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Laws by Plato

Part 4 out of 11

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column before the court of the wardens of the city.

Next in order follows the subject of retail trades, which in their natural
use are the reverse of mischievous; for every man is a benefactor who
reduces what is unequal to symmetry and proportion. Money is the
instrument by which this is accomplished, and the shop-keeper, the
merchant, and hotel-keeper do but supply the wants and equalize the
possessions of mankind. Why, then, does any dishonour attach to a
beneficent occupation? Let us consider the nature of the accusation first,
and then see whether it can be removed. 'What is your drift?' Dear
Cleinias, there are few men who are so gifted by nature, and improved by
education, as to be able to control the desire of making money; or who are
sober in their wishes and prefer moderation to accumulation. The great
majority think that they can never have enough, and the consequence is
that retail trade has become a reproach. Whereas, however ludicrous the
idea may seem, if noble men and noble women could be induced to open a
shop, and to trade upon incorruptible principles, then the aspect of
things would change, and retail traders would be regarded as nursing
fathers and mothers. In our own day the trader goes and settles in distant
places, and receives the weary traveller hospitably at first, but in the
end treats him as an enemy and a captive, whom he only liberates for an
enormous ransom. This is what has brought retail trade into disrepute, and
against this the legislator ought to provide. Men have said of old, that
to fight against two opponents is hard; and the two opponents of whom I am
thinking are wealth and poverty--the one corrupting men by luxury; the
other, through misery, depriving them of the sense of shame. What remedies
can a city find for this disease? First, to have as few retail traders as
possible; secondly, to give retail trade over to a class whose corruption
will not injure the state; and thirdly, to restrain the insolence and
meanness of the retailers.

Let us make the following laws:--(1) In the city of the Magnetes none of
the 5040 citizens shall be a retailer or merchant, or do any service to
any private persons who do not equally serve him, except to his father and
mother and their fathers and mothers, and generally to his elders who are
freemen, and whom he serves as a freeman. He who follows an illiberal
pursuit may be cited for dishonouring his family, and kept in bonds for a
year; and if he offend again, he shall be bound for two years; and for
every offence his punishment shall be doubled: (2) Every retailer shall be
a metic or a foreigner: (3) The guardians of the law shall have a special
care of this part of the community, whose calling exposes them to peculiar
temptations. They shall consult with persons of experience, and find out
what prices will yield the traders a moderate profit, and fix them.

When a man does not fulfil his contract, he being under no legal or other
impediment, the case shall be brought before the court of the tribes, if
not previously settled by arbitration. The class of artisans is
consecrated to Hephaestus and Athene; the makers of weapons to Ares and
Athene: all of whom, remembering that the Gods are their ancestors, should
be ashamed to deceive in the practice of their craft. If any man is lazy
in the fulfilment of his work, and fancies, foolish fellow, that his
patron God will not deal hardly with him, he will be punished by the God;
and let the law follow:--He who fails in his undertaking shall pay the
value, and do the work gratis in a specified time. The contractor, like
the seller, is enjoined by law to charge the simple value of his work; in
a free city, art should be a true thing, and the artist must not practise
on the ignorance of others. On the other hand, he who has ordered any work
and does not pay the workman according to agreement, dishonours Zeus and
Athene, and breaks the bonds of society. And if he does not pay at the
time agreed, let him pay double; and although interest is forbidden in
other cases, let the workman receive after the expiration of a year
interest at the rate of an obol a month for every drachma (equal to 200
per cent. per ann.). And we may observe by the way, in speaking of
craftsmen, that if our military craft do their work well, the state will
praise those who honour them, and blame those who do not honour them. Not
that the first place of honour is to be assigned to the warrior; a higher
still is reserved for those who obey the laws.

