous doulon te kai doulen kai paida kai ei pos oion te
olen ten oikian: dokei touto to epitedeuma kata phusin tas peri ta
aphrodisia edonas ou monon anthropon alla kai therion diephtharkenai.

4. The peculiarities in the use of words which occur in the Laws have been
collected by Zeller (Platonische Studien) and Stallbaum (Legg.): first, in
the use of nouns, such as allodemia, apeniautesis, glukuthumia, diatheter,
thrasuxenia, koros, megalonoia, paidourgia: secondly, in the use of
adjectives, such as aistor, biodotes, echthodopos, eitheos, chronios, and
of adverbs, such as aniditi, anatei, nepoivei: thirdly, in the use of
verbs, such as athurein, aissein (aixeien eipein), euthemoneisthai,
parapodizesthai, sebein, temelein, tetan. These words however, as
Stallbaum remarks, are formed according to analogy, and nearly all
of them have the support of some poetical or other authority.

Zeller and Stallbaum have also collected forms of words in the Laws,
differing from the forms of the same words which occur in other places:
e.g. blabos for blabe, abios for abiotos, acharistos for acharis, douleios
for doulikos, paidelos for paidikos, exagrio for exagriaino, ileoumai for
ilaskomai, and the Ionic word sophronistus, meaning 'correction.' Zeller
has noted a fondness for substantives ending in -ma and -sis, such as
georgema, diapauma, epithumema, zemioma, komodema, omilema; blapsis,
loidoresis, paraggelsis, and others; also a use of substantives in the
plural, which are commonly found only in the singular, maniai, atheotetes,
phthonoi, phoboi, phuseis; also, a peculiar use of prepositions in
composition, as in eneirgo, apoblapto, dianomotheteo, dieiretai,
dieulabeisthai, and other words; also, a frequent occurrence of the Ionic
datives plural in -aisi and -oisi, perhaps used for the sake of giving an
ancient or archaic effect.

To these peculiarities of words he has added a list of peculiar
expressions and constructions. Among the most characteristic are the
following: athuta pallakon spermata; amorphoi edrai; osa axiomata pros
archontas; oi kata polin kairoi; muthos, used in several places of 'the
discourse about laws;' and connected with this the frequent use of
paramuthion and paramutheisthai in the general sense of 'address,'
'addressing'; aimulos eros; ataphoi praxeis; muthos akephalos; ethos
euthuporon. He remarks also on the frequent employment of the abstract for
the concrete; e.g. uperesia for uperetai, phugai for phugades, mechanai in
the sense of 'contrivers,' douleia for douloi, basileiai for basileis,
mainomena kedeumata for ganaika mainomenen; e chreia ton paidon in the
sense of 'indigent children,' and paidon ikanotes; to ethos tes apeirias
for e eiothuia apeiria; kuparitton upse te kai kalle thaumasia for
kuparittoi mala upselai kai kalai. He further notes some curious uses of
the genitive case, e.g. philias omologiai, maniai orges, laimargiai
edones, cheimonon anupodesiai, anosioi plegon tolmai; and of the dative,
omiliai echthrois, nomothesiai, anosioi plegon tolmai; and of the dative
omiliai echthrois, nomothesiai epitropois; and also some rather uncommon
periphrases, thremmata Neilou, xuggennetor teknon for alochos, Mouses
lexis for poiesis, zographon paides, anthropon spermata and the like; the
fondness for particles of limitation, especially tis and ge, sun tisi
charisi, tois ge dunamenois and the like; the pleonastic use of tanun, of
os, of os eros eipein, of ekastote; and the periphrastic use of the
preposition peri. Lastly, he observes the tendency to hyperbata or
transpositions of words, and to rhythmical uniformity as well as
grammatical irregularity in the structure of the sentences.

For nearly all the expressions which are adduced by Zeller as arguments
against the genuineness of the Laws, Stallbaum finds some sort of
authority. There is no real ground for doubting that the work was written
by Plato, merely because several words occur in it which are not found in
his other writings. An imitator may preserve the usual phraseology of a
writer better than he would himself. But, on the other hand, the fact that
authorities may be quoted in support of most of these uses of words, does
not show that the diction is not peculiar. Several of them seem to be
poetical or dialectical, and exhibit an attempt to enlarge the limits of
Greek prose by the introduction of Homeric and tragic expressions. Most of
them do not appear to have retained any hold on the later language of
Greece. Like several experiments in language of the writers of the
Elizabethan age, they were afterwards lost; and though occasionally found
in Plutarch and imitators of Plato, they have not been accepted by
Aristotle or passed into the common dialect of Greece.

5. Unequal as the Laws are in style, they contain a few passages which are
very grand and noble. For example, the address to the poets: 'Best of
strangers, we also are poets of the best and noblest tragedy; for our
whole state is an imitation of the best and noblest life, which we affirm
to be indeed the very truth of tragedy.' Or again, the sight of young men
and maidens in friendly intercourse with one another, suggesting the
dangers to which youth is liable from the violence of passion; or the
eloquent denunciation of unnatural lusts in the same passage; or the
charming thought that the best legislator 'orders war for the sake of
peace and not peace for the sake of war;' or the pleasant allusion, 'O
Athenian--inhabitant of Attica, I will not say, for you seem to me worthy
to be named after the Goddess Athene because you go back to first
principles;' or the pithy saying, 'Many a victory has been and will be
suicidal to the victors, but education is never suicidal;' or the fine
expression that 'the walls of a city should be allowed to sleep in the
earth, and that we should not attempt to disinter them;' or the remark
that 'God is the measure of all things in a sense far higher than any man
can be;' or that 'a man should be from the first a partaker of the truth,
that he may live a true man as long as possible;' or the principle
repeatedly laid down, that 'the sins of the fathers are not to be visited
on the children;' or the description of the funeral rites of those
priestly sages who depart in innocence; or the noble sentiment, that we
should do more justice to slaves than to equals; or the curious
observation, founded, perhaps, on his own experience, that there are a few
'divine men in every state however corrupt, whose conversation is of
inestimable value;' or the acute remark, that public opinion is to be
respected, because the judgments of mankind about virtue are better than
their practice; or the deep religious and also modern feeling which
pervades the tenth book (whatever may be thought of the arguments); the
sense of the duty of living as a part of a whole, and in dependence on the
will of God, who takes care of the least things as well as the greatest;
and the picture of parents praying for their children--not as we may say,
slightly altering the words of Plato, as if there were no truth or reality
in the Gentile religions, but as if there were the greatest--are very
striking to us. We must remember that the Laws, unlike the Republic, do
not exhibit an ideal state, but are supposed to be on the level of human
motives and feelings; they are also on the level of the popular religion,
though elevated and purified: hence there is an attempt made to show that
the pleasant is also just. But, on the other hand, the priority of the
soul to the body, and of God to the soul, is always insisted upon as the
true incentive to virtue; especially with great force and eloquence at the
commencement of Book v. And the work of legislation is carried back to the
first principles of morals.

6. No other writing of Plato shows so profound an insight into the world
and into human nature as the Laws. That 'cities will never cease from ill
until they are better governed,' is the text of the Laws as well as of the
Statesman and Republic. The principle that the balance of power preserves
states; the reflection that no one ever passed his whole life in disbelief
of the Gods; the remark that the characters of men are best seen in
convivial intercourse; the observation that the people must be allowed to
share not only in the government, but in the administration of justice;
the desire to make laws, not with a view to courage only, but to all
virtue; the clear perception that education begins with birth, or even, as
he would say, before birth; the attempt to purify religion; the modern
reflections, that punishment is not vindictive, and that limits must be
set to the power of bequest; the impossibility of undeceiving the victims
of quacks and jugglers; the provision for water, and for other
requirements of health, and for concealing the bodies of the dead with as
little hurt as possible to the living; above all, perhaps, the distinct
consciousness that under the actual circumstances of mankind the ideal
cannot be carried out, and yet may be a guiding principle--will appear to
us, if we remember that we are still in the dawn of politics, to show a
great depth of political wisdom.

IV. The Laws of Plato contain numerous passages which closely resemble
other passages in his writings. And at first sight a suspicion arises that
the repetition shows the unequal hand of the imitator. For why should a
writer say over again, in a more imperfect form, what he had already said
in his most finished style and manner? And yet it may be urged on the
other side that an author whose original powers are beginning to decay
will be very liable to repeat himself, as in conversation, so in books. He
may have forgotten what he had written before; he may be unconscious of
the decline of his own powers. Hence arises a question of great interest,
bearing on the genuineness of ancient writers. Is there any criterion by
which we can distinguish the genuine resemblance from the spurious, or, in
other words, the repetition of a thought or passage by an author himself
from the appropriation of it by another? The question has, perhaps, never
been fully discussed; and, though a real one, does not admit of a precise
answer. A few general considerations on the subject may be offered:--

(a) Is the difference such as might be expected to arise at different
times of life or under different circumstances?--There would be nothing
surprising in a writer, as he grew older, losing something of his own
originality, and falling more and more under the spirit of his age. 'What
a genius I had when I wrote that book!' was the pathetic exclamation of a
famous English author, when in old age he chanced to take up one of his
early works. There would be nothing surprising again in his losing
somewhat of his powers of expression, and becoming less capable of framing
language into a harmonious whole. There would also be a strong presumption
that if the variation of style was uniform, it was attributable to some
natural cause, and not to the arts of the imitator. The inferiority might
be the result of feebleness and of want of activity of mind. But the
natural weakness of a great author would commonly be different from the
artificial weakness of an imitator; it would be continuous and uniform.
The latter would be apt to fill his work with irregular patches, sometimes
taken verbally from the writings of the author whom he personated, but
rarely acquiring his spirit. His imitation would be obvious, irregular,
superficial. The patches of purple would be easily detected among his
threadbare and tattered garments. He would rarely take the pains to put
the same thought into other words. There were many forgeries in English
literature which attained a considerable degree of success 50 or 100 years
ago; but it is doubtful whether attempts such as these could now escape
detection, if there were any writings of the same author or of the same
age to be compared with them. And ancient forgers were much less skilful
than modern; they were far from being masters in the art of deception, and
had rarely any motive for being so.

