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Laws by Plato

Part 11 out of 11

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CLEINIAS: Well, Stranger, and may he not very fairly say so?

ATHENIAN: In my opinion, Cleinias, the ancient legislators were too good-
natured, and made laws without sufficient observation or consideration of
human things.

CLEINIAS: What do you mean?

ATHENIAN: I mean, my friend, that they were afraid of the testator's
reproaches, and so they passed a law to the effect that a man should be
allowed to dispose of his property in all respects as he liked; but you
and I, if I am not mistaken, will have something better to say to our
departing citizens.


ATHENIAN: O my friends, we will say to them, hard is it for you, who are
creatures of a day, to know what is yours--hard too, as the Delphic oracle
says, to know yourselves at this hour. Now I, as the legislator, regard
you and your possessions, not as belonging to yourselves, but as belonging
to your whole family, both past and future, and yet more do I regard both
family and possessions as belonging to the state; wherefore, if some one
steals upon you with flattery, when you are tossed on the sea of disease
or old age, and persuades you to dispose of your property in a way that is
not for the best, I will not, if I can help, allow this; but I will
legislate with a view to the whole, considering what is best both for the
state and for the family, esteeming as I ought the feelings of an
individual at a lower rate; and I hope that you will depart in peace and
kindness towards us, as you are going the way of all mankind; and we will
impartially take care of all your concerns, not neglecting any of them, if
we can possibly help. Let this be our prelude and consolation to the
living and dying, Cleinias, and let the law be as follows: He who makes a
disposition in a testament, if he be the father of a family, shall first
of all inscribe as his heir any one of his sons whom he may think fit; and
if he gives any of his children to be adopted by another citizen, let the
adoption be inscribed. And if he has a son remaining over and above who
has not been adopted upon any lot, and who may be expected to be sent out
to a colony according to law, to him his father may give as much as he
pleases of the rest of his property, with the exception of the paternal
lot and the fixtures on the lot. And if there are other sons, let him
distribute among them what there is more than the lot in such portions as
he pleases. And if one of the sons has already a house of his own, he
shall not give him of the money, nor shall he give money to a daughter who
has been betrothed, but if she is not betrothed he may give her money. And
if any of the sons or daughters shall be found to have another lot of land
in the country, which has accrued after the testament has been made, they
shall leave the lot which they have inherited to the heir of the man who
has made the will. If the testator has no sons, but only daughters, let
him choose the husband of any one of his daughters whom he pleases, and
leave and inscribe him as his son and heir. And if a man have lost his
son, when he was a child, and before he could be reckoned among grown up
men, whether his own or an adopted son, let the testator make mention of
the circumstance and inscribe whom he will to be his second son in hope of
better fortune. If the testator has no children at all, he may select and
give to any one whom he pleases the tenth part of the property which he
has acquired; but let him not be blamed if he gives all the rest to his
adopted son, and makes a friend of him according to the law. If the sons
of a man require guardians, and the father when he dies leaves a will
appointing guardians, those who have been named by him, whoever they are
and whatever their number be, if they are able and willing to take charge
of the children, shall be recognised according to the provisions of the
will. But if he dies and has made no will, or a will in which he has
appointed no guardians, then the next of kin, two on the father's and two
on the mother's side, and one of the friends of the deceased, shall have
the authority of guardians, whom the guardians of the law shall appoint
when the orphans require guardians. And the fifteen eldest guardians of
the law shall have the whole care and charge of the orphans, divided into
threes according to seniority--a body of three for one year, and then
another body of three for the next year, until the cycle of the five
periods is complete; and this, as far as possible, is to continue always.
If a man dies, having made no will at all, and leaves sons who require the
care of guardians, they shall share in the protection which is afforded by
these laws. And if a man dying by some unexpected fate leaves daughters
behind him, let him pardon the legislator if when he gives them in
marriage, he have a regard only to two out of three conditions--nearness
of kin and the preservation of the lot, and omits the third condition,
which a father would naturally consider, for he would choose out of all
the citizens a son for himself, and a husband for his daughter, with a
view to his character and disposition--the father, I say, shall forgive
the legislator if he disregards this, which to him is an impossible
consideration. Let the law about these matters where practicable be as
follows: If a man dies without making a will, and leaves behind him
daughters, let his brother, being the son of the same father or of the
same mother, having no lot, marry the daughter and have the lot of the
dead man. And if he have no brother, but only a brother's son, in like
manner let them marry, if they be of a suitable age; and if there be not
even a brother's son, but only the son of a sister, let them do likewise,
and so in the fourth degree, if there be only the testator's father's
brother, or in the fifth degree, his father's brother's son, or in the
sixth degree, the child of his father's sister. Let kindred be always
reckoned in this way: if a person leaves daughters the relationship shall
proceed upwards through brothers and sisters, and brothers' and sisters'
children, and first the males shall come, and after them the females in
the same family. The judge shall consider and determine the suitableness
or unsuitableness of age in marriage; he shall make an inspection of the
males naked, and of the women naked down to the navel. And if there be a
lack of kinsmen in a family extending to grandchildren of a brother, or to
the grandchildren of a grandfather's children, the maiden may choose with
the consent of her guardians any one of the citizens who is willing and
whom she wills, and he shall be the heir of the dead man, and the husband
of his daughter. Circumstances vary, and there may sometimes be a still
greater lack of relations within the limits of the state; and if any
maiden has no kindred living in the city, and there is some one who has
been sent out to a colony, and she is disposed to make him the heir of her
father's possessions, if he be indeed of her kindred, let him proceed to
take the lot according to the regulation of the law; but if he be not of
her kindred, she having no kinsmen within the city, and he be chosen by
the daughter of the dead man, and empowered to marry by the guardians, let
him return home and take the lot of him who died intestate. And if a man
has no children, either male or female, and dies without making a will,
let the previous law in general hold; and let a man and a woman go forth
from the family and share the deserted house, and let the lot belong
absolutely to them; and let the heiress in the first degree be a sister,
and in a second degree a daughter of a brother, and in the third, a
daughter of a sister, in the fourth degree the sister of a father, and in
the fifth degree the daughter of a father's brother, and in a sixth degree
of a father's sister; and these shall dwell with their male kinsmen,
according to the degree of relationship and right, as we enacted before.
Now we must not conceal from ourselves that such laws are apt to be
oppressive and that there may sometimes be a hardship in the lawgiver
commanding the kinsman of the dead man to marry his relation; he may be
thought not to have considered the innumerable hindrances which may arise
among men in the execution of such ordinances; for there may be cases in
which the parties refuse to obey, and are ready to do anything rather than
marry, when there is some bodily or mental malady or defect among those
who are bidden to marry or be married. Persons may fancy that the
legislator never thought of this, but they are mistaken; wherefore let us
make a common prelude on behalf of the lawgiver and of his subjects, the
law begging the latter to forgive the legislator, in that he, having to
take care of the common weal, cannot order at the same time the various
circumstances of individuals, and begging him to pardon them if naturally
they are sometimes unable to fulfil the act which he in his ignorance
imposes upon them.

CLEINIAS: And how, Stranger, can we act most fairly under the

ATHENIAN: There must be arbiters chosen to deal with such laws and the
subjects of them.

CLEINIAS: What do you mean?

ATHENIAN: I mean to say, that a case may occur in which the nephew, having
a rich father, will be unwilling to marry the daughter of his uncle; he
will have a feeling of pride, and he will wish to look higher. And there
are cases in which the legislator will be imposing upon him the greatest
calamity, and he will be compelled to disobey the law, if he is required,
for example, to take a wife who is mad, or has some other terrible malady
of soul or body, such as makes life intolerable to the sufferer. Then let
what we are saying concerning these cases be embodied in a law: If any one
finds fault with the established laws respecting testaments, both as to
other matters and especially in what relates to marriage, and asserts that
the legislator, if he were alive and present, would not compel him to
obey--that is to say, would not compel those who are by our law required
to marry or be given in marriage, to do either--and some kinsman or
guardian dispute this, the reply is that the legislator left fifteen of
the guardians of the law to be arbiters and fathers of orphans, male or
female, and to them let the disputants have recourse, and by their aid
determine any matters of the kind, admitting their decision to be final.
But if any one thinks that too great power is thus given to the guardians
of the law, let him bring his adversaries into the court of the select
judges, and there have the points in dispute determined. And he who loses
the cause shall have censure and blame from the legislator, which, by a
man of sense, is felt to be a penalty far heavier than a great loss of

Thus will orphan children have a second birth. After their first birth we
spoke of their nurture and education, and after their second birth, when
they have lost their parents, we ought to take measures that the
misfortune of orphanhood may be as little sad to them as possible. In the
first place, we say that the guardians of the law are lawgivers and
fathers to them, not inferior to their natural fathers. Moreover, they
shall take charge of them year by year as of their own kindred; and we
have given both to them and to the children's own guardians as suitable
admonition concerning the nurture of orphans. And we seem to have spoken
opportunely in our former discourse, when we said that the souls of the
dead have the power after death of taking an interest in human affairs,
about which there are many tales and traditions, long indeed, but true;
and seeing that they are so many and so ancient, we must believe them, and
we must also believe the lawgivers, who tell us that these things are
true, if they are not to be regarded as utter fools. But if these things
are really so, in the first place men should have a fear of the Gods
above, who regard the loneliness of the orphans; and in the second place
of the souls of the departed, who by nature incline to take an especial
care of their own children, and are friendly to those who honour, and
unfriendly to those who dishonour them. Men should also fear the souls of
the living who are aged and high in honour; wherever a city is well
ordered and prosperous, their descendants cherish them, and so live
happily; old persons are quick to see and hear all that relates to them,
and are propitious to those who are just in the fulfilment of such duties,
and they punish those who wrong the orphan and the desolate, considering
that they are the greatest and most sacred of trusts. To all which matters
the guardian and magistrate ought to apply his mind, if he has any, and
take heed of the nurture and education of the orphans, seeking in every
possible way to do them good, for he is making a contribution to his own
good and that of his children. He who obeys the tale which precedes the
law, and does no wrong to an orphan, will never experience the wrath of
the legislator. But he who is disobedient, and wrongs any one who is
bereft of father or mother, shall pay twice the penalty which he would
have paid if he had wronged one whose parents had been alive. As touching
other legislation concerning guardians in their relation to orphans, or
concerning magistrates and their superintendence of the guardians, if they
did not possess examples of the manner in which children of freemen would
be brought up in the bringing up of their own children, and of the care of
their property in the care of their own, or if they had not just laws
fairly stated about these very things--there would have been reason in
making laws for them, under the idea that they were a peculiar class, and
we might distinguish and make separate rules for the life of those who are
orphans and of those who are not orphans. But as the case stands, the
condition of orphans with us is not different from the case of those who
have a father, though in regard to honour and dishonour, and the attention
given to them, the two are not usually placed upon a level. Wherefore,
touching the legislation about orphans, the law speaks in serious accents,
both of persuasion and threatening, and such a threat as the following
will be by no means out of place: He who is the guardian of an orphan of
either sex, and he among the guardians of the law to whom the
superintendence of this guardian has been assigned, shall love the
unfortunate orphan as though he were his own child, and he shall be as
careful and diligent in the management of his possessions as he would be
if they were his own, or even more careful and diligent. Let every one who
has the care of an orphan observe this law. But any one who acts contrary
to the law on these matters, if he be a guardian of the child, may be
fined by a magistrate, or, if he be himself a magistrate, the guardian may
bring him before the court of select judges, and punish him, if convicted,
by exacting a fine of double the amount of that inflicted by the court.
And if a guardian appears to the relations of the orphan, or to any other
citizen, to act negligently or dishonestly, let them bring him before the
same court, and whatever damages are given against him, let him pay
fourfold, and let half belong to the orphan and half to him who procured
the conviction. If any orphan arrives at years of discretion, and thinks
that he has been ill-used by his guardians, let him within five years of
the expiration of the guardianship be allowed to bring them to trial; and
if any of them be convicted, the court shall determine what he shall pay
or suffer. And if a magistrate shall appear to have wronged the orphan by
neglect, and he be convicted, let the court determine what he shall suffer
or pay to the orphan, and if there be dishonesty in addition to neglect,
besides paying the fine, let him be deposed from his office of guardian of
the law, and let the state appoint another guardian of the law for the
city and for the country in his room.

Greater differences than there ought to be sometimes arise between fathers
and sons, on the part either of fathers who will be of opinion that the
legislator should enact that they may, if they wish, lawfully renounce
their son by the proclamation of a herald in the face of the world, or of
sons who think that they should be allowed to indict their fathers on the
charge of imbecility when they are disabled by disease or old age. These
things only happen, as a matter of fact, where the natures of men are
utterly bad; for where only half is bad, as, for example, if the father be
not bad, but the son be bad, or conversely, no great calamity is the
result of such an amount of hatred as this. In another state, a son
disowned by his father would not of necessity cease to be a citizen, but
in our state, of which these are to be the laws, the disinherited must
necessarily emigrate into another country, for no addition can be made
even of a single family to the 5040 households; and, therefore, he who
deserves to suffer these things must be renounced not only by his father,
who is a single person, but by the whole family, and what is done in these
cases must be regulated by some such law as the following: He who in the
sad disorder of his soul has a mind, justly or unjustly, to expel from his
family a son whom he has begotten and brought up, shall not lightly or at
once execute his purpose; but first of all he shall collect together his
own kinsmen, extending to cousins, and in like manner his son's kinsmen by
the mother's side, and in their presence he shall accuse his son, setting
forth that he deserves at the hands of them all to be dismissed from the
family; and the son shall be allowed to address them in a similar manner,
and show that he does not deserve to suffer any of these things. And if
the father persuades them, and obtains the suffrages of more than half of
his kindred, exclusive of the father and mother and the offender himself--
I say, if he obtains more than half the suffrages of all the other grown-
up members of the family, of both sexes, the father shall be permitted to
put away his son, but not otherwise. And if any other citizen is willing
to adopt the son who is put away, no law shall hinder him; for the
characters of young men are subject to many changes in the course of their
lives. And if he has been put away, and in a period of ten years no one is
willing to adopt him, let those who have the care of the superabundant
population which is sent out into colonies, see to him, in order that he
may be suitably provided for in the colony. And if disease or age or
harshness of temper, or all these together, makes a man to be more out of
his mind than the rest of the world are--but this is not observable,
except to those who live with him--and he, being master of his property,
is the ruin of the house, and his son doubts and hesitates about indicting
his father for insanity, let the law in that case ordain that he shall
first of all go to the eldest guardians of the law and tell them of his
father's misfortune, and they shall duly look into the matter, and take
counsel as to whether he shall indict him or not. And if they advise him
to proceed, they shall be both his witnesses and his advocates; and if the
father is cast, he shall henceforth be incapable of ordering the least
particular of his life; let him be as a child dwelling in the house for
the remainder of his days. And if a man and his wife have an unfortunate
incompatibility of temper, ten of the guardians of the law, who are
impartial, and ten of the women who regulate marriages, shall look to the
matter, and if they are able to reconcile them they shall be formally
reconciled; but if their souls are too much tossed with passion, they
shall endeavour to find other partners. Now they are not likely to have
very gentle tempers; and, therefore, we must endeavour to associate with
them deeper and softer natures. Those who have no children, or only a few,
at the time of their separation, should choose their new partners with a
view to the procreation of children; but those who have a sufficient
number of children should separate and marry again in order that they may
have some one to grow old with and that the pair may take care of one
another in age. If a woman dies, leaving children, male or female, the law
will advise rather than compel the husband to bring up the children
without introducing into the house a stepmother. But if he have no
children, then he shall be compelled to marry until he has begotten a
sufficient number of sons to his family and to the state. And if a man
dies leaving a sufficient number of children, the mother of his children
shall remain with them and bring them up. But if she appears to be too
young to live virtuously without a husband, let her relations communicate
with the women who superintend marriage, and let both together do what
they think best in these matters; if there is a lack of children, let the
choice be made with a view to having them; two children, one of either
sex, shall be deemed sufficient in the eye of the law. When a child is
admitted to be the offspring of certain parents and is acknowledged by
them, but there is need of a decision as to which parent the child is to
follow--in case a female slave have intercourse with a male slave, or with
a freeman or freedman, the offspring shall always belong to the master of
the female slave. Again, if a free woman have intercourse with a male
slave, the offspring shall belong to the master of the slave; but if a
child be born either of a slave by her master, or of his mistress by a
slave--and this be proven--the offspring of the woman and its father shall
be sent away by the women who superintend marriage into another country,
and the guardians of the law shall send away the offspring of the man and
its mother.

Neither God, nor a man who has understanding, will ever advise any one to
neglect his parents. To a discourse concerning the honour and dishonour of
parents, a prelude such as the following, about the service of the Gods,
will be a suitable introduction: There are ancient customs about the Gods
which are universal, and they are of two kinds: some of the Gods we see
with our eyes and we honour them, of others we honour the images, raising
statues of them which we adore; and though they are lifeless, yet we
imagine that the living Gods have a good will and gratitude to us on this
account. Now, if a man has a father or mother, or their fathers or mothers
treasured up in his house stricken in years, let him consider that no
statue can be more potent to grant his requests than they are, who are
sitting at his hearth, if only he knows how to show true service to them.

CLEINIAS: And what do you call the true mode of service?

ATHENIAN: I will tell you, O my friend, for such things are worth
listening to.

CLEINIAS: Proceed.

ATHENIAN: Oedipus, as tradition says, when dishonoured by his sons,
invoked on them curses which every one declares to have been heard and
ratified by the Gods, and Amyntor in his wrath invoked curses on his son
Phoenix, and Theseus upon Hippolytus, and innumerable others have also
called down wrath upon their children, whence it is clear that the Gods
listen to the imprecations of parents; for the curses of parents are, as
they ought to be, mighty against their children as no others are. And
shall we suppose that the prayers of a father or mother who is specially
dishonoured by his or her children, are heard by the Gods in accordance
with nature; and that if a parent is honoured by them, and in the gladness
of his heart earnestly entreats the Gods in his prayers to do them good,
he is not equally heard, and that they do not minister to his request? If
not, they would be very unjust ministers of good, and that we affirm to be
contrary to their nature.

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: May we not think, as I was saying just now, that we can possess
no image which is more honoured by the Gods, than that of a father or
grandfather, or of a mother stricken in years? whom when a man honours,
the heart of the God rejoices, and he is ready to answer their prayers.
And, truly, the figure of an ancestor is a wonderful thing, far higher
than that of a lifeless image. For the living, when they are honoured by
us, join in our prayers, and when they are dishonoured, they utter
imprecations against us; but lifeless objects do neither. And therefore,
if a man makes a right use of his father and grandfather and other aged
relations, he will have images which above all others will win him the
favour of the Gods.

CLEINIAS: Excellent.

ATHENIAN: Every man of any understanding fears and respects the prayers of
parents, knowing well that many times and to many persons they have been
accomplished. Now these things being thus ordered by nature, good men
think it a blessing from heaven if their parents live to old age and reach
the utmost limit of human life, or if taken away before their time they
are deeply regretted by them; but to bad men parents are always a cause of
terror. Wherefore let every man honour with every sort of lawful honour
his own parents, agreeably to what has now been said. But if this prelude
be an unmeaning sound in the ears of any one, let the law follow, which
may be rightly imposed in these terms: If any one in this city be not
sufficiently careful of his parents, and do not regard and gratify in
every respect their wishes more than those of his sons and of his other
offspring or of himself--let him who experiences this sort of treatment
either come himself, or send some one to inform the three eldest guardians
of the law, and three of the women who have the care of marriages; and let
them look to the matter and punish youthful evil-doers with stripes and
bonds if they are under thirty years of age, that is to say, if they be
men, or if they be women, let them undergo the same punishment up to forty
years of age. But if, when they are still more advanced in years, they
continue the same neglect of their parents, and do any hurt to any of
them, let them be brought before a court in which every single one of the
eldest citizens shall be the judges, and if the offender be convicted, let
the court determine what he ought to pay or suffer, and any penalty may be
imposed on him which a man can pay or suffer. If the person who has been
wronged be unable to inform the magistrates, let any freeman who hears of
his case inform, and if he do not, he shall be deemed base, and shall be
liable to have a suit for damage brought against him by any one who likes.
And if a slave inform, he shall receive freedom; and if he be the slave of
the injurer or injured party, he shall be set free by the magistrates, or
if he belong to any other citizen, the public shall pay a price on his
behalf to the owner; and let the magistrates take heed that no one wrongs
him out of revenge, because he has given information.

Cases in which one man injures another by poisons, and which prove fatal,
have been already discussed; but about other cases in which a person
intentionally and of malice harms another with meats, or drinks, or
ointments, nothing has as yet been determined. For there are two kinds of
poisons used among men, which cannot clearly be distinguished. There is
the kind just now explicitly mentioned, which injures bodies by the use of
other bodies according to a natural law; there is also another kind which
persuades the more daring class that they can do injury by sorceries, and
incantations, and magic knots, as they are termed, and makes others
believe that they above all persons are injured by the powers of the
magician. Now it is not easy to know the nature of all these things; nor
if a man do know can he readily persuade others to believe him. And when
men are disturbed in their minds at the sight of waxen images fixed either
at their doors, or in a place where three ways meet, or on the sepulchres
of parents, there is no use in trying to persuade them that they should
despise all such things because they have no certain knowledge about them.
But we must have a law in two parts, concerning poisoning, in whichever of
the two ways the attempt is made, and we must entreat, and exhort, and
advise men not to have recourse to such practises, by which they scare the
multitude out of their wits, as if they were children, compelling the
legislator and the judge to heal the fears which the sorcerer arouses, and
to tell them in the first place, that he who attempts to poison or enchant
others knows not what he is doing, either as regards the body (unless he
has a knowledge of medicine), or as regards his enchantments (unless he
happens to be a prophet or diviner). Let the law, then, run as follows
about poisoning or witchcraft: He who employs poison to do any injury, not
fatal, to a man himself, or to his servants, or any injury, whether fatal
or not, to his cattle or his bees, if he be a physician, and be convicted
of poisoning, shall be punished with death; or if he be a private person,
the court shall determine what he is to pay or suffer. But he who seems to
be the sort of man who injures others by magic knots, or enchantments, or
incantations, or any of the like practices, if he be a prophet or diviner,
let him die; and if, not being a prophet, he be convicted of witchcraft,
as in the previous case, let the court fix what he ought to pay or suffer.