(b) But, secondly, the imitator will commonly be least capable of
understanding or imitating that part of a great writer which is most
characteristic of him. In every man's writings there is something like
himself and unlike others, which gives individuality. To appreciate this
latent quality would require a kindred mind, and minute study and
observation. There are a class of similarities which may be called
undesigned coincidences, which are so remote as to be incapable of being
borrowed from one another, and yet, when they are compared, find a natural
explanation in their being the work of the same mind. The imitator might
copy the turns of style--he might repeat images or illustrations, but he
could not enter into the inner circle of Platonic philosophy. He would
understand that part of it which became popular in the next generation, as
for example, the doctrine of ideas or of numbers: he might approve of
communism. But the higher flights of Plato about the science of dialectic,
or the unity of virtue, or a person who is above the law, would be
unintelligible to him.

(c) The argument from imitation assumes a different character when the
supposed imitations are associated with other passages having the impress
of original genius. The strength of the argument from undesigned
coincidences of style is much increased when they are found side by side
with thoughts and expressions which can only have come from a great
original writer. The great excellence, not only of the whole, but even of
the parts of writings, is a strong proof of their genuineness--for
although the great writer may fall below, the forger or imitator cannot
rise much above himself. Whether we can attribute the worst parts of a
work to a forger and the best to a great writer,--as for example, in the
case of some of Shakespeare's plays,--depends upon the probability that
they have been interpolated, or have been the joint work of two writers;
and this can only be established either by express evidence or by a
comparison of other writings of the same class. If the interpolation or
double authorship of Greek writings in the time of Plato could be shown to
be common, then a question, perhaps insoluble, would arise, not whether
the whole, but whether parts of the Platonic dialogues are genuine, and,
if parts only, which parts. Hebrew prophecies and Homeric poems and Laws
of Manu may have grown together in early times, but there is no reason to
think that any of the dialogues of Plato is the result of a similar
process of accumulation. It is therefore rash to say with Oncken (Die
Staatslehre des Aristoteles) that the form in which Aristotle knew the
Laws of Plato must have been different from that in which they have come
down to us.

It must be admitted that these principles are difficult of application.
Yet a criticism may be worth making which rests only on probabilities or
impressions. Great disputes will arise about the merits of different
passages, about what is truly characteristic and original or trivial and
borrowed. Many have thought the Laws to be one of the greatest of Platonic
writings, while in the judgment of Mr. Grote they hardly rise above the
level of the forged epistles. The manner in which a writer would or would
not have written at a particular time of life must be acknowledged to be a
matter of conjecture. But enough has been said to show that similarities
of a certain kind, whether criticism is able to detect them or not, may be
such as must be attributed to an original writer, and not to a mere

(d) Applying these principles to the case of the Laws, we have now to
point out that they contain the class of refined or unconscious
similarities which are indicative of genuineness. The parallelisms are
like the repetitions of favourite thoughts into which every one is apt to
fall unawares in conversation or in writing. They are found in a work
which contains many beautiful and remarkable passages. We may therefore
begin by claiming this presumption in their favour. Such undesigned
coincidences, as we may venture to call them, are the following. The
conception of justice as the union of temperance, wisdom, courage (Laws;
Republic): the latent idea of dialectic implied in the notion of dividing
laws after the kinds of virtue (Laws); the approval of the method of
looking at one idea gathered from many things, 'than which a truer was
never discovered by any man' (compare Republic): or again the description
of the Laws as parents (Laws; Republic): the assumption that religion has
been already settled by the oracle of Delphi (Laws; Republic), to which an
appeal is also made in special cases (Laws): the notion of the battle with
self, a paradox for which Plato in a manner apologizes both in the Laws
and the Republic: the remark (Laws) that just men, even when they are
deformed in body, may still be perfectly beautiful in respect of the
excellent justice of their minds (compare Republic): the argument that
ideals are none the worse because they cannot be carried out (Laws;
Republic): the near approach to the idea of good in 'the principle which
is common to all the four virtues,' a truth which the guardians must be
compelled to recognize (Laws; compare Republic): or again the recognition
by reason of the right pleasure and pain, which had previously been matter
of habit (Laws; Republic): or the blasphemy of saying that the excellency
of music is to give pleasure (Laws; Republic): again the story of the
Sidonian Cadmus (Laws), which is a variation of the Phoenician tale of the
earth-born men (Republic): the comparison of philosophy to a yelping she-
dog, both in the Republic and in the Laws: the remark that no man can
practise two trades (Laws; Republic): or the advantage of the middle
condition (Laws; Republic): the tendency to speak of principles as moulds
or forms; compare the ekmageia of song (Laws), and the tupoi of religion
(Republic): or the remark (Laws) that 'the relaxation of justice makes
many cities out of one,' which may be compared with the Republic: or the
description of lawlessness 'creeping in little by little in the fashions
of music and overturning all things,'--to us a paradox, but to Plato's
mind a fixed idea, which is found in the Laws as well as in the Republic:
or the figure of the parts of the human body under which the parts of the
state are described (Laws; Republic): the apology for delay and
diffuseness, which occurs not unfrequently in the Republic, is carried to
an excess in the Laws (compare Theaet.): the remarkable thought (Laws)
that the soul of the sun is better than the sun, agrees with the relation
in which the idea of good stands to the sun in the Republic, and with the
substitution of mind for the idea of good in the Philebus: the passage
about the tragic poets (Laws) agrees generally with the treatment of them
in the Republic, but is more finely conceived, and worked out in a nobler
spirit. Some lesser similarities of thought and manner should not be
omitted, such as the mention of the thirty years' old students in the
Republic, and the fifty years' old choristers in the Laws; or the making
of the citizens out of wax (Laws) compared with the other image
(Republic); or the number of the tyrant (729), which is NEARLY equal with
the number of days and nights in the year (730), compared with the 'slight
correction' of the sacred number 5040, which is divisible by all the
numbers from 1 to 12 except 11, and divisible by 11, if two families be
deducted; or once more, we may compare the ignorance of solid geometry of
which he complains in the Republic and the puzzle about fractions with the
difficulty in the Laws about commensurable and incommensurable quantities
--and the malicious emphasis on the word gunaikeios (Laws) with the use of
the same word (Republic). These and similar passages tend to show that the
author of the Republic is also the author of the Laws. They are echoes of
the same voice, expressions of the same mind, coincidences too subtle to
have been invented by the ingenuity of any imitator. The force of the
argument is increased, if we remember that no passage in the Laws is
exactly copied,--nowhere do five or six words occur together which are
found together elsewhere in Plato's writings.

In other dialogues of Plato, as well as in the Republic, there are to be
found parallels with the Laws. Such resemblances, as we might expect,
occur chiefly (but not exclusively) in the dialogues which, on other
grounds, we may suppose to be of later date. The punishment of evil is to
be like evil men (Laws), as he says also in the Theaetetus. Compare again
the dependence of tragedy and comedy on one another, of which he gives the
reason in the Laws--'For serious things cannot be understood without
laughable, nor opposites at all without opposites, if a man is really to
have intelligence of either'; here he puts forward the principle which is
the groundwork of the thesis of Socrates in the Symposium, 'that the
genius of tragedy is the same as that of comedy, and that the writer of
comedy ought to be a writer of tragedy also.' There is a truth and right
which is above Law (Laws), as we learn also from the Statesman. That men
are the possession of the Gods (Laws), is a reflection which likewise
occurs in the Phaedo. The remark, whether serious or ironical (Laws), that
'the sons of the Gods naturally believed in the Gods, because they had the
means of knowing about them,' is found in the Timaeus. The reign of
Cronos, who is the divine ruler (Laws), is a reminiscence of the
Statesman. It is remarkable that in the Sophist and Statesman (Soph.),
Plato, speaking in the character of the Eleatic Stranger, has already put
on the old man. The madness of the poets, again, is a favourite notion of
Plato's, which occurs also in the Laws, as well as in the Phaedrus, Ion,
and elsewhere. There are traces in the Laws of the same desire to base
speculation upon history which we find in the Critias. Once more, there is
a striking parallel with the paradox of the Gorgias, that 'if you do evil,
it is better to be punished than to be unpunished,' in the Laws: 'To live
having all goods without justice and virtue is the greatest of evils if
life be immortal, but not so great if the bad man lives but a short time.'

The point to be considered is whether these are the kind of parallels
which would be the work of an imitator. Would a forger have had the wit to
select the most peculiar and characteristic thoughts of Plato; would he
have caught the spirit of his philosophy; would he, instead of openly
borrowing, have half concealed his favourite ideas; would he have formed
them into a whole such as the Laws; would he have given another the credit
which he might have obtained for himself; would he have remembered and
made use of other passages of the Platonic writings and have never
deviated into the phraseology of them? Without pressing such arguments as
absolutely certain, we must acknowledge that such a comparison affords a
new ground of real weight for believing the Laws to be a genuine writing
of Plato.