When a man does another any injury by theft or violence, for the greater
injury let him pay greater damages to the injured man, and less for the
smaller injury; but in all cases, whatever the injury may have been, as
much as will compensate the loss. And besides the compensation of the
wrong, let a man pay a further penalty for the chastisement of his
offence: he who has done the wrong instigated by the folly of another,
through the lightheartedness of youth or the like, shall pay a lighter
penalty; but he who has injured another through his own folly, when
overcome by pleasure or pain, in cowardly fear, or lust, or envy, or
implacable anger, shall endure a heavier punishment. Not that he is
punished because he did wrong, for that which is done can never be undone,
but in order that in future times, he, and those who see him corrected,
may utterly hate injustice, or at any rate abate much of their evil-doing.
Having an eye to all these things, the law, like a good archer, should aim
at the right measure of punishment, and in all cases at the deserved
punishment. In the attainment of this the judge shall be a fellow-worker
with the legislator, whenever the law leaves to him to determine what the
offender shall suffer or pay; and the legislator, like a painter, shall
give a rough sketch of the cases in which the law is to be applied. This
is what we must do, Megillus and Cleinias, in the best and fairest manner
that we can, saying what the punishments are to be of all actions of theft
and violence, and giving laws of such a kind as the Gods and sons of Gods
would have us give.

If a man is mad he shall not be at large in the city, but his relations
shall keep him at home in any way which they can; or if not, let them pay
a penalty--he who is of the highest class shall pay a penalty of one
hundred drachmas, whether he be a slave or a freeman whom he neglects; and
he of the second class shall pay four-fifths of a mina; and he of the
third class three-fifths; and he of the fourth class two-fifths. Now there
are many sorts of madness, some arising out of disease, which we have
already mentioned; and there are other kinds, which originate in an evil
and passionate temperament, and are increased by bad education; out of a
slight quarrel this class of madmen will often raise a storm of abuse
against one another, and nothing of that sort ought to be allowed to occur
in a well-ordered state. Let this, then, be the law about abuse, which
shall relate to all cases: No one shall speak evil of another; and when a
man disputes with another he shall teach and learn of the disputant and
the company, but he shall abstain from evil-speaking; for out of the
imprecations which men utter against one another, and the feminine habit
of casting aspersions on one another, and using foul names, out of words
light as air, in very deed the greatest enmities and hatreds spring up.
For the speaker gratifies his anger, which is an ungracious element of his
nature; and nursing up his wrath by the entertainment of evil thoughts,
and exacerbating that part of his soul which was formerly civilised by
education, he lives in a state of savageness and moroseness, and pays a
bitter penalty for his anger. And in such cases almost all men take to
saying something ridiculous about their opponent, and there is no man who
is in the habit of laughing at another who does not miss virtue and
earnestness altogether, or lose the better half of greatness. Wherefore
let no one utter any taunting word at a temple, or at the public
sacrifices, or at the games, or in the agora, or in a court of justice, or
in any public assembly. And let the magistrate who presides on these
occasions chastise an offender, and he shall be blameless; but if he fails
in doing so, he shall not claim the prize of virtue; for he is one who
heeds not the laws, and does not do what the legislator commands. And if
in any other place any one indulges in these sort of revilings, whether he
has begun the quarrel or is only retaliating, let any elder who is present
support the law, and control with blows those who indulge in passion,
which is another great evil; and if he do not, let him be liable to pay
the appointed penalty. And we say now, that he who deals in reproaches
against others cannot reproach them without attempting to ridicule them;
and this, when done in a moment of anger, is what we make matter of
reproach against him. But then, do we admit into our state the comic
writers who are so fond of making mankind ridiculous, if they attempt in a
good-natured manner to turn the laugh against our citizens? or do we draw
the distinction of jest and earnest, and allow a man to make use of
ridicule in jest and without anger about any thing or person; though as we
were saying, not if he be angry and have a set purpose? We forbid earnest
--that is unalterably fixed; but we have still to say who are to be
sanctioned or not to be sanctioned by the law in the employment of
innocent humour. A comic poet, or maker of iambic or satirical lyric
verse, shall not be permitted to ridicule any of the citizens, either by
word or likeness, either in anger or without anger. And if any one is
disobedient, the judges shall either at once expel him from the country,
or he shall pay a fine of three minae, which shall be dedicated to the God
who presides over the contests. Those only who have received permission
shall be allowed to write verses at one another, but they shall be without
anger and in jest; in anger and in serious earnest they shall not be
allowed. The decision of this matter shall be left to the superintendent
of the general education of the young, and whatever he may license, the
writer shall be allowed to produce, and whatever he rejects let not the
poet himself exhibit, or ever teach anybody else, slave or freeman, under
the penalty of being dishonoured, and held disobedient to the laws.

Now he is not to be pitied who is hungry, or who suffers any bodily pain,
but he who is temperate, or has some other virtue, or part of a virtue,
and at the same time suffers from misfortune; it would be an extraordinary
thing if such an one, whether slave or freeman, were utterly forsaken and
fell into the extremes of poverty in any tolerably well-ordered city or
government. Wherefore the legislator may safely make a law applicable to
such cases in the following terms: Let there be no beggars in our state;
and if anybody begs, seeking to pick up a livelihood by unavailing
prayers, let the wardens of the agora turn him out of the agora, and the
wardens of the city out of the city, and the wardens of the country send
him out of any other parts of the land across the border, in order that
the land may be cleared of this sort of animal.

If a slave of either sex injure anything, which is not his or her own,
through inexperience, or some improper practice, and the person who
suffers damage be not himself in part to blame, the master of the slave
who has done the harm shall either make full satisfaction, or give up the
slave who has done the injury. But if the master argue that the charge has
arisen by collusion between the injured party and the injurer, with the
view of obtaining the slave, let him sue the person, who says that he has
been injured, for malpractices. And if he gain a conviction, let him
receive double the value which the court fixes as the price of the slave;
and if he lose his suit, let him make amends for the injury, and give up
the slave. And if a beast of burden, or horse, or dog, or any other
animal, injure the property of a neighbour, the owner shall in like manner
pay for the injury.

If any man refuses to be a witness, he who wants him shall summon him, and
he who is summoned shall come to the trial; and if he knows and is willing
to bear witness, let him bear witness, but if he says he does not know let
him swear by the three divinities Zeus, and Apollo, and Themis, that he
does not, and have no more to do with the cause. And he who is summoned to
give witness and does not answer to his summoner, shall be liable for the
harm which ensues according to law. And if a person calls up as a witness
any one who is acting as a judge, let him give his witness, but he shall
not afterwards vote in the cause. A free woman may give her witness and
plead, if she be more than forty years of age, and may bring an action if
she have no husband; but if her husband be alive she shall only be allowed
to bear witness. A slave of either sex and a child shall be allowed to
give evidence and to plead, but only in cases of murder; and they must
produce sufficient sureties that they will certainly remain until the
trial, in case they should be charged with false witness. And either of
the parties in a cause may bring an accusation of perjury against
witnesses, touching their evidence in whole or in part, if he asserts that
such evidence has been given; but the accusation must be brought previous
to the final decision of the cause. The magistrates shall preserve the
accusations of false witness, and have them kept under the seal of both
parties, and produce them on the day when the trial for false witness
takes place. If a man be twice convicted of false witness, he shall not be
required, and if thrice, he shall not be allowed to bear witness; and if
he dare to witness after he has been convicted three times, let any one
who pleases inform against him to the magistrates, and let the magistrates
hand him over to the court, and if he be convicted he shall be punished
with death. And in any case in which the evidence is rightly found to be
false, and yet to have given the victory to him who wins the suit, and
more than half the witnesses are condemned, the decision which was gained
by these means shall be rescinded, and there shall be a discussion and a
decision as to whether the suit was determined by that false evidence or
not; and in whichever way the decision may be given, the previous suit
shall be determined accordingly.

There are many noble things in human life, but to most of them attach
evils which are fated to corrupt and spoil them. Is not justice noble,
which has been the civiliser of humanity? How then can the advocate of
justice be other than noble? And yet upon this profession which is
presented to us under the fair name of art has come an evil reputation. In
the first place, we are told that by ingenious pleas and the help of an
advocate the law enables a man to win a particular cause, whether just or
unjust; and that both the art, and the power of speech which is thereby
imparted, are at the service of him who is willing to pay for them. Now in
our state this so-called art, whether really an art or only an experience
and practice destitute of any art, ought if possible never to come into
existence, or if existing among us should listen to the request of the
legislator and go away into another land, and not speak contrary to
justice. If the offenders obey we say no more; but for those who disobey,
the voice of the law is as follows: If any one thinks that he will pervert
the power of justice in the minds of the judges, and unseasonably litigate
or advocate, let any one who likes indict him for malpractices of law and
dishonest advocacy, and let him be judged in the court of select judges;
and if he be convicted, let the court determine whether he may be supposed
to act from a love of money or from contentiousness. And if he is supposed
to act from contentiousness, the court shall fix a time during which he
shall not be allowed to institute or plead a cause; and if he is supposed
to act as he does from love of money, in case he be a stranger, he shall
leave the country, and never return under penalty of death; but if he be a
citizen, he shall die, because he is a lover of money, in whatever manner
gained; and equally, if he be judged to have acted more than once from
contentiousness, he shall die.


If a herald or an ambassador carry a false message from our city to any
other, or bring back a false message from the city to which he is sent, or
be proved to have brought back, whether from friends or enemies, in his
capacity of herald or ambassador, what they have never said, let him be
indicted for having violated, contrary to the law, the commands and duties
imposed upon him by Hermes and Zeus, and let there be a penalty fixed,
which he shall suffer or pay if he be convicted.

Theft is a mean, and robbery a shameless thing; and none of the sons of
Zeus delight in fraud and violence, or ever practised either. Wherefore
let no one be deluded by poets or mythologers into a mistaken belief of
such things, nor let him suppose, when he thieves or is guilty of
violence, that he is doing nothing base, but only what the Gods themselves
do. For such tales are untrue and improbable; and he who steals or robs
contrary to the law, is never either a God or the son of a God; of this
the legislator ought to be better informed than all the poets put
together. Happy is he and may he be for ever happy, who is persuaded and
listens to our words; but he who disobeys shall have to contend against
the following law: If a man steal anything belonging to the public,
whether that which he steals be much or little, he shall have the same
punishment. For he who steals a little steals with the same wish as he who
steals much, but with less power, and he who takes up a greater amount,
not having deposited it, is wholly unjust. Wherefore the law is not
disposed to inflict a less penalty on the one than on the other because
his theft is less, but on the ground that the thief may possibly be in one
case still curable, and may in another case be incurable. If any one
convict in a court of law a stranger or a slave of a theft of public
property, let the court determine what punishment he shall suffer, or what
penalty he shall pay, bearing in mind that he is probably not incurable.
But the citizen who has been brought up as our citizens will have been, if
he be found guilty of robbing his country by fraud or violence, whether he
be caught in the act or not, shall be punished with death; for he is

Now for expeditions of war much consideration and many laws are required;
the great principle of all is that no one of either sex should be without
a commander; nor should the mind of any one be accustomed to do anything,
either in jest or earnest, of his own motion, but in war and in peace he
should look to and follow his leader, even in the least things being under
his guidance; for example, he should stand or move, or exercise, or wash,
or take his meals, or get up in the night to keep guard and deliver
messages when he is bidden; and in the hour of danger he should not pursue
and not retreat except by order of his superior; and in a word, not teach
the soul or accustom her to know or understand how to do anything apart
from others. Of all soldiers the life should be always and in all things
as far as possible in common and together; there neither is nor ever will
be a higher, or better, or more scientific principle than this for the
attainment of salvation and victory in war. And we ought in time of peace
from youth upwards to practise this habit of commanding others, and of
being commanded by others; anarchy should have no place in the life of man
or of the beasts who are subject to man. I may add that all dances ought
to be performed with a view to military excellence; and agility and ease
should be cultivated for the same object, and also endurance of the want
of meats and drinks, and of winter cold and summer heat, and of hard
couches; and, above all, care should be taken not to destroy the peculiar
qualities of the head and the feet by surrounding them with extraneous
coverings, and so hindering their natural growth of hair and soles. For
these are the extremities, and of all the parts of the body, whether they
are preserved or not is of the greatest consequence; the one is the
servant of the whole body, and the other the master, in whom all the
ruling senses are by nature set. Let the young men imagine that he hears
in what has preceded the praises of the military life; the law shall be as
follows: He shall serve in war who is on the roll or appointed to some
special service, and if any one is absent from cowardice, and without the
leave of the generals, he shall be indicted before the military commanders
for failure of service when the army comes home; and the soldiers shall be
his judges; the heavy-armed, and the cavalry, and the other arms of the
service shall form separate courts; and they shall bring the heavy-armed
before the heavy-armed, and the horsemen before the horsemen, and the
others in like manner before their peers; and he who is found guilty shall
never be allowed to compete for any prize of valour, or indict another for
not serving on an expedition, or be an accuser at all in any military
matters. Moreover, the court shall further determine what punishment he
shall suffer, or what penalty he shall pay. When the suits for failure of
service are completed, the leaders of the several kinds of troops shall
again hold an assembly, and they shall adjudge the prizes of valour; and
he who likes searching for judgment in his own branch of the service,
saying nothing about any former expedition, nor producing any proof or
witnesses to confirm his statement, but speaking only of the present
occasion. The crown of victory shall be an olive wreath which the victor
shall offer up at the temple of any war-god whom he likes, adding an
inscription for a testimony to last during life, that such an one has
received the first, the second, or the third prize. If any one goes on an
expedition, and returns home before the appointed time, when the generals
have not withdrawn the army, he shall be indicted for desertion before the
same persons who took cognizance of failure of service, and if he be found
guilty, the same punishment shall be inflicted on him. Now every man who
is engaged in any suit ought to be very careful of bringing false witness
against any one, either intentionally or unintentionally, if he can help;
for justice is truly said to be an honourable maiden, and falsehood is
naturally repugnant to honour and justice. A witness ought to be very
careful not to sin against justice, as for example in what relates to the
throwing away of arms--he must distinguish the throwing them away when
necessary, and not make that a reproach, or bring an action against some
innocent person on that account. To make the distinction may be difficult;
but still the law must attempt to define the different kinds in some way.
Let me endeavour to explain my meaning by an ancient tale: If Patroclus
had been brought to the tent still alive but without his arms (and this
has happened to innumerable persons), the original arms, which the poet
says were presented to Peleus by the Gods as a nuptial gift when he
married Thetis, remaining in the hands of Hector, then the base spirits of
that day might have reproached the son of Menoetius with having cast away
his arms. Again, there is the case of those who have been thrown down
precipices and lost their arms; and of those who at sea, and in stormy
places, have been suddenly overwhelmed by floods of water; and there are
numberless things of this kind which one might adduce by way of
extenuation, and with the view of justifying a misfortune which is easily
misrepresented. We must, therefore, endeavour to divide to the best of our
power the greater and more serious evil from the lesser. And a distinction
may be drawn in the use of terms of reproach. A man does not always
deserve to be called the thrower away of his shield; he may be only the
loser of his arms. For there is a great or rather absolute difference
between him who is deprived of his arms by a sufficient force, and him who
voluntarily lets his shield go. Let the law then be as follows: If a
person having arms is overtaken by the enemy and does not turn round and
defend himself, but lets them go voluntarily or throws them away, choosing
a base life and a swift escape rather than a courageous and noble and
blessed death--in such a case of the throwing away of arms let justice be
done, but the judge need take no note of the case just now mentioned; for
the bad men ought always to be punished, in the hope that he may be
improved, but not the unfortunate, for there is no advantage in that. And
what shall be the punishment suited to him who has thrown away his weapons
of defence? Tradition says that Caeneus, the Thessalian, was changed by a
God from a woman into a man; but the converse miracle cannot now be
wrought, or no punishment would be more proper than that the man who
throws away his shield should be changed into a woman. This however is
impossible, and therefore let us make a law as nearly like this as we can
--that he who loves his life too well shall be in no danger for the
remainder of his days, but shall live for ever under the stigma of
cowardice. And let the law be in the following terms: When a man is found
guilty of disgracefully throwing away his arms in war, no general or
military officer shall allow him to serve as a soldier, or give him any
place at all in the ranks of soldiers; and the officer who gives the
coward any place, shall suffer a penalty which the public examiner shall
exact of him; and if he be of the highest class, he shall pay a thousand
drachmae; or if he be of the second class, five minae; or if he be of the
third, three minae; or if he be of the fourth class, one mina. And he who
is found guilty of cowardice, shall not only be dismissed from manly
dangers, which is a disgrace appropriate to his nature, but he shall pay a
thousand drachmae, if he be of the highest class, and five minae if he be
of the second class, and three if he be of the third class, and a mina,
like the preceding, if he be of the fourth class.

What regulations will be proper about examiners, seeing that some of our
magistrates are elected by lot, and for a year, and some for a longer time
and from selected persons? Of such magistrates, who will be a sufficient
censor or examiner, if any of them, weighed down by the pressure of office
or his own inability to support the dignity of his office, be guilty of
any crooked practice? It is by no means easy to find a magistrate who
excels other magistrates in virtue, but still we must endeavour to
discover some censor or examiner who is more than man. For the truth is,
that there are many elements of dissolution in a state, as there are also
in a ship, or in an animal; they all have their cords, and girders, and
sinews--one nature diffused in many places, and called by many names; and
the office of examiner is a most important element in the preservation and
dissolution of states. For if the examiners are better than the
magistrates, and their duty is fulfilled justly and without blame, then
the whole state and country flourishes and is happy; but if the
examination of the magistrates is carried on in a wrong way, then, by the
relaxation of that justice which is the uniting principle of all
constitutions, every power in the state is rent asunder from every other;
they no longer incline in the same direction, but fill the city with
faction, and make many cities out of one, and soon bring all to
destruction. Wherefore the examiners ought to be admirable in every sort
of virtue. Let us invent a mode of creating them, which shall be as
follows: Every year, after the summer solstice, the whole city shall meet
in the common precincts of Helios and Apollo, and shall present to the God
three men out of their own number in the manner following: Each citizen
shall select, not himself, but some other citizen whom he deems in every
way the best, and who is not less than fifty years of age. And out of the
selected persons who have the greatest number of votes, they shall make a
further selection until they reduce them to one-half, if they are an even
number; but if they are not an even number, they shall subtract the one
who has the smallest number of votes, and make them an even number, and
then leave the half which have the greater number of votes. And if two
persons have an equal number of votes, and thus increase the number beyond
one-half, they shall withdraw the younger of the two and do away the
excess; and then including all the rest they shall again vote, until there
are left three having an unequal number of votes. But if all the three, or
two out of the three, have equal votes, let them commit the election to
good fate and fortune, and separate off by lot the first, and the second,
and the third; these they shall crown with an olive wreath and give them
the prize of excellence, at the same time proclaiming to all the world
that the city of the Magnetes, by the providence of the Gods, is again
preserved, and presents to the Sun and to Apollo her three best men as
first-fruits, to be a common offering to them, according to the ancient
law, as long as their lives answer to the judgment formed of them. And
these shall appoint in their first year twelve examiners, to continue
until each has completed seventy-five years, to whom three shall
afterwards be added yearly; and let these divide all the magistracies into
twelve parts, and prove the holders of them by every sort of test to which
a freeman may be subjected; and let them live while they hold office in
the precinct of Helios and Apollo, in which they were chosen, and let each
one form a judgment of some things individually, and of others in company
with his colleagues; and let him place a writing in the agora about each
magistracy, and what the magistrate ought to suffer or pay, according to
the decision of the examiners. And if a magistrate does not admit that he
has been justly judged, let him bring the examiners before the select
judges, and if he be acquitted by their decision, let him, if he will,
accuse the examiners themselves; if, however, he be convicted, and have
been condemned to death by the examiners, let him die (and of course he
can only die once): but any other penalties which admit of being doubled
let him suffer twice over.