V. The relation of the Republic to the Laws is clearly set forth by Plato
in the Laws. The Republic is the best state, the Laws is the best possible
under the existing conditions of the Greek world. The Republic is the
ideal, in which no man calls anything his own, which may or may not have
existed in some remote clime, under the rule of some God, or son of a God
(who can say?), but is, at any rate, the pattern of all other states and
the exemplar of human life. The Laws distinctly acknowledge what the
Republic partly admits, that the ideal is inimitable by us, but that we
should 'lift up our eyes to the heavens' and try to regulate our lives
according to the divine image. The citizens are no longer to have wives
and children in common, and are no longer to be under the government of
philosophers. But the spirit of communism or communion is to continue
among them, though reverence for the sacredness of the family, and respect
of children for parents, not promiscuous hymeneals, are now the foundation
of the state; the sexes are to be as nearly on an equality as possible;
they are to meet at common tables, and to share warlike pursuits (if the
women will consent), and to have a common education. The legislator has
taken the place of the philosopher, but a council of elders is retained,
who are to fulfil the duties of the legislator when he has passed out of
life. The addition of younger persons to this council by co-optation is an
improvement on the governing body of the Republic. The scheme of education
in the Laws is of a far lower kind than that which Plato had conceived in
the Republic. There he would have his rulers trained in all knowledge
meeting in the idea of good, of which the different branches of
mathematical science are but the hand-maidens or ministers; here he treats
chiefly of popular education, stopping short with the preliminary
sciences,--these are to be studied partly with a view to their practical
usefulness, which in the Republic he holds cheap, and even more with a
view to avoiding impiety, of which in the Republic he says nothing; he
touches very lightly on dialectic, which is still to be retained for the
rulers. Yet in the Laws there remain traces of the old educational ideas.
He is still for banishing the poets; and as he finds the works of prose
writers equally dangerous, he would substitute for them the study of his
own laws. He insists strongly on the importance of mathematics as an
educational instrument. He is no more reconciled to the Greek mythology
than in the Republic, though he would rather say nothing about it out of a
reverence for antiquity; and he is equally willing to have recourse to
fictions, if they have a moral tendency. His thoughts recur to a golden
age in which the sanctity of oaths was respected and in which men living
nearer the Gods were more disposed to believe in them; but we must
legislate for the world as it is, now that the old beliefs have passed
away. Though he is no longer fired with dialectical enthusiasm, he would
compel the guardians to 'look at one idea gathered from many things,' and
to 'perceive the principle which is the same in all the four virtues.' He
still recognizes the enormous influence of music, in which every youth is
to be trained for three years; and he seems to attribute the existing
degeneracy of the Athenian state and the laxity of morals partly to
musical innovation, manifested in the unnatural divorce of the instrument
and the voice, of the rhythm from the words, and partly to the influence
of the mob who ruled at the theatres. He assimilates the education of the
two sexes, as far as possible, both in music and gymnastic, and, as in the
Republic, he would give to gymnastic a purely military character. In
marriage, his object is still to produce the finest children for the
state. As in the Statesman, he would unite in wedlock dissimilar natures--
the passionate with the dull, the courageous with the gentle. And the
virtuous tyrant of the Statesman, who has no place in the Republic, again
appears. In this, as in all his writings, he has the strongest sense of
the degeneracy and incapacity of the rulers of his own time.

In the Laws, the philosophers, if not banished, like the poets, are at
least ignored; and religion takes the place of philosophy in the
regulation of human life. It must however be remembered that the religion
of Plato is co-extensive with morality, and is that purified religion and
mythology of which he speaks in the second book of the Republic. There is
no real discrepancy in the two works. In a practical treatise, he speaks
of religion rather than of philosophy; just as he appears to identify
virtue with pleasure, and rather seeks to find the common element of the
virtues than to maintain his old paradoxical theses that they are one, or
that they are identical with knowledge. The dialectic and the idea of
good, which even Glaucon in the Republic could not understand, would be
out of place in a less ideal work. There may also be a change in his own
mind, the purely intellectual aspect of philosophy having a diminishing
interest to him in his old age.

Some confusion occurs in the passage in which Plato speaks of the
Republic, occasioned by his reference to a third state, which he proposes
(D.V.) hereafter to expound. Like many other thoughts in the Laws, the
allusion is obscure from not being worked out. Aristotle (Polit.) speaks
of a state which is neither the best absolutely, nor the best under
existing conditions, but an imaginary state, inferior to either,
destitute, as he supposes, of the necessaries of life--apparently such a
beginning of primitive society as is described in Laws iii. But it is not
clear that by this the third state of Plato is intended. It is possible
that Plato may have meant by his third state an historical sketch, bearing
the same relation to the Laws which the unfinished Critias would have
borne to the Republic; or he may, perhaps, have intended to describe a
state more nearly approximating than the Laws to existing Greek states.

The Statesman is a mere fragment when compared with the Laws, yet
combining a second interest of dialectic as well as politics, which is
wanting in the larger work. Several points of similarity and contrast may
be observed between them. In some respects the Statesman is even more
ideal than the Republic, looking back to a former state of paradisiacal
life, in which the Gods ruled over mankind, as the Republic looks forward
to a coming kingdom of philosophers. Of this kingdom of Cronos there is
also mention in the Laws. Again, in the Statesman, the Eleatic Stranger
rises above law to the conception of the living voice of the lawgiver, who
is able to provide for individual cases. A similar thought is repeated in
the Laws: 'If in the order of nature, and by divine destiny, a man were
able to apprehend the truth about these things, he would have no need of
laws to rule over him; for there is no law or order above knowledge, nor
can mind without impiety be deemed the subject or slave of any, but rather
the lord of all.' The union of opposite natures, who form the warp and the
woof of the political web, is a favourite thought which occurs in both
dialogues (Laws; Statesman).

The Laws are confessedly a Second-best, an inferior Ideal, to which Plato
has recourse, when he finds that the city of Philosophers is no longer
'within the horizon of practical politics.' But it is curious to observe
that the higher Ideal is always returning (compare Arist. Polit.), and
that he is not much nearer the actual fact, nor more on the level of
ordinary life in the Laws than in the Republic. It is also interesting to
remark that the new Ideal is always falling away, and that he hardly
supposes the one to be more capable of being realized than the other.
Human beings are troublesome to manage; and the legislator cannot adapt
his enactments to the infinite variety of circumstances; after all he must
leave the administration of them to his successors; and though he would
have liked to make them as permanent as they are in Egypt, he cannot
escape from the necessity of change. At length Plato is obliged to
institute a Nocturnal Council which is supposed to retain the mind of the
legislator, and of which some of the members are even supposed to go
abroad and inspect the institutions of foreign countries, as a foundation
for changes in their own. The spirit of such changes, though avoiding the
extravagance of a popular assembly, being only so much change as the
conservative temper of old members is likely to allow, is nevertheless
inconsistent with the fixedness of Egypt which Plato wishes to impress
upon Hellenic institutions. He is inconsistent with himself as the truth
begins to dawn upon him that 'in the execution things for the most part
fall short of our conception of them' (Republic).

And is not this true of ideals of government in general? We are always
disappointed in them. Nothing great can be accomplished in the short space
of human life; wherefore also we look forward to another (Republic). As we
grow old, we are sensible that we have no power actively to pursue our
ideals any longer. We have had our opportunity and do not aspire to be
more than men: we have received our 'wages and are going home.' Neither do
we despair of the future of mankind, because we have been able to do so
little in comparison of the whole. We look in vain for consistency either
in men or things. But we have seen enough of improvement in our own time
to justify us in the belief that the world is worth working for and that a
good man's life is not thrown away. Such reflections may help us to bring
home to ourselves by inward sympathy the language of Plato in the Laws,
and to combine into something like a whole his various and at first sight
inconsistent utterances.

VI. The Republic may be described as the Spartan constitution appended to
a government of philosophers. But in the Laws an Athenian element is also
introduced. Many enactments are taken from the Athenian; the four classes
are borrowed from the constitution of Cleisthenes, which Plato regards as
the best form of Athenian government, and the guardians of the law bear a
certain resemblance to the archons. In the constitution of the Laws nearly
all officers are elected by a vote more or less popular and by lot. But
the assembly only exists for the purposes of election, and has no
legislative or executive powers. The Nocturnal Council, which is the
highest body in the state, has several of the functions of the ancient
Athenian Areopagus, after which it appears to be modelled. Life is to
wear, as at Athens, a joyous and festive look; there are to be Bacchic
choruses, and men of mature age are encouraged in moderate potations. On
the other hand, the common meals, the public education, the crypteia are
borrowed from Sparta and not from Athens, and the superintendence of
private life, which was to be practised by the governors, has also its
prototype in Sparta. The extravagant dislike which Plato shows both to a
naval power and to extreme democracy is the reverse of Athenian.

The best-governed Hellenic states traced the origin of their laws to
individual lawgivers. These were real persons, though we are uncertain how
far they originated or only modified the institutions which are ascribed
to them. But the lawgiver, though not a myth, was a fixed idea in the mind
of the Greek,--as fixed as the Trojan war or the earth-born Cadmus. 'This
was what Solon meant or said'--was the form in which the Athenian
expressed his own conception of right and justice, or argued a disputed
point of law. And the constant reference in the Laws of Plato to the
lawgiver is altogether in accordance with Greek modes of thinking and

There is also, as in the Republic, a Pythagorean element. The highest
branch of education is arithmetic; to know the order of the heavenly
bodies, and to reconcile the apparent contradiction of their movements, is
an important part of religion; the lives of the citizens are to have a
common measure, as also their vessels and coins; the great blessing of the
state is the number 5040. Plato is deeply impressed by the antiquity of
Egypt, and the unchangeableness of her ancient forms of song and dance.
And he is also struck by the progress which the Egyptians had made in the
mathematical sciences--in comparison of them the Greeks appeared to him to
be little better than swine. Yet he censures the Egyptian meanness and
inhospitality to strangers. He has traced the growth of states from their
rude beginnings in a philosophical spirit; but of any life or growth of
the Hellenic world in future ages he is silent. He has made the reflection
that past time is the maker of states (Book iii.); but he does not argue
from the past to the future, that the process is always going on, or that
the institutions of nations are relative to their stage of civilization.
If he could have stamped indelibly upon Hellenic states the will of the
legislator, he would have been satisfied. The utmost which he expects of
future generations is that they should supply the omissions, or correct
the errors which younger statesmen detect in his enactments. When
institutions have been once subjected to this process of criticism, he
would have them fixed for ever.


BOOK I. Strangers, let me ask a question of you--Was a God or a man the
author of your laws? 'A God, Stranger. In Crete, Zeus is said to have been
the author of them; in Sparta, as Megillus will tell you, Apollo.' You
Cretans believe, as Homer says, that Minos went every ninth year to
converse with his Olympian sire, and gave you laws which he brought from
him. 'Yes; and there was Rhadamanthus, his brother, who is reputed among
us to have been a most righteous judge.' That is a reputation worthy of
the son of Zeus. And as you and Megillus have been trained under these
laws, I may ask you to give me an account of them. We can talk about them
in our walk from Cnosus to the cave and temple of Zeus. I am told that the
distance is considerable, but probably there are shady places under the
trees, where, being no longer young, we may often rest and converse. 'Yes,
Stranger, a little onward there are beautiful groves of cypresses, and
green meadows in which we may repose.'