And now let us pass under review the examiners themselves; what will their
examination be, and how conducted? During the life of these men, whom the
whole state counts worthy of the rewards of virtue, they shall have the
first seat at all public assemblies, and at all Hellenic sacrifices and
sacred missions, and other public and holy ceremonies in which they share.
The chiefs of each sacred mission shall be selected from them, and they
only of all the citizens shall be adorned with a crown of laurel; they
shall all be priests of Apollo and Helios; and one of them, who is judged
first of the priests created in that year, shall be high priest; and they
shall write up his name in each year to be a measure of time as long as
the city lasts; and after their death they shall be laid out and carried
to the grave and entombed in a manner different from the other citizens.
They shall be decked in a robe all of white, and there shall be no crying
or lamentation over them; but a chorus of fifteen maidens, and another of
boys, shall stand around the bier on either side, hymning the praises of
the departed priests in alternate responses, declaring their blessedness
in song all day long; and at dawn a hundred of the youths who practise
gymnastic exercises, and whom the relations of the departed shall choose,
shall carry the bier to the sepulchre, the young men marching first,
dressed in the garb of warriors--the cavalry with their horses, the heavy-
armed with their arms, and the others in like manner. And boys near the
bier and in front of it shall sing their national hymn, and maidens shall
follow behind, and with them the women who have passed the age of child-
bearing; next, although they are interdicted from other burials, let
priests and priestesses follow, unless the Pythian oracle forbid them; for
this burial is free from pollution. The place of burial shall be an oblong
vaulted chamber underground, constructed of tufa, which will last for
ever, having stone couches placed side by side. And here they will lay the
blessed person, and cover the sepulchre with a circular mound of earth and
plant a grove of trees around on every side but one; and on that side the
sepulchre shall be allowed to extend for ever, and a new mound will not be
required. Every year they shall have contests in music and gymnastics, and
in horsemanship, in honour of the dead. These are the honours which shall
be given to those who at the examination are found blameless; but if any
of them, trusting to the scrutiny being over, should, after the judgment
has been given, manifest the wickedness of human nature, let the law
ordain that he who pleases shall indict him, and let the cause be tried in
the following manner. In the first place, the court shall be composed of
the guardians of the law, and to them the surviving examiners shall be
added, as well as the court of select judges; and let the pursuer lay his
indictment in this form--he shall say that so-and-so is unworthy of the
prize of virtue and of his office; and if the defendant be convicted let
him be deprived of his office, and of the burial, and of the other honours
given him. But if the prosecutor do not obtain the fifth part of the
votes, let him, if he be of the first-class, pay twelve minae, and eight
if he be of the second class, and six if he be of the third class, and two
minae if he be of the fourth class.

The so-called decision of Rhadamanthus is worthy of all admiration. He
knew that the men of his own time believed and had no doubt that there
were Gods, which was a reasonable belief in those days, because most men
were the sons of Gods, and according to tradition he was one himself. He
appears to have thought that he ought to commit judgment to no man, but to
the Gods only, and in this way suits were simply and speedily decided by
him. For he made the two parties take an oath respecting the points in
dispute, and so got rid of the matter speedily and safely. But now that a
certain portion of mankind do not believe at all in the existence of the
Gods, and others imagine that they have no care of us, and the opinion of
most men, and of the worst men, is that in return for a small sacrifice
and a few flattering words they will be their accomplices in purloining
large sums and save them from many terrible punishments, the way of
Rhadamanthus is no longer suited to the needs of justice; for as the
opinions of men about the Gods are changed, the laws should also be
changed--in the granting of suits a rational legislation ought to do away
with the oaths of the parties on either side--he who obtains leave to
bring an action should write down the charges, but should not add an oath;
and the defendant in like manner should give his denial to the magistrates
in writing, and not swear; for it is a dreadful thing to know, when many
lawsuits are going on in a state, that almost half the people who meet one
another quite unconcernedly at the public meals and in other companies and
relations of private life are perjured. Let the law, then, be as follows:
A judge who is about to give judgment shall take an oath, and he who is
choosing magistrates for the state shall either vote on oath or with a
voting tablet which he brings from a temple; so too the judge of dances
and of all music, and the superintendents and umpires of gymnastic and
equestrian contests, and any matters in which, as far as men can judge,
there is nothing to be gained by a false oath; but all cases in which a
denial confirmed by an oath clearly results in a great advantage to the
taker of the oath, shall be decided without the oath of the parties to the
suit, and the presiding judges shall not permit either of them to use an
oath for the sake of persuading, nor to call down curses on himself and
his race, nor to use unseemly supplications or womanish laments. But they
shall ever be teaching and learning what is just in auspicious words; and
he who does otherwise shall be supposed to speak beside the point, and the
judges shall again bring him back to the question at issue. On the other
hand, strangers in their dealings with strangers shall as at present have
power to give and receive oaths, for they will not often grow old in the
city or leave a fry of young ones like themselves to be the sons and heirs
of the land.

As to the initiation of private suits, let the manner of deciding causes
between all citizens be the same as in cases in which any freeman is
disobedient to the state in minor matters, of which the penalty is not
stripes, imprisonment, or death. But as regards attendance at choruses or
processions or other shows, and as regards public services, whether the
celebration of sacrifice in peace, or the payment of contributions in war
--in all these cases, first comes the necessity of providing a remedy for
the loss; and by those who will not obey, there shall be security given to
the officers whom the city and the law empower to exact the sum due; and
if they forfeit their security, let the goods which they have pledged be
sold and the money given to the city; but if they ought to pay a larger
sum, the several magistrates shall impose upon the disobedient a suitable
penalty, and bring them before the court, until they are willing to do
what they are ordered.

Now a state which makes money from the cultivation of the soil only, and
has no foreign trade, must consider what it will do about the emigration
of its own people to other countries, and the reception of strangers from
elsewhere. About these matters the legislator has to consider, and he will
begin by trying to persuade men as far as he can. The intercourse of
cities with one another is apt to create a confusion of manners; strangers
are always suggesting novelties to strangers. When states are well
governed by good laws the mixture causes the greatest possible injury; but
seeing that most cities are the reverse of well-ordered, the confusion
which arises in them from the reception of strangers, and from the
citizens themselves rushing off into other cities, when any one either
young or old desires to travel anywhere abroad at whatever time, is of no
consequence. On the other hand, the refusal of states to receive others,
and for their own citizens never to go to other places, is an utter
impossibility, and to the rest of the world is likely to appear ruthless
and uncivilised; it is a practice adopted by people who use harsh words,
such as xenelasia or banishment of strangers, and who have harsh and
morose ways, as men think. And to be thought or not to be thought well of
by the rest of the world is no light matter; for the many are not so far
wrong in their judgment of who are bad and who are good, as they are
removed from the nature of virtue in themselves. Even bad men have a
divine instinct which guesses rightly, and very many who are utterly
depraved form correct notions and judgments of the differences between the
good and bad. And the generality of cities are quite right in exhorting us
to value a good reputation in the world, for there is no truth greater and
more important than this--that he who is really good (I am speaking of the
men who would be perfect) seeks for reputation with, but not without, the
reality of goodness. And our Cretan colony ought also to acquire the
fairest and noblest reputation for virtue from other men; and there is
every reason to expect that, if the reality answers to the idea, she will
be one of the few well-ordered cities which the sun and the other Gods
behold. Wherefore, in the matter of journeys to other countries and the
reception of strangers, we enact as follows: In the first place, let no
one be allowed to go anywhere at all into a foreign country who is less
than forty years of age; and no one shall go in a private capacity, but
only in some public one, as a herald, or on an embassy, or on a sacred
mission. Going abroad on an expedition or in war is not to be included
among travels of the class authorised by the state. To Apollo at Delphi
and to Zeus at Olympia and to Nemea and to the Isthmus, citizens should be
sent to take part in the sacrifices and games there dedicated to the Gods;
and they should send as many as possible, and the best and fairest that
can be found, and they will make the city renowned at holy meetings in
time of peace, procuring a glory which shall be the converse of that which
is gained in war; and when they come home they shall teach the young that
the institutions of other states are inferior to their own. And they shall
send spectators of another sort, if they have the consent of the
guardians, being such citizens as desire to look a little more at leisure
at the doings of other men; and these no law shall hinder. For a city
which has no experience of good and bad men or intercourse with them, can
never be thoroughly and perfectly civilised, nor, again, can the citizens
of a city properly observe the laws by habit only, and without an
intelligent understanding of them. And there always are in the world a few
inspired men whose acquaintance is beyond price, and who spring up quite
as much in ill-ordered as in well-ordered cities. These are they whom the
citizens of a well-ordered city should be ever seeking out, going forth
over sea and over land to find him who is incorruptible--that he may
establish more firmly institutions in his own state which are good
already, and amend what is deficient; for without this examination and
enquiry a city will never continue perfect any more than if the
examination is ill-conducted.

CLEINIAS: How can we have an examination and also a good one?

ATHENIAN: In this way: In the first place, our spectator shall be of not
less than fifty years of age; he must be a man of reputation, especially
in war, if he is to exhibit to other cities a model of the guardians of
the law, but when he is more than sixty years of age he shall no longer
continue in his office of spectator. And when he has carried on his
inspection during as many out of the ten years of his office as he
pleases, on his return home let him go to the assembly of those who review
the laws. This shall be a mixed body of young and old men, who shall be
required to meet daily between the hour of dawn and the rising of the sun.
They shall consist, in the first place, of the priests who have obtained
the rewards of virtue; and, in the second place, of guardians of the law,
the ten eldest being chosen; the general superintendent of education shall
also be a member, as well as the last appointed as those who have been
released from the office; and each of them shall take with him as his
companion a young man, whomsoever he chooses, between the ages of thirty
and forty. These shall be always holding conversation and discourse about
the laws of their own city or about any specially good ones which they may
hear to be existing elsewhere; also about kinds of knowledge which may
appear to be of use and will throw light upon the examination, or of which
the want will make the subject of laws dark and uncertain to them. Any
knowledge of this sort which the elders approve, the younger men shall
learn with all diligence; and if any one of those who have been invited
appear to be unworthy, the whole assembly shall blame him who invited him.
The rest of the city shall watch over those among the young men who
distinguish themselves, having an eye upon them, and especially honouring
them if they succeed, but dishonouring them above the rest if they turn
out to be inferior. This is the assembly to which he who has visited the
institutions of other men, on his return home shall straightway go, and if
he have discovered any one who has anything to say about the enactment of
laws or education or nurture, or if he have himself made any observations,
let him communicate his discoveries to the whole assembly. And if he be
seen to have come home neither better nor worse, let him be praised at any
rate for his enthusiasm; and if he be much better, let him be praised so
much the more; and not only while he lives but after his death let the
assembly honour him with fitting honours. But if on his return home he
appear to have been corrupted, pretending to be wise when he is not, let
him hold no communication with any one, whether young or old; and if he
will hearken to the rulers, then he shall be permitted to live as a
private individual; but if he will not, let him die, if he be convicted in
a court of law of interfering about education and the laws. And if he
deserve to be indicted, and none of the magistrates indict him, let that
be counted as a disgrace to them when the rewards of virtue are decided.