My first question is, Why has the law ordained that you should have common
meals, and practise gymnastics, and bear arms? 'My answer is, that all our
institutions are of a military character. We lead the life of the camp
even in time of peace, keeping up the organization of an army, and having
meals in common; and as our country, owing to its ruggedness, is ill-
suited for heavy-armed cavalry or infantry, our soldiers are archers,
equipped with bows and arrows. The legislator was under the idea that war
was the natural state of all mankind, and that peace is only a pretence;
he thought that no possessions had any value which were not secured
against enemies.' And do you think that superiority in war is the proper
aim of government? 'Certainly I do, and my Spartan friend will agree with
me.' And are there wars, not only of state against state, but of village
against village, of family against family, of individual against
individual? 'Yes.' And is a man his own enemy? 'There you come to first
principles, like a true votary of the goddess Athene; and this is all the
better, for you will the sooner recognize the truth of what I am saying--
that all men everywhere are the enemies of all, and each individual of
every other and of himself; and, further, that there is a victory and
defeat--the best and the worst--which each man sustains, not at the hands
of another, but of himself.' And does this extend to states and villages
as well as to individuals? 'Certainly; there is a better in them which
conquers or is conquered by the worse.' Whether the worse ever really
conquers the better, is a question which may be left for the present; but
your meaning is, that bad citizens do sometimes overcome the good, and
that the state is then conquered by herself, and that when they are
defeated the state is victorious over herself. Or, again, in a family
there may be several brothers, and the bad may be a majority; and when the
bad majority conquer the good minority, the family are worse than
themselves. The use of the terms 'better or worse than himself or
themselves' may be doubtful, but about the thing meant there can be no
dispute. 'Very true.' Such a struggle might be determined by a judge. And
which will be the better judge--he who destroys the worse and lets the
better rule, or he who lets the better rule and makes the others
voluntarily obey; or, thirdly, he who destroys no one, but reconciles the
two parties? 'The last, clearly.' But the object of such a judge or
legislator would not be war. 'True.' And as there are two kinds of war,
one without and one within a state, of which the internal is by far the
worse, will not the legislator chiefly direct his attention to this
latter? He will reconcile the contending factions, and unite them against
their external enemies. 'Certainly.' Every legislator will aim at the
greatest good, and the greatest good is not victory in war, whether civil
or external, but mutual peace and good-will, as in the body health is
preferable to the purgation of disease. He who makes war his object
instead of peace, or who pursues war except for the sake of peace, is not
a true statesman. 'And yet, Stranger, the laws both of Crete and Sparta
aim entirely at war.' Perhaps so; but do not let us quarrel about your
legislators--let us be gentle; they were in earnest quite as much as we
are, and we must try to discover their meaning. The poet Tyrtaeus (you
know his poems in Crete, and my Lacedaemonian friend is only too familiar
with them)--he was an Athenian by birth, and a Spartan citizen:--'Well,'
he says, 'I sing not, I care not about any man, however rich or happy,
unless he is brave in war.' Now I should like, in the name of us all, to
ask the poet a question. Oh Tyrtaeus, I would say to him, we agree with
you in praising those who excel in war, but which kind of war do you
mean?--that dreadful war which is termed civil, or the milder sort which
is waged against foreign enemies? You say that you abominate 'those who
are not eager to taste their enemies' blood,' and you seem to mean chiefly
their foreign enemies. 'Certainly he does.' But we contend that there are
men better far than your heroes, Tyrtaeus, concerning whom another poet,
Theognis the Sicilian, says that 'in a civil broil they are worth their
weight in gold and silver.' For in a civil war, not only courage, but
justice and temperance and wisdom are required, and all virtue is better
than a part. The mercenary soldier is ready to die at his post; yet he is
commonly a violent, senseless creature. And the legislator, whether
inspired or uninspired, will make laws with a view to the highest virtue;
and this is not brute courage, but loyalty in the hour of danger. The
virtue of Tyrtaeus, although needful enough in his own time, is really of
a fourth-rate description. 'You are degrading our legislator to a very low
level.' Nay, we degrade not him, but ourselves, if we believe that the
laws of Lycurgus and Minos had a view to war only. A divine lawgiver would
have had regard to all the different kinds of virtue, and have arranged
his laws in corresponding classes, and not in the modern fashion, which
only makes them after the want of them is felt,--about inheritances and
heiresses and assaults, and the like. As you truly said, virtue is the
business of the legislator; but you went wrong when you referred all
legislation to a part of virtue, and to an inferior part. For the object
of laws, whether the Cretan or any other, is to make men happy. Now
happiness or good is of two kinds--there are divine and there are human
goods. He who has the divine has the human added to him; but he who has
lost the greater is deprived of both. The lesser goods are health, beauty,
strength, and, lastly, wealth; not the blind God, Pluto, but one who has
eyes to see and follow wisdom. For mind or wisdom is the most divine of
all goods; and next comes temperance, and justice springs from the union
of wisdom and temperance with courage, which is the fourth or last. These
four precede other goods, and the legislator will arrange all his
ordinances accordingly, the human going back to the divine, and the divine
to their leader mind. There will be enactments about marriage, about
education, about all the states and feelings and experiences of men and
women, at every age, in weal and woe, in war and peace; upon all the law
will fix a stamp of praise and blame. There will also be regulations about
property and expenditure, about contracts, about rewards and punishments,
and finally about funeral rites and honours of the dead. The lawgiver will
appoint guardians to preside over these things; and mind will harmonize
his ordinances, and show them to be in agreement with temperance and
justice. Now I want to know whether the same principles are observed in
the laws of Lycurgus and Minos, or, as I should rather say, of Apollo and
Zeus. We must go through the virtues, beginning with courage, and then we
will show that what has preceded has relation to virtue.

'I wish,' says the Lacedaemonian, 'that you, Stranger, would first
criticize Cleinias and the Cretan laws.' Yes, is the reply, and I will
criticize you and myself, as well as him. Tell me, Megillus, were not the
common meals and gymnastic training instituted by your legislator with a
view to war? 'Yes; and next in the order of importance comes hunting, and
fourth the endurance of pain in boxing contests, and in the beatings which
are the punishment of theft. There is, too, the so-called Crypteia or
secret service, in which our youth wander about the country night and day
unattended, and even in winter go unshod and have no beds to lie on.
Moreover they wrestle and exercise under a blazing sun, and they have many
similar customs.' Well, but is courage only a combat against fear and
pain, and not against pleasure and flattery? 'Against both, I should say.'
And which is worse,--to be overcome by pain, or by pleasure? 'The latter.'
But did the lawgivers of Crete and Sparta legislate for a courage which is
lame of one leg,--able to meet the attacks of pain but not those of
pleasure, or for one which can meet both? 'For a courage which can meet
both, I should say.' But if so, where are the institutions which train
your citizens to be equally brave against pleasure and pain, and superior
to enemies within as well as without? 'We confess that we have no
institutions worth mentioning which are of this character.' I am not
surprised, and will therefore only request forbearance on the part of us
all, in case the love of truth should lead any of us to censure the laws
of the others. Remember that I am more in the way of hearing criticisms of
your laws than you can be; for in well-ordered states like Crete and
Sparta, although an old man may sometimes speak of them in private to a
ruler or elder, a similar liberty is not allowed to the young. But now
being alone we shall not offend your legislator by a friendly examination
of his laws. 'Take any freedom which you like.'

My first observation is, that your lawgiver ordered you to endure
hardships, because he thought that those who had not this discipline would
run away from those who had. But he ought to have considered further, that
those who had never learned to resist pleasure would be equally at the
mercy of those who had, and these are often among the worst of mankind.
Pleasure, like fear, would overcome them and take away their courage and
freedom. 'Perhaps; but I must not be hasty in giving my assent.'