Let such be the character of the person who goes abroad, and let him go
abroad under these conditions. In the next place, the stranger who comes
from abroad should be received in a friendly spirit. Now there are four
kinds of strangers, of whom we must make some mention--the first is he who
comes and stays throughout the summer; this class are like birds of
passage, taking wing in pursuit of commerce, and flying over the sea to
other cities, while the season lasts; he shall be received in market-
places and harbours and public buildings, near the city but outside, by
those magistrates who are appointed to superintend these matters; and they
shall take care that a stranger, whoever he be, duly receives justice; but
he shall not be allowed to make any innovation. They shall hold the
intercourse with him which is necessary, and this shall be as little as
possible. The second kind is just a spectator who comes to see with his
eyes and hear with his ears the festivals of the Muses; such ought to have
entertainment provided them at the temples by hospitable persons, and the
priests and ministers of the temples should see and attend to them. But
they should not remain more than a reasonable time; let them see and hear
that for the sake of which they came, and then go away, neither having
suffered nor done any harm. The priests shall be their judges, if any of
them receive or do any wrong up to the sum of fifty drachmae, but if any
greater charge be brought, in such cases the suit shall come before the
wardens of the agora. The third kind of stranger is he who comes on some
public business from another land, and is to be received with public
honours. He is to be received only by the generals and commanders of horse
and foot, and the host by whom he is entertained, in conjunction with the
Prytanes, shall have the sole charge of what concerns him. There is a
fourth class of persons answering to our spectators, who come from another
land to look at ours. In the first place, such visits will be rare, and
the visitor should be at least fifty years of age; he may possibly be
wanting to see something that is rich and rare in other states, or himself
to show something in like manner to another city. Let such an one, then,
go unbidden to the doors of the wise and rich, being one of them himself:
let him go, for example, to the house of the superintendent of education,
confident that he is a fitting guest of such a host, or let him go to the
house of some of those who have gained the prize of virtue and hold
discourse with them, both learning from them, and also teaching them; and
when he has seen and heard all, he shall depart, as a friend taking leave
of friends, and be honoured by them with gifts and suitable tributes of
respect. These are the customs, according to which our city should receive
all strangers of either sex who come from other countries, and should send
forth her own citizens, showing respect to Zeus, the God of hospitality,
not forbidding strangers at meals and sacrifices, as is the manner which
prevails among the children of the Nile, nor driving them away by savage

When a man becomes surety, let him give the security in a distinct form,
acknowledging the whole transaction in a written document, and in the
presence of not less than three witnesses if the sum be under a thousand
drachmae, and of not less than five witnesses if the sum be above a
thousand drachmae. The agent of a dishonest or untrustworthy seller shall
himself be responsible; both the agent and the principal shall be equally
liable. If a person wishes to find anything in the house of another, he
shall enter naked, or wearing only a short tunic and without a girdle,
having first taken an oath by the customary Gods that he expects to find
it there; he shall then make his search, and the other shall throw open
his house and allow him to search things both sealed and unsealed. And if
a person will not allow the searcher to make his search, he who is
prevented shall go to law with him, estimating the value of the goods
after which he is searching, and if the other be convicted he shall pay
twice the value of the article. If the master be absent from home, the
dwellers in the house shall let him search the unsealed property, and on
the sealed property the searcher shall set another seal, and shall appoint
any one whom he likes to guard them during five days; and if the master of
the house be absent during a longer time, he shall take with him the
wardens of the city, and so make his search, opening the sealed property
as well as the unsealed, and then, together with the members of the family
and the wardens of the city, he shall seal them up again as they were
before. There shall be a limit of time in the case of disputed things, and
he who has had possession of them during a certain time shall no longer be
liable to be disturbed. As to houses and lands there can be no dispute in
this state of ours; but if a man has any other possessions which he has
used and openly shown in the city and in the agora and in the temples, and
no one has put in a claim to them, and some one says that he was looking
for them during this time, and the possessor is proved to have made no
concealment, if they have continued for a year, the one having the goods
and the other looking for them, the claim of the seeker shall not be
allowed after the expiration of the year; or if he does not use or show
the lost property in the market or in the city, but only in the country,
and no one offers himself as the owner during five years, at the
expiration of the five years the claim shall be barred for ever after; or
if he uses them in the city but within the house, then the appointed time
of claiming the goods shall be three years, or ten years if he has them in
the country in private. And if he has them in another land, there shall be
no limit of time or prescription, but whenever the owner finds them he may
claim them.

If any one prevents another by force from being present at a trial,
whether a principal party or his witnesses; if the person prevented be a
slave, whether his own or belonging to another, the suit shall be
incomplete and invalid; but if he who is prevented be a freeman, besides
the suit being incomplete, the other who has prevented him shall be
imprisoned for a year, and shall be prosecuted for kidnapping by any one
who pleases. And if any one hinders by force a rival competitor in
gymnastic or music, or any other sort of contest, from being present at
the contest, let him who has a mind inform the presiding judges, and they
shall liberate him who is desirous of competing; and if they are not able,
and he who hinders the other from competing wins the prize, then they
shall give the prize of victory to him who is prevented, and inscribe him
as the conqueror in any temples which he pleases; and he who hinders the
other shall not be permitted to make any offering or inscription having
reference to that contest, and in any case he shall be liable for damages,
whether he be defeated or whether he conquer.

If any one knowingly receives anything which has been stolen, he shall
undergo the same punishment as the thief, and if a man receives an exile
he shall be punished with death. Every man should regard the friend and
enemy of the state as his own friend and enemy; and if any one makes peace
or war with another on his own account, and without the authority of the
state, he, like the receiver of the exile, shall undergo the penalty of
death. And if any fraction of the city declare war or peace against any,
the generals shall indict the authors of this proceeding, and if they are
convicted death shall be the penalty. Those who serve their country ought
to serve without receiving gifts, and there ought to be no excusing or
approving the saying, 'Men should receive gifts as the reward of good, but
not of evil deeds'; for to know which we are doing, and to stand fast by
our knowledge, is no easy matter. The safest course is to obey the law
which says, 'Do no service for a bribe,' and let him who disobeys, if he
be convicted, simply die. With a view to taxation, for various reasons,
every man ought to have had his property valued: and the tribesmen should
likewise bring a register of the yearly produce to the wardens of the
country, that in this way there may be two valuations; and the public
officers may use annually whichever on consideration they deem the best,
whether they prefer to take a certain portion of the whole value, or of
the annual revenue, after subtracting what is paid to the common tables.

Touching offerings to the Gods, a moderate man should observe moderation
in what he offers. Now the land and the hearth of the house of all men is
sacred to all Gods; wherefore let no man dedicate them a second time to
the Gods. Gold and silver, whether possessed by private persons or in
temples, are in other cities provocative of envy, and ivory, the product
of a dead body, is not a proper offering; brass and iron, again, are
instruments of war; but of wood let a man bring what offering he likes,
provided it be a single block, and in like manner of stone, to the public
temples; of woven work let him not offer more than one woman can execute
in a month. White is a colour suitable to the Gods, especially in woven
works, but dyes should only be used for the adornments of war. The most
divine of gifts are birds and images, and they should be such as one
painter can execute in a single day. And let all other offerings follow a
similar rule.

Now that the whole city has been divided into parts of which the nature
and number have been described, and laws have been given about all the
most important contracts as far as this was possible, the next thing will
be to have justice done. The first of the courts shall consist of elected
judges, who shall be chosen by the plaintiff and the defendant in common:
these shall be called arbiters rather than judges. And in the second court
there shall be judges of the villages and tribes corresponding to the
twelvefold division of the land, and before these the litigants shall go
to contend for greater damages, if the suit be not decided before the
first judges; the defendant, if he be defeated the second time, shall pay
a fifth more than the damages mentioned in the indictment; and if he find
fault with his judges and would try a third time, let him carry the suit
before the select judges, and if he be again defeated, let him pay the
whole of the damages and half as much again. And the plaintiff, if when
defeated before the first judges he persist in going on to the second,
shall if he wins receive in addition to the damages a fifth part more, and
if defeated he shall pay a like sum; but if he is not satisfied with the
previous decision, and will insist on proceeding to a third court, then if
he win he shall receive from the defendant the amount of the damages and,
as I said before, half as much again, and the plaintiff, if he lose, shall
pay half of the damages claimed. Now the assignment by lot of judges to
courts and the completion of the number of them, and the appointment of
servants to the different magistrates, and the times at which the several
causes should be heard, and the votings and delays, and all the things
that necessarily concern suits, and the order of causes, and the time in
which answers have to be put in and parties are to appear--of these and
other things akin to these we have indeed already spoken, but there is no
harm in repeating what is right twice or thrice: All lesser and easier
matters which the elder legislator has omitted may be supplied by the
younger one. Private courts will be sufficiently regulated in this way,
and the public and state courts, and those which the magistrates must use
in the administration of their several offices, exist in many other
states. Many very respectable institutions of this sort have been framed
by good men, and from them the guardians of the law may by reflection
derive what is necessary for the order of our new state, considering and
correcting them, and bringing them to the test of experience, until every
detail appears to be satisfactorily determined; and then putting the final
seal upon them, and making them irreversible, they shall use them for ever
afterwards. As to what relates to the silence of judges and the abstinence
from words of evil omen and the reverse, and the different notions of the
just and good and honourable which exist in our own as compared with other
states, they have been partly mentioned already, and another part of them
will be mentioned hereafter as we draw near the end. To all these matters
he who would be an equal judge shall justly look, and he shall possess
writings about them that he may learn them. For of all kinds of knowledge
the knowledge of good laws has the greatest power of improving the
learner; otherwise there would be no meaning in the divine and admirable
law possessing a name akin to mind (nous, nomos). And of all other words,
such as the praises and censures of individuals which occur in poetry and
also in prose, whether written down or uttered in daily conversation,
whether men dispute about them in the spirit of contention or weakly
assent to them, as is often the case--of all these the one sure test is
the writings of the legislator, which the righteous judge ought to have in
his mind as the antidote of all other words, and thus make himself and the
city stand upright, procuring for the good the continuance and increase of
justice, and for the bad, on the other hand, a conversion from ignorance
and intemperance, and in general from all unrighteousness, as far as their
evil minds can be healed, but to those whose web of life is in reality
finished, giving death, which is the only remedy for souls in their
condition, as I may say truly again and again. And such judges and chiefs
of judges will be worthy of receiving praise from the whole city.

When the suits of the year are completed the following laws shall regulate
their execution: In the first place, the judge shall assign to the party
who wins the suit the whole property of him who loses, with the exception
of mere necessaries, and the assignment shall be made through the herald
immediately after each decision in the hearing of the judges; and when the
month arrives following the month in which the courts are sitting, (unless
the gainer of the suit has been previously satisfied) the court shall
follow up the case, and hand over to the winner the goods of the loser;
but if they find that he has not the means of paying, and the sum
deficient is not less than a drachma, the insolvent person shall not have
any right of going to law with any other man until he have satisfied the
debt of the winning party; but other persons shall still have the right of
bringing suits against him. And if any one after he is condemned refuses
to acknowledge the authority which condemned him, let the magistrates who
are thus deprived of their authority bring him before the court of the
guardians of the law, and if he be cast, let him be punished with death,
as a subverter of the whole state and of the laws.

Thus a man is born and brought up, and after this manner he begets and
brings up his own children, and has his share of dealings with other men,
and suffers if he has done wrong to any one, and receives satisfaction if
he has been wronged, and so at length in due time he grows old under the
protection of the laws, and his end comes in the order of nature.
Concerning the dead of either sex, the religious ceremonies which may
fittingly be performed, whether appertaining to the Gods of the under-
world or of this, shall be decided by the interpreters with absolute
authority. Their sepulchres are not to be in places which are fit for
cultivation, and there shall be no monuments in such spots, either large
or small, but they shall occupy that part of the country which is
naturally adapted for receiving and concealing the bodies of the dead with
as little hurt as possible to the living. No man, living or dead, shall
deprive the living of the sustenance which the earth, their foster-parent,
is naturally inclined to provide for them. And let not the mound be piled
higher than would be the work of five men completed in five days; nor
shall the stone which is placed over the spot be larger than would be
sufficient to receive the praises of the dead included in four heroic
lines. Nor shall the laying out of the dead in the house continue for a
longer time than is sufficient to distinguish between him who is in a
trance only and him who is really dead, and speaking generally, the third
day after death will be a fair time for carrying out the body to the
sepulchre. Now we must believe the legislator when he tells us that the
soul is in all respects superior to the body, and that even in life what
makes each one of us to be what we are is only the soul; and that the body
follows us about in the likeness of each of us, and therefore, when we are
dead, the bodies of the dead are quite rightly said to be our shades or
images; for the true and immortal being of each one of us which is called
the soul goes on her way to other Gods, before them to give an account--
which is an inspiring hope to the good, but very terrible to the bad, as
the laws of our fathers tell us; and they also say that not much can be
done in the way of helping a man after he is dead. But the living--he
should be helped by all his kindred, that while in life he may be the
holiest and justest of men, and after death may have no great sins to be
punished in the world below. If this be true, a man ought not to waste his
substance under the idea that all this lifeless mass of flesh which is in
process of burial is connected with him; he should consider that the son,
or brother, or the beloved one, whoever he may be, whom he thinks he is
laying in the earth, has gone away to complete and fulfil his own destiny,
and that his duty is rightly to order the present, and to spend moderately
on the lifeless altar of the Gods below. But the legislator does not
intend moderation to be taken in the sense of meanness. Let the law, then,
be as follows: The expenditure on the entire funeral of him who is of the
highest class, shall not exceed five minae; and for him who is of the
second class, three minae, and for him who is of the third class, two
minae, and for him who is of the fourth class, one mina, will be a fair
limit of expense. The guardians of the law ought to take especial care of
the different ages of life, whether childhood, or manhood, or any other
age. And at the end of all, let there be some one guardian of the law
presiding, who shall be chosen by the friends of the deceased to
superintend, and let it be glory to him to manage with fairness and
moderation what relates to the dead, and a discredit to him if they are
not well managed. Let the laying out and other ceremonies be in accordance
with custom, but to the statesman who adopts custom as his law we must
give way in certain particulars. It would be monstrous for example that he
should command any man to weep or abstain from weeping over the dead; but
he may forbid cries of lamentation, and not allow the voice of the mourner
to be heard outside the house; also, he may forbid the bringing of the
dead body into the open streets, or the processions of mourners in the
streets, and may require that before daybreak they should be outside the
city. Let these, then, be our laws relating to such matters, and let him
who obeys be free from penalty; but he who disobeys even a single guardian
of the law shall be punished by them all with a fitting penalty. Other
modes of burial, or again the denial of burial, which is to be refused in
the case of robbers of temples and parricides and the like, have been
devised and are embodied in the preceding laws, so that now our work of
legislation is pretty nearly at an end; but in all cases the end does not
consist in doing something or acquiring something or establishing
something--the end will be attained and finally accomplished, when we have
provided for the perfect and lasting continuance of our institutions;
until then our creation is incomplete.

CLEINIAS: That is very good, Stranger; but I wish you would tell me more
clearly what you mean.

ATHENIAN: O Cleinias, many things of old time were well said and sung; and
the saying about the Fates was one of them.

CLEINIAS: What is it?

ATHENIAN: The saying that Lachesis or the giver of the lots is the first
of them, and that Clotho or the spinster is the second of them, and that
Atropos or the unchanging one is the third of them; and that she is the
preserver of the things which we have spoken, and which have been compared
in a figure to things woven by fire, they both (i.e. Atropos and the fire)
producing the quality of unchangeableness. I am speaking of the things
which in a state and government give not only health and salvation to the
body, but law, or rather preservation of the law, in the soul; and, if I
am not mistaken, this seems to be still wanting in our laws: we have still
to see how we can implant in them this irreversible nature.

CLEINIAS: It will be no small matter if we can only discover how such a
nature can be implanted in anything.

ATHENIAN: But it certainly can be; so much I clearly see.

CLEINIAS: Then let us not think of desisting until we have imparted this
quality to our laws; for it is ridiculous, after a great deal of labour
has been spent, to place a thing at last on an insecure foundation.

ATHENIAN: I approve of your suggestion, and am quite of the same mind with

CLEINIAS: Very good: And now what, according to you, is to be the
salvation of our government and of our laws, and how is it to be effected?

ATHENIAN: Were we not saying that there must be in our city a council
which was to be of this sort: The ten oldest guardians of the law, and all
those who have obtained prizes of virtue, were to meet in the same
assembly, and the council was also to include those who had visited
foreign countries in the hope of hearing something that might be of use in
the preservation of the laws, and who, having come safely home, and having
been tested in these same matters, had proved themselves to be worthy to
take part in the assembly--each of the members was to select some young
man of not less than thirty years of age, he himself judging in the first
instance whether the young man was worthy by nature and education, and
then suggesting him to the others, and if he seemed to them also to be
worthy they were to adopt him; but if not, the decision at which they
arrived was to be kept a secret from the citizens at large, and, more
especially, from the rejected candidate. The meeting of the council was to
be held early in the morning, when everybody was most at leisure from all
other business, whether public or private--was not something of this sort
said by us before?


ATHENIAN: Then, returning to the council, I would say further, that if we
let it down to be the anchor of the state, our city, having everything
which is suitable to her, will preserve all that we wish to preserve.

CLEINIAS: What do you mean?

ATHENIAN: Now is the time for me to speak the truth in all earnestness.

CLEINIAS: Well said, and I hope that you will fulfil your intention.

ATHENIAN: Know, Cleinias, that everything, in all that it does, has a
natural saviour, as of an animal the soul and the head are the chief

CLEINIAS: Once more, what do you mean?

ATHENIAN: The well-being of those two is obviously the preservation of
every living thing.

CLEINIAS: How is that?

ATHENIAN: The soul, besides other things, contains mind, and the head,
besides other things, contains sight and hearing; and the mind, mingling
with the noblest of the senses, and becoming one with them, may be truly
called the salvation of all.

CLEINIAS: Yes, quite so.

ATHENIAN: Yes, indeed; but with what is that intellect concerned which,
mingling with the senses, is the salvation of ships in storms as well as
in fair weather? In a ship, when the pilot and the sailors unite their
perceptions with the piloting mind, do they not save both themselves and
their craft?

CLEINIAS: Very true.

ATHENIAN: We do not want many illustrations about such matters: What aim
would the general of an army, or what aim would a physician propose to
himself, if he were seeking to attain salvation?

CLEINIAS: Very good.

ATHENIAN: Does not the general aim at victory and superiority in war, and
do not the physician and his assistants aim at producing health in the

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: And a physician who is ignorant about the body, that is to say,
who knows not that which we just now called health, or a general who knows
not victory, or any others who are ignorant of the particulars of the arts
which we mentioned, cannot be said to have understanding about any of
these matters.

CLEINIAS: They cannot.

ATHENIAN: And what would you say of the state? If a person proves to be
ignorant of the aim to which the statesman should look, ought he, in the
first place, to be called a ruler at all; and further, will he ever be
able to preserve that of which he does not even know the aim?

CLEINIAS: Impossible.

ATHENIAN: And therefore, if our settlement of the country is to be
perfect, we ought to have some institution, which, as I was saying, will
tell what is the aim of the state, and will inform us how we are to attain
this, and what law or what man will advise us to that end. Any state which
has no such institution is likely to be devoid of mind and sense, and in
all her actions will proceed by mere chance.

CLEINIAS: Very true.

ATHENIAN: In which, then, of the parts or institutions of the state is any
such guardian power to be found? Can we say?

CLEINIAS: I am not quite certain, Stranger; but I have a suspicion that
you are referring to the assembly which you just now said was to meet at

ATHENIAN: You understand me perfectly, Cleinias; and we must assume, as
the argument implies, that this council possesses all virtue; and the
beginning of virtue is not to make mistakes by guessing many things, but
to look steadily at one thing, and on this to fix all our aims.

CLEINIAS: Quite true.

ATHENIAN: Then now we shall see why there is nothing wonderful in states
going astray--the reason is that their legislators have such different
aims; nor is there anything wonderful in some laying down as their rule of
justice, that certain individuals should bear rule in the state, whether
they be good or bad, and others that the citizens should be rich, not
caring whether they are the slaves of other men or not. The tendency of
others, again, is towards freedom; and some legislate with a view to two
things at once--they want to be at the same time free and the lords of
other states; but the wisest men, as they deem themselves to be, look to
all these and similar aims, and there is no one of them which they
exclusively honour, and to which they would have all things look.

CLEINIAS: Then, Stranger, our former assertion will hold; for we were
saying that laws generally should look to one thing only; and this, as we
admitted, was rightly said to be virtue.


CLEINIAS: And we said that virtue was of four kinds?

ATHENIAN: Quite true.

CLEINIAS: And that mind was the leader of the four, and that to her the
three other virtues and all other things ought to have regard?

ATHENIAN: You follow me capitally, Cleinias, and I would ask you to follow
me to the end, for we have already said that the mind of the pilot, the
mind of the physician and of the general look to that one thing to which
they ought to look; and now we may turn to mind political, of which, as of
a human creature, we will ask a question: O wonderful being, and to what
are you looking? The physician is able to tell his single aim in life, but
you, the superior, as you declare yourself to be, of all intelligent
beings, when you are asked are not able to tell. Can you, Megillus, and
you, Cleinias, say distinctly what is the aim of mind political, in return
for the many explanations of things which I have given you?

CLEINIAS: We cannot, Stranger.

ATHENIAN: Well, but ought we not to desire to see it, and to see where it
is to be found?

CLEINIAS: For example, where?

ATHENIAN: For example, we were saying that there are four kinds of virtue,
and as there are four of them, each of them must be one.

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: And further, all four of them we call one; for we say that
courage is virtue, and that prudence is virtue, and the same of the two
others, as if they were in reality not many but one, that is, virtue.

CLEINIAS: Quite so.

ATHENIAN: There is no difficulty in seeing in what way the two differ from
one another, and have received two names, and so of the rest. But there is
more difficulty in explaining why we call these two and the rest of them
by the single name of virtue.

CLEINIAS: How do you mean?