Next as to temperance: what institutions have you which are adapted to
promote temperance? 'There are the common meals and gymnastic exercises.'
These are partly good and partly bad, and, as in medicine, what is good at
one time and for one person, is bad at another time and for another
person. Now although gymnastics and common meals do good, they are also a
cause of evil in civil troubles, and they appear to encourage unnatural
love, as has been shown at Miletus, in Boeotia, and at Thurii. And the
Cretans are said to have invented the tale of Zeus and Ganymede in order
to justify their evil practices by the example of the God who was their
lawgiver. Leaving the story, we may observe that all law has to do with
pleasure and pain; these are two fountains which are ever flowing in human
nature, and he who drinks of them when and as much as he ought, is happy,
and he who indulges in them to excess, is miserable. 'You may be right,
but I still incline to think that the Lacedaemonian lawgiver did well in
forbidding pleasure, if I may judge from the result. For there is no
drunken revelry in Sparta, and any one found in a state of intoxication is
severely punished; he is not excused as an Athenian would be at Athens on
account of a festival. I myself have seen the Athenians drunk at the
Dionysia--and at our colony, Tarentum, on a similar occasion, I have
beheld the whole city in a state of intoxication.' I admit that these
festivals should be properly regulated. Yet I might reply, 'Yes, Spartans,
that is not your vice; but look at home and remember the licentiousness of
your women.' And to all such accusations every one of us may reply in
turn:--'Wonder not, Stranger; there are different customs in different
countries.' Now this may be a sufficient answer; but we are speaking about
the wisdom of lawgivers and not about the customs of men. To return to the
question of drinking: shall we have total abstinence, as you have, or hard
drinking, like the Scythians and Thracians, or moderate potations like the
Persians? 'Give us arms, and we send all these nations flying before us.'
My good friend, be modest; victories and defeats often arise from unknown
causes, and afford no proof of the goodness or badness of institutions.
The stronger overcomes the weaker, as the Athenians have overcome the
Ceans, or the Syracusans the Locrians, who are, perhaps, the best governed
state in that part of the world. People are apt to praise or censure
practices without enquiring into the nature of them. This is the way with
drink: one person brings many witnesses, who sing the praises of wine;
another declares that sober men defeat drunkards in battle; and he again
is refuted in turn. I should like to conduct the argument on some other
method; for if you regard numbers, there are two cities on one side, and
ten thousand on the other. 'I am ready to pursue any method which is
likely to lead us to the truth.' Let me put the matter thus: Somebody
praises the useful qualities of a goat; another has seen goats running
about wild in a garden, and blames a goat or any other animal which
happens to be without a keeper. 'How absurd!' Would a pilot who is sea-
sick be a good pilot? 'No.' Or a general who is sick and drunk with fear
and ignorant of war a good general? 'A general of old women he ought to
be.' But can any one form an estimate of any society, which is intended to
have a ruler, and which he only sees in an unruly and lawless state? 'No.'
There is a convivial form of society--is there not? 'Yes.' And has this
convivial society ever been rightly ordered? Of course you Spartans and
Cretans have never seen anything of the kind, but I have had wide
experience, and made many enquiries about such societies, and have hardly
ever found anything right or good in them. 'We acknowledge our want of
experience, and desire to learn of you.' Will you admit that in all
societies there must be a leader? 'Yes.' And in time of war he must be a
man of courage and absolutely devoid of fear, if this be possible?
'Certainly.' But we are talking now of a general who shall preside at
meetings of friends--and as these have a tendency to be uproarious, they
ought above all others to have a governor. 'Very good.' He should be a
sober man and a man of the world, who will keep, make, and increase the
peace of the society; a drunkard in charge of drunkards would be
singularly fortunate if he avoided doing a serious mischief. 'Indeed he
would.' Suppose a person to censure such meetings--he may be right, but
also he may have known them only in their disorderly state, under a
drunken master of the feast; and a drunken general or pilot cannot save
his army or his ships. 'True; but although I see the advantage of an army
having a good general, I do not equally see the good of a feast being well
managed.' If you mean to ask what good accrues to the state from the right
training of a single youth or a single chorus, I should reply, 'Not much';
but if you ask what is the good of education in general, I answer, that
education makes good men, and that good men act nobly and overcome their
enemies in battle. Victory is often suicidal to the victors, because it
creates forgetfulness of education, but education itself is never
suicidal. 'You imply that the regulation of convivial meetings is a part
of education; how will you prove this?' I will tell you. But first let me
offer a word of apology. We Athenians are always thought to be fond of
talking, whereas the Lacedaemonian is celebrated for brevity, and the
Cretan is considered to be sagacious and reserved. Now I fear that I may
be charged with spinning a long discourse out of slender materials. For
drinking cannot be rightly ordered without correct principles of music,
and music runs up into education generally, and to discuss all these
matters may be tedious; if you like, therefore, we will pass on to another
part of our subject. 'Are you aware, Athenian, that our family is your
proxenus at Sparta, and that from my boyhood I have regarded Athens as a
second country, and having often fought your battles in my youth, I have
become attached to you, and love the sound of the Attic dialect? The
saying is true, that the best Athenians are more than ordinarily good,
because they are good by nature; therefore, be assured that I shall be
glad to hear you talk as much as you please.' 'I, too,' adds Cleinias,
'have a tie which binds me to you. You know that Epimenides, the Cretan
prophet, came and offered sacrifices in your city by the command of an
oracle ten years before the Persian war. He told the Athenians that the
Persian host would not come for ten years, and would go away again, having
suffered more harm than they had inflicted. Now Epimenides was of my
family, and when he visited Athens he entered into friendship with your
forefathers.' I see that you are willing to listen, and I have the will to
speak, if I had only the ability. But, first, I must define the nature and
power of education, and by this road we will travel on to the God
Dionysus. The man who is to be good at anything must have early training;
--the future builder must play at building, and the husbandman at digging;
the soldier must learn to ride, and the carpenter to measure and use the
rule,--all the thoughts and pleasures of children should bear on their
after-profession.--Do you agree with me? 'Certainly.' And we must remember
further that we are speaking of the education, not of a trainer, or of the
captain of a ship, but of a perfect citizen who knows how to rule and how
to obey; and such an education aims at virtue, and not at wealth or
strength or mere cleverness. To the good man, education is of all things
the most precious, and is also in constant need of renovation. 'We agree.'
And we have before agreed that good men are those who are able to control
themselves, and bad men are those who are not. Let me offer you an
illustration which will assist our argument. Man is one; but in one and
the same man are two foolish counsellors who contend within him--pleasure
and pain, and of either he has expectations which we call hope and fear;
and he is able to reason about good and evil, and reason, when affirmed by
the state, becomes law. 'We cannot follow you.' Let me put the matter in
another way: Every creature is a puppet of the Gods--whether he is a mere
plaything or has any serious use we do not know; but this we do know, that
he is drawn different ways by cords and strings. There is a soft golden
cord which draws him towards virtue--this is the law of the state; and
there are other cords made of iron and hard materials drawing him other
ways. The golden reasoning influence has nothing of the nature of force,
and therefore requires ministers in order to vanquish the other
principles. This explains the doctrine that cities and citizens both
conquer and are conquered by themselves. The individual follows reason,
and the city law, which is embodied reason, either derived from the Gods
or from the legislator. When virtue and vice are thus distinguished,
education will be better understood, and in particular the relation of
education to convivial intercourse. And now let us set wine before the
puppet. You admit that wine stimulates the passions? 'Yes.' And does wine
equally stimulate the reasoning faculties? 'No; it brings the soul back to
a state of childhood.' In such a state a man has the least control over
himself, and is, therefore, worst. 'Very true.' Then how can we believe
that drinking should be encouraged? 'You seem to think that it ought to
be.' And I am ready to maintain my position. 'We should like to hear you
prove that a man ought to make a beast of himself.' You are speaking of
the degradation of the soul: but how about the body? Would any man
willingly degrade or weaken that? 'Certainly not.' And yet if he goes to a
doctor or a gymnastic master, does he not make himself ill in the hope of
getting well? for no one would like to be always taking medicine, or
always to be in training. 'True.' And may not convivial meetings have a
similar remedial use? And if so, are they not to be preferred to other
modes of training because they are painless? 'But have they any such use?'
Let us see: Are there not two kinds of fear--fear of evil and fear of an
evil reputation? 'There are.' The latter kind of fear is opposed both to
the fear of pain and to the love of pleasure. This is called by the
legislator reverence, and is greatly honoured by him and by every good
man; whereas confidence, which is the opposite quality, is the worst fault
both of individuals and of states. This sort of fear or reverence is one
of the two chief causes of victory in war, fearlessness of enemies being
the other. 'True.' Then every one should be both fearful and fearless?
'Yes.' The right sort of fear is infused into a man when he comes face to
face with shame, or cowardice, or the temptations of pleasure, and has to
conquer them. He must learn by many trials to win the victory over
himself, if he is ever to be made perfect. 'That is reasonable enough.'
And now, suppose that the Gods had given mankind a drug, of which the
effect was to exaggerate every sort of evil and danger, so that the
bravest man entirely lost his presence of mind and became a coward for a
time:--would such a drug have any value? 'But is there such a drug?' No;
but suppose that there were; might not the legislator use such a mode of
testing courage and cowardice? 'To be sure.' The legislator would induce
fear in order to implant fearlessness; and would give rewards or
punishments to those who behaved well or the reverse, under the influence
of the drug? 'Certainly.' And this mode of training, whether practised in
the case of one or many, whether in solitude or in the presence of a large
company--if a man have sufficient confidence in himself to drink the
potion amid his boon companions, leaving off in time and not taking too
much,--would be an equally good test of temperance? 'Very true.' Let us
return to the lawgiver and say to him, 'Well, lawgiver, no such fear-
producing potion has been given by God or invented by man, but there is a
potion which will make men fearless.' 'You mean wine.' Yes; has not wine
an effect the contrary of that which I was just now describing,--first
mellowing and humanizing a man, and then filling him with confidence,
making him ready to say or do anything? 'Certainly.' Let us not forget
that there are two qualities which should be cultivated in the soul--
first, the greatest fearlessness, and, secondly, the greatest fear, which
are both parts of reverence. Courage and fearlessness are trained amid
dangers; but we have still to consider how fear is to be trained. We
desire to attain fearlessness and confidence without the insolence and
boldness which commonly attend them. For do not love, ignorance, avarice,
wealth, beauty, strength, while they stimulate courage, also madden and
intoxicate the soul? What better and more innocent test of character is
there than festive intercourse? Would you make a bargain with a man in
order to try whether he is honest? Or would you ascertain whether he is
licentious by putting your wife or daughter into his hands? No one would
deny that the test proposed is fairer, speedier, and safer than any other.
And such a test will be particularly useful in the political science,
which desires to know human natures and characters. 'Very true.'

BOOK II. And are there any other uses of well-ordered potations? There
are; but in order to explain them, I must repeat what I mean by right
education; which, if I am not mistaken, depends on the due regulation of
convivial intercourse. 'A high assumption.' I believe that virtue and vice
are originally present to the mind of children in the form of pleasure and
pain; reason and fixed principles come later, and happy is he who acquires
them even in declining years; for he who possesses them is the perfect
man. When pleasure and pain, and love and hate, are rightly implanted in
the yet unconscious soul, and after the attainment of reason are
discovered to be in harmony with her, this harmony of the soul is virtue,
and the preparatory stage, anticipating reason, I call education. But the
finer sense of pleasure and pain is apt to be impaired in the course of
life; and therefore the Gods, pitying the toils and sorrows of mortals,
have allowed them to have holidays, and given them the Muses and Apollo
and Dionysus for leaders and playfellows. All young creatures love motion
and frolic, and utter sounds of delight; but man only is capable of taking
pleasure in rhythmical and harmonious movements. With these education
begins; and the uneducated is he who has never known the discipline of the
chorus, and the educated is he who has. The chorus is partly dance and
partly song, and therefore the well-educated must sing and dance well. But
when we say, 'He sings and dances well,' we mean that he sings and dances
what is good. And if he thinks that to be good which is really good, he
will have a much higher music and harmony in him, and be a far greater
master of imitation in sound and gesture than he who is not of this
opinion. 'True.' Then, if we know what is good and bad in song and dance,
we shall know what education is? 'Very true.' Let us now consider the
beauty of figure, melody, song, and dance. Will the same figures or sounds
be equally well adapted to the manly and the cowardly when they are in
trouble? 'How can they be, when the very colours of their faces are
different?' Figures and melodies have a rhythm and harmony which are
adapted to the expression of different feelings (I may remark, by the way,
that the term 'colour,' which is a favourite word of music-masters, is not
really applicable to music). And one class of harmonies is akin to courage
and all virtue, the other to cowardice and all vice. 'We agree.' And do
all men equally like all dances? 'Far otherwise.' Do some figures, then,
appear to be beautiful which are not? For no one will admit that the forms
of vice are more beautiful than the forms of virtue, or that he prefers
the first kind to the second. And yet most persons say that the merit of
music is to give pleasure. But this is impiety. There is, however, a more
plausible account of the matter given by others, who make their likes or
dislikes the criterion of excellence. Sometimes nature crosses habit, or
conversely, and then they say that such and such fashions or gestures are
pleasant, but they do not like to exhibit them before men of sense,
although they enjoy them in private. 'Very true.' And do vicious measures
and strains do any harm, or good measures any good to the lovers of them?
'Probably.' Say, rather 'Certainly': for the gentle indulgence which we
often show to vicious men inevitably makes us become like them. And what
can be worse than this? 'Nothing.' Then in a well-administered city, the
poet will not be allowed to make the songs of the people just as he
pleases, or to train his choruses without regard to virtue and vice.
'Certainly not.' And yet he may do this anywhere except in Egypt; for
there ages ago they discovered the great truth which I am now asserting,
that the young should be educated in forms and strains of virtue. These
they fixed and consecrated in their temples; and no artist or musician is
allowed to deviate from them. They are literally the same which they were
ten thousand years ago. And this practice of theirs suggests the
reflection that legislation about music is not an impossible thing. But
the particular enactments must be the work of God or of some God-inspired
man, as in Egypt their ancient chants are said to be the composition of
the goddess Isis. The melodies which have a natural truth and correctness
should be embodied in a law, and then the desire of novelty is not strong
enough to change the old fashions. Is not the origin of music as follows?
We rejoice when we think that we prosper, and we think that we prosper
when we rejoice, and at such times we cannot rest, but our young men dance
dances and sing songs, and our old men, who have lost the elasticity of
youth, regale themselves with the memory of the past, while they
contemplate the life and activity of the young. 'Most true.' People say
that he who gives us most pleasure at such festivals is to win the palm:
are they right? 'Possibly.' Let us not be hasty in deciding, but first
imagine a festival at which the lord of the festival, having assembled the
citizens, makes a proclamation that he shall be crowned victor who gives
the most pleasure, from whatever source derived. We will further suppose
that there are exhibitions of rhapsodists and musicians, tragic and comic
poets, and even marionette-players--which of the pleasure-makers will win?
Shall I answer for you?--the marionette-players will please the children;
youths will decide for comedy; young men, educated women, and people in
general will prefer tragedy; we old men are lovers of Homer and Hesiod.
Now which of them is right? If you and I are asked, we shall certainly say
that the old men's way of thinking ought to prevail. 'Very true.' So far I
agree with the many that the excellence of music is to be measured by
pleasure; but then the pleasure must be that of the good and educated, or
better still, of one supremely virtuous and educated man. The true judge
must have both wisdom and courage. For he must lead the multitude and not
be led by them, and must not weakly yield to the uproar of the theatre,
nor give false judgment out of that mouth which has just appealed to the
Gods. The ancient custom of Hellas, which still prevails in Italy and
Sicily, left the judgment to the spectators, but this custom has been the
ruin of the poets, who seek only to please their patrons, and has degraded
the audience by the representation of inferior characters. What is the
inference? The same which we have often drawn, that education is the
training of the young idea in what the law affirms and the elders approve.
And as the soul of a child is too young to be trained in earnest, a kind
of education has been invented which tempts him with plays and songs, as
the sick are tempted by pleasant meats and drinks. And the wise legislator
will compel the poet to express in his poems noble thoughts in fitting
words and rhythms. 'But is this the practice elsewhere than in Crete and
Lacedaemon? In other states, as far as I know, dances and music are
constantly changed at the pleasure of the hearers.' I am afraid that I
misled you; not liking to be always finding fault with mankind as they
are, I described them as they ought to be. But let me understand: you say
that such customs exist among the Cretans and Lacedaemonians, and that the
rest of the world would be improved by adopting them? 'Much improved.' And
you compel your poets to declare that the righteous are happy, and that
the wicked man, even if he be as rich as Midas, is unhappy? Or, in the
words of Tyrtaeus, 'I sing not, I care not about him' who is a great
warrior not having justice; if he be unjust, 'I would not have him look
calmly upon death or be swifter than the wind'; and may he be deprived of
every good--that is, of every true good. For even if he have the goods
which men regard, these are not really goods: first health; beauty next;
thirdly wealth; and there are others. A man may have every sense purged
and improved; he may be a tyrant, and do what he likes, and live for ever:
but you and I will maintain that all these things are goods to the just,
but to the unjust the greatest of evils, if life be immortal; not so great
if he live for a short time only. If a man had health and wealth, and
power, and was insolent and unjust, his life would still be miserable; he
might be fair and rich, and do what he liked, but he would live basely,
and if basely evilly, and if evilly painfully. 'There I cannot agree with
you.' Then may heaven give us the spirit of agreement, for I am as
convinced of the truth of what I say as that Crete is an island; and, if I
were a lawgiver, I would exercise a censorship over the poets, and I would
punish them if they said that the wicked are happy, or that injustice is
profitable. And these are not the only matters in which I should make my
citizens talk in a different way to the world in general. If I asked Zeus
and Apollo, the divine legislators of Crete and Sparta,--'Are the just and
pleasant life the same or not the same'?--and they replied,--'Not the
same'; and I asked again--'Which is the happier'? And they said'--'The
pleasant life,' this is an answer not fit for a God to utter, and
therefore I ought rather to put the same question to some legislator. And
if he replies 'The pleasant,' then I should say to him, 'O my father, did
you not tell me that I should live as justly as possible'? and if to be
just is to be happy, what is that principle of happiness or good which is
superior to pleasure? Is the approval of gods and men to be deemed good
and honourable, but unpleasant, and their disapproval the reverse? Or is
the neither doing nor suffering evil good and honourable, although not
pleasant? But you cannot make men like what is not pleasant, and therefore
you must make them believe that the just is pleasant. The business of the
legislator is to clear up this confusion. He will show that the just and
the unjust are identical with the pleasurable and the painful, from the
point of view of the just man, of the unjust the reverse. And which is the
truer judgment? Surely that of the better soul. For if not the truth, it
is the best and most moral of fictions; and the legislator who desires to
propagate this useful lie, may be encouraged by remarking that mankind
have believed the story of Cadmus and the dragon's teeth, and therefore he
may be assured that he can make them believe anything, and need only
consider what fiction will do the greatest good. That the happiest is also
the holiest, this shall be our strain, which shall be sung by all three
choruses alike. First will enter the choir of children, who will lift up
their voices on high; and after them the young men, who will pray the God
Paean to be gracious to the youth, and to testify to the truth of their
words; then will come the chorus of elder men, between thirty and sixty;
and, lastly, there will be the old men, and they will tell stories
enforcing the same virtues, as with the voice of an oracle. 'Whom do you
mean by the third chorus?' You remember how I spoke at first of the
restless nature of young creatures, who jumped about and called out in a
disorderly manner, and I said that no other animal attained any perception
of rhythm; but that to us the Gods gave Apollo and the Muses and Dionysus
to be our playfellows. Of the two first choruses I have already spoken,
and I have now to speak of the third, or Dionysian chorus, which is
composed of those who are between thirty and sixty years old. 'Let us
hear.' We are agreed (are we not?) that men, women, and children should be
always charming themselves with strains of virtue, and that there should
be a variety in the strains, that they may not weary of them? Now the
fairest and most useful of strains will be uttered by the elder men, and
therefore we cannot let them off. But how can we make them sing? For a
discreet elderly man is ashamed to hear the sound of his own voice in
private, and still more in public. The only way is to give them drink;
this will mellow the sourness of age. No one should be allowed to taste
wine until they are eighteen; from eighteen to thirty they may take a
little; but when they have reached forty years, they may be initiated into
the mystery of drinking. Thus they will become softer and more
impressible; and when a man's heart is warm within him, he will be more
ready to charm himself and others with song. And what songs shall he sing?
'At Crete and Lacedaemon we only know choral songs.' Yes; that is because
your way of life is military. Your young men are like wild colts feeding
in a herd together; no one takes the individual colt and trains him apart,
and tries to give him the qualities of a statesman as well as of a
soldier. He who was thus trained would be a greater warrior than those of
whom Tyrtaeus speaks, for he would be courageous, and yet he would know
that courage was only fourth in the scale of virtue. 'Once more, I must
say, Stranger, that you run down our lawgivers.' Not intentionally, my
good friend, but whither the argument leads I follow; and I am trying to
find some style of poetry suitable for those who dislike the common sort.
'Very good.' In all things which have a charm, either this charm is their
good, or they have some accompanying truth or advantage. For example, in
eating and drinking there is pleasure and also profit, that is to say,
health; and in learning there is a pleasure and also truth. There is a
pleasure or charm, too, in the imitative arts, as well as a law of
proportion or equality; but the pleasure which they afford, however
innocent, is not the criterion of their truth. The test of pleasure cannot
be applied except to that which has no other good or evil, no truth or
falsehood. But that which has truth must be judged of by the standard of
truth, and therefore imitation and proportion are to be judged of by their
truth alone. 'Certainly.' And as music is imitative, it is not to be
judged by the criterion of pleasure, and the Muse whom we seek is the muse
not of pleasure but of truth, for imitation has a truth. 'Doubtless.' And
if so, the judge must know what is being imitated before he decides on the
quality of the imitation, and he who does not know what is true will not
know what is good. 'He will not.' Will any one be able to imitate the
human body, if he does not know the number, proportion, colour, or figure
of the limbs? 'How can he?' But suppose we know some picture or figure to
be an exact resemblance of a man, should we not also require to know
whether the picture is beautiful or not? 'Quite right.' The judge of the
imitation is required to know, therefore, first the original, secondly the
truth, and thirdly the merit of the execution? 'True.' Then let us not
weary in the attempt to bring music to the standard of the Muses and of
truth. The Muses are not like human poets; they never spoil or mix rhythms
or scales, or mingle instruments and human voices, or confuse the manners
and strains of men and women, or of freemen and slaves, or of rational
beings and brute animals. They do not practise the baser sorts of musical
arts, such as the 'matured judgments,' of whom Orpheus speaks, would
ridicule. But modern poets separate metre from music, and melody and
rhythm from words, and use the instrument alone without the voice. The
consequence is, that the meaning of the rhythm and of the time are not
understood. I am endeavouring to show how our fifty-year-old choristers
are to be trained, and what they are to avoid. The opinion of the
multitude about these matters is worthless; they who are only made to step
in time by sheer force cannot be critics of music. 'Impossible.' Then our
newly-appointed minstrels must be trained in music sufficiently to
understand the nature of rhythms and systems; and they should select such
as are suitable to men of their age, and will enable them to give and
receive innocent pleasure. This is a knowledge which goes beyond that
either of the poets or of their auditors in general. For although the poet
must understand rhythm and music, he need not necessarily know whether the
imitation is good or not, which was the third point required in a judge;
but our chorus of elders must know all three, if they are to be the
instructors of youth.