ATHENIAN: I have no difficulty in explaining what I mean. Let us
distribute the subject into questions and answers.

CLEINIAS: Once more, what do you mean?

ATHENIAN: Ask me what is that one thing which I call virtue, and then
again speak of as two, one part being courage and the other wisdom. I will
tell you how that occurs: One of them has to do with fear; in this the
beasts also participate, and quite young children--I mean courage; for a
courageous temper is a gift of nature and not of reason. But without
reason there never has been, or is, or will be a wise and understanding
soul; it is of a different nature.

CLEINIAS: That is true.

ATHENIAN: I have now told you in what way the two are different, and do
you in return tell me in what way they are one and the same. Suppose that
I ask you in what way the four are one, and when you have answered me, you
will have a right to ask of me in return in what way they are four; and
then let us proceed to enquire whether in the case of things which have a
name and also a definition to them, true knowledge consists in knowing the
name only and not the definition. Can he who is good for anything be
ignorant of all this without discredit where great and glorious truths are

CLEINIAS: I suppose not.

ATHENIAN: And is there anything greater to the legislator and the guardian
of the law, and to him who thinks that he excels all other men in virtue,
and has won the palm of excellence, than these very qualities of which we
are now speaking--courage, temperance, wisdom, justice?

CLEINIAS: How can there be anything greater?

ATHENIAN: And ought not the interpreters, the teachers, the lawgivers, the
guardians of the other citizens, to excel the rest of mankind, and
perfectly to show him who desires to learn and know or whose evil actions
require to be punished and reproved, what is the nature of virtue and
vice? Or shall some poet who has found his way into the city, or some
chance person who pretends to be an instructor of youth, show himself to
be better than him who has won the prize for every virtue? And can we
wonder that when the guardians are not adequate in speech or action, and
have no adequate knowledge of virtue, the city being unguarded should
experience the common fate of cities in our day?

CLEINIAS: Wonder! no.

ATHENIAN: Well, then, must we do as we said? Or can we give our guardians
a more precise knowledge of virtue in speech and action than the many
have? or is there any way in which our city can be made to resemble the
head and senses of rational beings because possessing such a guardian

CLEINIAS: What, Stranger, is the drift of your comparison?

ATHENIAN: Do we not see that the city is the trunk, and are not the
younger guardians, who are chosen for their natural gifts, placed in the
head of the state, having their souls all full of eyes, with which they
look about the whole city? They keep watch and hand over their perceptions
to the memory, and inform the elders of all that happens in the city; and
those whom we compared to the mind, because they have many wise thoughts--
that is to say, the old men--take counsel, and making use of the younger
men as their ministers, and advising with them--in this way both together
truly preserve the whole state: Shall this or some other be the order of
our state? Are all our citizens to be equal in acquirements, or shall
there be special persons among them who have received a more careful
training and education?

CLEINIAS: That they should be equal, my good sir, is impossible.

ATHENIAN: Then we ought to proceed to some more exact training than any
which has preceded.

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: And must not that of which we are in need be the one to which we
were just now alluding?

CLEINIAS: Very true.

ATHENIAN: Did we not say that the workman or guardian, if he be perfect in
every respect, ought not only to be able to see the many aims, but he
should press onward to the one? This he should know, and knowing, order
all things with a view to it.


ATHENIAN: And can any one have a more exact way of considering or
contemplating anything, than the being able to look at one idea gathered
from many different things?

CLEINIAS: Perhaps not.

ATHENIAN: Not 'Perhaps not,' but 'Certainly not,' my good sir, is the
right answer. There never has been a truer method than this discovered by
any man.

CLEINIAS: I bow to your authority, Stranger; let us proceed in the way
which you propose.

ATHENIAN: Then, as would appear, we must compel the guardians of our
divine state to perceive, in the first place, what that principle is which
is the same in all the four--the same, as we affirm, in courage and in
temperance, and in justice and in prudence, and which, being one, we call
as we ought, by the single name of virtue. To this, my friends, we will,
if you please, hold fast, and not let go until we have sufficiently
explained what that is to which we are to look, whether to be regarded as
one, or as a whole, or as both, or in whatever way. Are we likely ever to
be in a virtuous condition, if we cannot tell whether virtue is many, or
four, or one? Certainly, if we take counsel among ourselves, we shall in
some way contrive that this principle has a place amongst us; but if you
have made up your mind that we should let the matter alone, we will.

CLEINIAS: We must not, Stranger, by the God of strangers I swear that we
must not, for in our opinion you speak most truly; but we should like to
know how you will accomplish your purpose.

ATHENIAN: Wait a little before you ask; and let us, first of all, be quite
agreed with one another that the purpose has to be accomplished.

CLEINIAS: Certainly, it ought to be, if it can be.

ATHENIAN: Well, and about the good and the honourable, are we to take the
same view? Are our guardians only to know that each of them is many, or
also how and in what way they are one?

CLEINIAS: They must consider also in what sense they are one.

ATHENIAN: And are they to consider only, and to be unable to set forth
what they think?

CLEINIAS: Certainly not; that would be the state of a slave.

ATHENIAN: And may not the same be said of all good things--that the true
guardians of the laws ought to know the truth about them, and to be able
to interpret them in words, and carry them out in action, judging of what
is and of what is not well, according to nature?

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: Is not the knowledge of the Gods which we have set forth with so
much zeal one of the noblest sorts of knowledge--to know that they are,
and know how great is their power, as far as in man lies? We do indeed
excuse the mass of the citizens, who only follow the voice of the laws,
but we refuse to admit as guardians any who do not labour to obtain every
possible evidence that there is respecting the Gods; our city is forbidden
and not allowed to choose as a guardian of the law, or to place in the
select order of virtue, him who is not an inspired man, and has not
laboured at these things.

CLEINIAS: It is certainly just, as you say, that he who is indolent about
such matters or incapable should be rejected, and that things honourable
should be put away from him.

ATHENIAN: Are we assured that there are two things which lead men to
believe in the Gods, as we have already stated?

CLEINIAS: What are they?

ATHENIAN: One is the argument about the soul, which has been already
mentioned--that it is the eldest and most divine of all things, to which
motion attaining generation gives perpetual existence; the other was an
argument from the order of the motion of the stars, and of all things
under the dominion of the mind which ordered the universe. If a man look
upon the world not lightly or ignorantly, there was never any one so
godless who did not experience an effect opposite to that which the many
imagine. For they think that those who handle these matters by the help of
astronomy, and the accompanying arts of demonstration, may become godless,
because they see, as far as they can see, things happening by necessity,
and not by an intelligent will accomplishing good.

CLEINIAS: But what is the fact?

ATHENIAN: Just the opposite, as I said, of the opinion which once
prevailed among men, that the sun and stars are without soul. Even in
those days men wondered about them, and that which is now ascertained was
then conjectured by some who had a more exact knowledge of them--that if
they had been things without soul, and had no mind, they could never have
moved with numerical exactness so wonderful; and even at that time some
ventured to hazard the conjecture that mind was the orderer of the
universe. But these same persons again mistaking the nature of the soul,
which they conceived to be younger and not older than the body, once more
overturned the world, or rather, I should say, themselves; for the bodies
which they saw moving in heaven all appeared to be full of stones, and
earth, and many other lifeless substances, and to these they assigned the
causes of all things. Such studies gave rise to much atheism and
perplexity, and the poets took occasion to be abusive--comparing the
philosophers to she-dogs uttering vain howlings, and talking other
nonsense of the same sort. But now, as I said, the case is reversed.


ATHENIAN: No man can be a true worshipper of the Gods who does not know
these two principles--that the soul is the eldest of all things which are
born, and is immortal and rules over all bodies; moreover, as I have now
said several times, he who has not contemplated the mind of nature which
is said to exist in the stars, and gone through the previous training, and
seen the connexion of music with these things, and harmonized them all
with laws and institutions, is not able to give a reason of such things as
have a reason. And he who is unable to acquire this in addition to the
ordinary virtues of a citizen, can hardly be a good ruler of a whole
state; but he should be the subordinate of other rulers. Wherefore,
Cleinias and Megillus, let us consider whether we may not add to all the
other laws which we have discussed this further one--that the nocturnal
assembly of the magistrates, which has also shared in the whole scheme of
education proposed by us, shall be a guard set according to law for the
salvation of the state. Shall we propose this?

CLEINIAS: Certainly, my good friend, we will if the thing is in any degree

ATHENIAN: Let us make a common effort to gain such an object; for I too
will gladly share in the attempt. Of these matters I have had much
experience, and have often considered them, and I dare say that I shall be
able to find others who will also help.

CLEINIAS: I agree, Stranger, that we should proceed along the road in
which God is guiding us; and how we can proceed rightly has now to be
investigated and explained.

ATHENIAN: O Megillus and Cleinias, about these matters we cannot legislate
further until the council is constituted; when that is done, then we will
determine what authority they shall have of their own; but the explanation
of how this is all to be ordered would only be given rightly in a long

CLEINIAS: What do you mean, and what new thing is this?

ATHENIAN: In the first place, a list would have to be made out of those
who by their ages and studies and dispositions and habits are well fitted
for the duty of a guardian. In the next place, it will not be easy for
them to discover themselves what they ought to learn, or become the
disciple of one who has already made the discovery. Furthermore, to write
down the times at which, and during which, they ought to receive the
several kinds of instruction, would be a vain thing; for the learners
themselves do not know what is learned to advantage until the knowledge
which is the result of learning has found a place in the soul of each. And
so these details, although they could not be truly said to be secret,
might be said to be incapable of being stated beforehand, because when
stated they would have no meaning.

CLEINIAS: What then are we to do, Stranger, under these circumstances?

ATHENIAN: As the proverb says, the answer is no secret, but open to all of
us: We must risk the whole on the chance of throwing, as they say, thrice
six or thrice ace, and I am willing to share with you the danger by
stating and explaining to you my views about education and nurture, which
is the question coming to the surface again. The danger is not a slight or
ordinary one, and I would advise you, Cleinias, in particular, to see to
the matter; for if you order rightly the city of the Magnetes, or whatever
name God may give it, you will obtain the greatest glory; or at any rate
you will be thought the most courageous of men in the estimation of
posterity. Dear companions, if this our divine assembly can only be
established, to them we will hand over the city; none of the present
company of legislators, as I may call them, would hesitate about that. And
the state will be perfected and become a waking reality, which a little
while ago we attempted to create as a dream and in idea only, mingling
together reason and mind in one image, in the hope that our citizens might
be duly mingled and rightly educated; and being educated, and dwelling in
the citadel of the land, might become perfect guardians, such as we have
never seen in all our previous life, by reason of the saving virtue which
is in them.

MEGILLUS: Dear Cleinias, after all that has been said, either we must
detain the Stranger, and by supplications and in all manner of ways make
him share in the foundation of the city, or we must give up the

CLEINIAS: Very true, Megillus; and you must join with me in detaining him.


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