And now we will resume the original argument, which may be summed up as
follows: A convivial meeting is apt to grow tumultuous as the drinking
proceeds; every man becomes light-headed, and fancies that he can rule the
whole world. 'Doubtless.' And did we not say that the souls of the
drinkers, when subdued by wine, are made softer and more malleable at the
hand of the legislator? the docility of childhood returns to them. At
times however they become too valiant and disorderly, drinking out of
their turn, and interrupting one another. And the business of the
legislator is to infuse into them that divine fear, which we call shame,
in opposition to this disorderly boldness. But in order to discipline them
there must be guardians of the law of drinking, and sober generals who
shall take charge of the private soldiers; they are as necessary in
drinking as in fighting, and he who disobeys these Dionysiac commanders
will be equally disgraced. 'Very good.' If a drinking festival were well
regulated, men would go away, not as they now do, greater enemies, but
better friends. Of the greatest gift of Dionysus I hardly like to speak,
lest I should be misunderstood. 'What is that?' According to tradition
Dionysus was driven mad by his stepmother Here, and in order to revenge
himself he inspired mankind with Bacchic madness. But these are stories
which I would rather not repeat. However I do acknowledge that all men are
born in an imperfect state, and are at first restless, irrational
creatures: this, as you will remember, has been already said by us. 'I
remember.' And that Apollo and the Muses and Dionysus gave us harmony and
rhythm? 'Very true.' The other story implies that wine was given to punish
us and make us mad; but we contend that wine is a balm and a cure; a
spring of modesty in the soul, and of health and strength in the body.
Again, the work of the chorus is co-extensive with the work of education;
rhythm and melody answer to the voice, and the motions of the body
correspond to all three, and the sound enters in and educates the soul in
virtue. 'Yes.' And the movement which, when pursued as an amusement, is
termed dancing, when studied with a view to the improvement of the body,
becomes gymnastic. Shall we now proceed to speak of this? 'What Cretan or
Lacedaemonian would approve of your omitting gymnastic?' Your question
implies assent; and you will easily understand a subject which is familiar
to you. Gymnastic is based on the natural tendency of every animal to
rapid motion; and man adds a sense of rhythm, which is awakened by music;
music and dancing together form the choral art. But before proceeding I
must add a crowning word about drinking. Like other pleasures, it has a
lawful use; but if a state or an individual is inclined to drink at will,
I cannot allow them. I would go further than Crete or Lacedaemon and have
the law of the Carthaginians, that no slave of either sex should drink
wine at all, and no soldier while he is on a campaign, and no magistrate
or officer while he is on duty, and that no one should drink by daylight
or on a bridal night. And there are so many other occasions on which wine
ought to be prohibited, that there will not be many vines grown or
vineyards required in the state.

BOOK III. If a man wants to know the origin of states and societies, he
should behold them from the point of view of time. Thousands of cities
have come into being and have passed away again in infinite ages, every
one of them having had endless forms of government; and if we can
ascertain the cause of these changes in states, that will probably explain
their origin. What do you think of ancient traditions about deluges and
destructions of mankind, and the preservation of a remnant? 'Every one
believes in them.' Then let us suppose the world to have been destroyed by
a deluge. The survivors would be hill-shepherds, small sparks of the human
race, dwelling in isolation, and unacquainted with the arts and vices of
civilization. We may further suppose that the cities on the plain and on
the coast have been swept away, and that all inventions, and every sort of
knowledge, have perished. 'Why, if all things were as they now are,
nothing would have ever been invented. All our famous discoveries have
been made within the last thousand years, and many of them are but of
yesterday.' Yes, Cleinias, and you must not forget Epimenides, who was
really of yesterday; he practised the lesson of moderation and abstinence
which Hesiod only preached. 'True.' After the great destruction we may
imagine that the earth was a desert, in which there were a herd or two of
oxen and a few goats, hardly enough to support those who tended them;
while of politics and governments the survivors would know nothing. And
out of this state of things have arisen arts and laws, and a great deal of
virtue and a great deal of vice; little by little the world has come to be
what it is. At first, the few inhabitants would have had a natural fear of
descending into the plains; although they would want to have intercourse
with one another, they would have a difficulty in getting about, having
lost the arts, and having no means of extracting metals from the earth, or
of felling timber; for even if they had saved any tools, these would soon
have been worn out, and they could get no more until the art of metallurgy
had been again revived. Faction and war would be extinguished among them,
for being solitary they would incline to be friendly; and having abundance
of pasture and plenty of milk and flesh, they would have nothing to
quarrel about. We may assume that they had also dwellings, clothes,
pottery, for the weaving and plastic arts do not require the use of
metals. In those days they were neither poor nor rich, and there was no
insolence or injustice among them; for they were of noble natures, and
lived up to their principles, and believed what they were told; knowing
nothing of land or naval warfare, or of legal practices or party
conflicts, they were simpler and more temperate, and also more just than
the men of our day. 'Very true.' I am showing whence the need of lawgivers
arises, for in primitive ages they neither had nor wanted them. Men lived
according to the customs of their fathers, in a simple manner, under a
patriarchal government, such as still exists both among Hellenes and
barbarians, and is described in Homer as prevailing among the Cyclopes:--

'They have no laws, and they dwell in rocks or on the tops of mountains,
and every one is the judge of his wife and children, and they do not
trouble themselves about one another.'

'That is a charming poet of yours, though I know little of him, for in
Crete foreign poets are not much read.' 'But he is well known in Sparta,
though he describes Ionian rather than Dorian manners, and he seems to
take your view of primitive society.' May we not suppose that government
arose out of the union of single families who survived the destruction,
and were under the rule of patriarchs, because they had originally
descended from a single father and mother? 'That is very probable.' As
time went on, men increased in number, and tilled the ground, living in a
common habitation, which they protected by walls against wild beasts; but
the several families retained the laws and customs which they separately
received from their first parents. They would naturally like their own
laws better than any others, and would be already formed by them when they
met in a common society: thus legislation imperceptibly began among them.
For in the next stage the associated families would appoint
plenipotentiaries, who would select and present to the chiefs those of all
their laws which they thought best. The chiefs in turn would make a
further selection, and would thus become the lawgivers of the state, which
they would form into an aristocracy or a monarchy. 'Probably.' In the
third stage various other forms of government would arise. This state of
society is described by Homer in speaking of the foundation of Dardania,
which, he says,

'was built at the foot of many-fountained Ida, for Ilium, the city of the
plain, as yet was not.'

Here, as also in the account of the Cyclopes, the poet by some divine
inspiration has attained truth. But to proceed with our tale. Ilium was
built in a wide plain, on a low hill, which was surrounded by streams
descending from Ida. This shows that many ages must have passed; for the
men who remembered the deluge would never have placed their city at the
mercy of the waters. When mankind began to multiply, many other cities
were built in similar situations. These cities carried on a ten years' war
against Troy, by sea as well as land, for men were ceasing to be afraid of
the sea, and, in the meantime, while the chiefs of the army were at Troy,
their homes fell into confusion. The youth revolted and refused to receive
their own fathers; deaths, murders, exiles ensued. Under the new name of
Dorians, which they received from their chief Dorieus, the exiles
returned: the rest of the story is part of the history of Sparta.

Thus, after digressing from the subject of laws into music and drinking,
we return to the settlement of Sparta, which in laws and institutions is
the sister of Crete. We have seen the rise of a first, second, and third
state, during the lapse of ages; and now we arrive at a fourth state, and
out of the comparison of all four we propose to gather the nature of laws
and governments, and the changes which may be desirable in them. 'If,'
replies the Spartan, 'our new discussion is likely to be as good as the
last, I would think the longest day too short for such an employment.'

Let us imagine the time when Lacedaemon, and Argos, and Messene were all
subject, Megillus, to your ancestors. Afterwards, they distributed the
army into three portions, and made three cities--Argos, Messene,
Lacedaemon. 'Yes.' Temenus was the king of Argos, Cresphontes of Messene,
Procles and Eurysthenes ruled at Lacedaemon. 'Just so.' And they all swore
to assist any one of their number whose kingdom was subverted. 'Yes.' But
did we not say that kingdoms or governments can only be subverted by
themselves? 'That is true.' Yes, and the truth is now proved by facts:
there were certain conditions upon which the three kingdoms were to assist
one another; the government was to be mild and the people obedient, and
the kings and people were to unite in assisting either of the two others
when they were wronged. This latter condition was a great security.
'Clearly.' Such a provision is in opposition to the common notion that the
lawgiver should make only such laws as the people like; but we say that he
should rather be like a physician, prepared to effect a cure even at the
cost of considerable suffering. 'Very true.' The early lawgivers had
another great advantage--they were saved from the reproach which attends a
division of land and the abolition of debts. No one could quarrel with the
Dorians for dividing the territory, and they had no debts of long
standing. 'They had not.' Then what was the reason why their legislation
signally failed? For there were three kingdoms, two of them quickly lost
their original constitution. That is a question which we cannot refuse to
answer, if we mean to proceed with our old man's game of enquiring into
laws and institutions. And the Dorian institutions are more worthy of
consideration than any other, having been evidently intended to be a
protection not only to the Peloponnese, but to all the Hellenes against
the Barbarians. For the capture of Troy by the Achaeans had given great
offence to the Assyrians, of whose empire it then formed part, and they
were likely to retaliate. Accordingly the royal Heraclid brothers devised
their military constitution, which was organised on a far better plan than
the old Trojan expedition; and the Dorians themselves were far superior to
the Achaeans, who had taken part in that expedition, and had been
conquered by them. Such a scheme, undertaken by men who had shared with
one another toils and dangers, sanctioned by the Delphian oracle, under
the guidance of the Heraclidae, seemed to have a promise of permanence.
'Naturally.' Yet this has not proved to be the case. Instead of the three
being one, they have always been at war; had they been united, in
accordance with the original intention, they would have been invincible.

And what caused their ruin? Did you ever observe that there are beautiful
things of which men often say, 'What wonders they would have effected if
rightly used?' and yet, after all, this may be a mistake. And so I say of
the Heraclidae and their expedition, which I may perhaps have been
justified in admiring, but which nevertheless suggests to me the general
reflection,--'What wonders might not strength and military resources have
accomplished, if the possessor had only known how to use them!' For
consider: if the generals of the army had only known how to arrange their
forces, might they not have given their subjects everlasting freedom, and
the power of doing what they would in all the world? 'Very true.' Suppose
a person to express his admiration of wealth or rank, does he not do so
under the idea that by the help of these he can attain his desires? All
men wish to obtain the control of all things, and they are always praying
for what they desire. 'Certainly.' And we ask for our friends what they
ask for themselves. 'Yes.' Dear is the son to the father, and yet the son,
if he is young and foolish, will often pray to obtain what the father will
pray that he may not obtain. 'True.' And when the father, in the heat of
youth or the dotage of age, makes some rash prayer, the son, like
Hippolytus, may have reason to pray that the word of his father may be
ineffectual. 'You mean that a man should pray to have right desires,
before he prays that his desires may be fulfilled; and that wisdom should
be the first object of our prayers?' Yes; and you will remember my saying
that wisdom should be the principal aim of the legislator; but you said
that defence in war came first. And I replied, that there were four
virtues, whereas you acknowledged one only--courage, and not wisdom which
is the guide of all the rest. And I repeat--in jest if you like, but I am
willing that you should receive my words in earnest--that 'the prayer of a
fool is full of danger.' I will prove to you, if you will allow me, that
the ruin of those states was not caused by cowardice or ignorance in war,
but by ignorance of human affairs. 'Pray proceed: our attention will show
better than compliments that we prize your words.' I maintain that
ignorance is, and always has been, the ruin of states; wherefore the
legislator should seek to banish it from the state; and the greatest
ignorance is the love of what is known to be evil, and the hatred of what
is known to be good; this is the last and greatest conflict of pleasure
and reason in the soul. I say the greatest, because affecting the greater
part of the soul; for the passions are in the individual what the people
are in a state. And when they become opposed to reason or law, and
instruction no longer avails--that is the last and greatest ignorance of
states and men. 'I agree.' Let this, then, be our first principle:--That
the citizen who does not know how to choose between good and evil must not
have authority, although he possess great mental gifts, and many
accomplishments; for he is really a fool. On the other hand, he who has
this knowledge may be unable either to read or swim; nevertheless, he
shall be counted wise and permitted to rule. For how can there be wisdom
where there is no harmony?--the wise man is the saviour, and he who is
devoid of wisdom is the destroyer of states and households. There are
rulers and there are subjects in states. And the first claim to rule is
that of parents to rule over their children; the second, that of the noble
to rule over the ignoble; thirdly, the elder must govern the younger; in
the fourth place, the slave must obey his master; fifthly, there is the
power of the stronger, which the poet Pindar declares to be according to
nature; sixthly, there is the rule of the wiser, which is also according
to nature, as I must inform Pindar, if he does not know, and is the rule
of law over obedient subjects. 'Most true.' And there is a seventh kind of
rule which the Gods love,--in this the ruler is elected by lot.

Then, now, we playfully say to him who fancies that it is easy to make
laws:--You see, legislator, the many and inconsistent claims to authority;
here is a spring of troubles which you must stay. And first of all you
must help us to consider how the kings of Argos and Messene in olden days
destroyed their famous empire--did they forget the saying of Hesiod, that
'the half is better than the whole'? And do we suppose that the ignorance
of this truth is less fatal to kings than to peoples? 'Probably the evil
is increased by their way of life.' The kings of those days transgressed
the laws and violated their oaths. Their deeds were not in harmony with
their words, and their folly, which seemed to them wisdom, was the ruin of
the state. And how could the legislator have prevented this evil?--the
remedy is easy to see now, but was not easy to foresee at the time. 'What
is the remedy?' The institutions of Sparta may teach you, Megillus.
Wherever there is excess, whether the vessel has too large a sail, or the
body too much food, or the mind too much power, there destruction is
certain. And similarly, a man who possesses arbitrary power is soon
corrupted, and grows hateful to his dearest friends. In order to guard
against this evil, the God who watched over Sparta gave you two kings
instead of one, that they might balance one another; and further to lower
the pulse of your body politic, some human wisdom, mingled with divine
power, tempered the strength and self-sufficiency of youth with the
moderation of age in the institution of your senate. A third saviour
bridled your rising and swelling power by ephors, whom he assimilated to
officers elected by lot: and thus the kingly power was preserved, and
became the preserver of all the rest. Had the constitution been arranged
by the original legislators, not even the portion of Aristodemus would
have been saved; for they had no political experience, and imagined that a
youthful spirit invested with power could be restrained by oaths. Now that
God has instructed us in the arts of legislation, there is no merit in
seeing all this, or in learning wisdom after the event. But if the coming
danger could have been foreseen, and the union preserved, then no Persian
or other enemy would have dared to attack Hellas; and indeed there was not
so much credit to us in defeating the enemy, as discredit in our
disloyalty to one another. For of the three cities one only fought on
behalf of Hellas; and of the two others, Argos refused her aid; and
Messenia was actually at war with Sparta: and if the Lacedaemonians and
Athenians had not united, the Hellenes would have been absorbed in the
Persian empire, and dispersed among the barbarians. We make these
reflections upon past and present legislators because we desire to find
out what other course could have been followed. We were saying just now,
that a state can only be free and wise and harmonious when there is a
balance of powers. There are many words by which we express the aims of
the legislator,--temperance, wisdom, friendship; but we need not be
disturbed by the variety of expression,--these words have all the same
meaning. 'I should like to know at what in your opinion the legislator
should aim.' Hear me, then. There are two mother forms of states--one
monarchy, and the other democracy: the Persians have the first in the
highest form, and the Athenians the second; and no government can be well
administered which does not include both. There was a time when both the
Persians and Athenians had more the character of a constitutional state
than they now have. In the days of Cyrus the Persians were freemen as well
as lords of others, and their soldiers were free and equal, and the kings
used and honoured all the talent which they could find, and so the nation
waxed great, because there was freedom and friendship and communion of
soul. But Cyrus, though a wise general, never troubled himself about the
education of his family. He was a soldier from his youth upward, and left
his children who were born in the purple to be educated by women, who
humoured and spoilt them. 'A rare education, truly!' Yes, such an
education as princesses who had recently grown rich might be expected to
give them in a country where the men were solely occupied with warlike
pursuits. 'Likely enough.' Their father had possessions of men and
animals, and never considered that the race to whom he was about to make
them over had been educated in a very different school, not like the
Persian shepherd, who was well able to take care of himself and his own.
He did not see that his children had been brought up in the Median
fashion, by women and eunuchs. The end was that one of the sons of Cyrus
slew the other, and lost the kingdom by his own folly. Observe, again,
that Darius, who restored the kingdom, had not received a royal education.
He was one of the seven chiefs, and when he came to the throne he divided
the empire into seven provinces; and he made equal laws, and implanted
friendship among the people. Hence his subjects were greatly attached to
him, and cheerfully helped him to extend his empire. Next followed Xerxes,
who had received the same royal education as Cambyses, and met with a
similar fate. The reflection naturally occurs to us--How could Darius,
with all his experience, have made such a mistake! The ruin of Xerxes was
not a mere accident, but the evil life which is generally led by the sons
of very rich and royal persons; and this is what the legislator has
seriously to consider. Justly may the Lacedaemonians be praised for not
giving special honour to birth or wealth; for such advantages are not to
be highly esteemed without virtue, and not even virtue is to be esteemed
unless it be accompanied by temperance. 'Explain.' No one would like to
live in the same house with a courageous man who had no control over
himself, nor with a clever artist who was a rogue. Nor can justice and
wisdom ever be separated from temperance. But considering these qualities
with reference to the honour and dishonour which is to be assigned to them
in states, would you say, on the other hand, that temperance, if existing
without the other virtues in the soul, is worth anything or nothing? 'I
cannot tell.' You have answered well. It would be absurd to speak of
temperance as belonging to the class of honourable or of dishonourable
qualities, because all other virtues in their various classes require
temperance to be added to them; having the addition, they are honoured not

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