Most of the dealings between man and man are now settled, with the
exception of such as relate to orphans and guardianships. These lead us to
speak of the intentions of the dying, about which we must make
regulations. I say 'must'; for mankind cannot be allowed to dispose of
their property as they please, in ways at variance with one another and
with law and custom. But a dying person is a strange being, and is not
easily managed; he wants to be master of all he has, and is apt to use
angry words. He will say,--'May I not do what I will with my own, and give
much to my friends, and little to my enemies?' 'There is reason in that.'
O Cleinias, in my judgment the older lawgivers were too soft-hearted, and
wanting in insight into human affairs. They were too ready to listen to
the outcry of a dying man, and hence they were induced to give him an
absolute power of bequest. But I would say to him:--O creature of a day,
you know neither what is yours nor yourself: for you and your property are
not your own, but belong to your whole family, past and to come, and
property and family alike belong to the State. And therefore I must take
out of your hands the charge of what you leave behind you, with a view to
the interests of all. And I hope that you will not quarrel with us, now
that you are going the way of all mankind; we will do our best for you and
yours when you are no longer here. Let this be our address to the living
and dying, and let the law be as follows:--The father who has sons shall
appoint one of them to be the heir of the lot; and if he has given any
other son to be adopted by another, the adoption shall also be recorded;
and if he has still a son who has no lot, and has a chance of going to a
colony, he may give him what he has more than the lot; or if he has more
than one son unprovided for, he may divide the money between them. A son
who has a house of his own, and a daughter who is betrothed, are not to
share in the bequest of money; and the son or daughter who, having
inherited one lot, acquires another, is to bequeath the new inheritance to
the next of kin. If a man have only daughters, he may adopt the husband of
any one of them; or if he have lost a son, let him make mention of the
circumstance in his will and adopt another. If he have no children, he may
give away a tenth of his acquired property to whomsoever he likes; but he
must adopt an heir to inherit the lot, and may leave the remainder to him.
Also he may appoint guardians for his children; or if he die without
appointing them or without making a will, the nearest kinsmen,--two on the
father's and two on the mother's side,--and one friend of the departed,
shall be appointed guardians. The fifteen eldest guardians of the law are
to have special charge of all orphans, the whole number of fifteen being
divided into bodies of three, who will succeed one another according to
seniority every year for five years. If a man dying intestate leave
daughters, he must pardon the law which marries them for looking, first to
kinship, and secondly to the preservation of the lot. The legislator
cannot regard the character of the heir, which to the father is the first
consideration. The law will therefore run as follows:--If the intestate
leave daughters, husbands are to be found for them among their kindred
according to the following table of affinity: first, their father's
brothers; secondly, the sons of their father's brothers; thirdly, of their
father's sisters; fourthly, their great-uncles; fifthly, the sons of a
great-uncle; sixthly, the sons of a great-aunt. The kindred in such cases
shall always be reckoned in this way; the relationship shall proceed
upwards through brothers and sisters and brothers' and sisters' children,
and first the male line must be taken and then the female. If there is a
dispute in regard to fitness of age for marriage, this the judge shall
decide, after having made an inspection of the youth naked, and of the
maiden naked down to the waist. If the maiden has no relations within the
degree of third cousin, she may choose whom she likes, with the consent of
her guardians; or she may even select some one who has gone to a colony,
and he, if he be a kinsman, will take the lot by law; if not, he must have
her guardians' consent, as well as hers. When a man dies without children
and without a will, let a young man and a young woman go forth from the
family and take up their abode in the desolate house. The woman shall be
selected from the kindred in the following order of succession:--first, a
sister of the deceased; second, a brother's daughter; third, a sister's
daughter; fourth, a father's sister; fifth, a daughter of a father's
brother; sixth, a daughter of a father's sister. For the man the same
order shall be observed as in the preceding case. The legislator foresees
that laws of this kind will sometimes press heavily, and that his
intention cannot always be fulfilled; as for example, when there are
mental and bodily defects in the persons who are enjoined to marry. But he
must be excused for not being always able to reconcile the general
principles of public interest with the particular circumstances of
individuals; and he is willing to allow, in like manner, that the
individual cannot always do what the lawgiver wishes. And then arbiters
must be chosen, who will determine equitably the cases which may arise
under the law: e.g. a rich cousin may sometimes desire a grander match, or
the requirements of the law can only be fulfilled by marrying a madwoman.
To meet such cases let the following law be enacted:--If any one comes
forward and says that the lawgiver, had he been alive, would not have
required the carrying out of the law in a particular case, let him go to
the fifteen eldest guardians of the law who have the care of orphans; but
if he thinks that too much power is thus given to them, he may bring the
case before the court of select judges.

Thus will orphans have a second birth. In order to make their sad
condition as light as possible, the guardians of the law shall be their
parents, and shall be admonished to take care of them. And what admonition
can be more appropriate than the assurance which we formerly gave, that
the souls of the dead watch over mortal affairs? About this there are many
ancient traditions, which may be taken on trust from the legislator. Let
men fear, in the first place, the Gods above; secondly, the souls of the
departed, who naturally care for their own descendants; thirdly, the aged
living, who are quick to hear of any neglect of family duties, especially
in the case of orphans. For they are the holiest and most sacred of all
deposits, and the peculiar care of guardians and magistrates; and those
who try to bring them up well will contribute to their own good and to
that of their families. He who listens to the preamble of the law will
never know the severity of the legislator; but he who disobeys, and
injures the orphan, will pay twice the penalty he would have paid if the
parents had been alive. More laws might have been made about orphans, did
we not suppose that the guardians have children and property of their own
which are protected by the laws; and the duty of the guardian in our state
is the same as that of a father, though his honour or disgrace is greater.
A legal admonition and threat may, however, be of service: the guardian of
the orphan and the guardian of the law who is over him, shall love the
orphan as their own children, and take more care of his or her property
than of their own. If the guardian of the child neglect his duty, the
guardian of the law shall fine him; and the guardian may also have the
magistrate tried for neglect in the court of select judges, and he shall
pay, if convicted, a double penalty. Further, the guardian of the orphan
who is careless or dishonest may be fined on the information of any of the
citizens in a fourfold penalty, half to go to the orphan and half to the
prosecutor of the suit. When the orphan is of age, if he thinks that he
has been ill-used, his guardian may be brought to trial by him within five
years, and the penalty shall be fixed by the court. Or if the magistrate
has neglected the orphan, he shall pay damages to him; but if he have
defrauded him, he shall make compensation and also be deposed from his
office of guardian of the law.

If irremediable differences arise between fathers and sons, the father may
want to renounce his son, or the son may indict his father for imbecility:
such violent separations only take place when the family are 'a bad lot';
if only one of the two parties is bad, the differences do not grow to so
great a height. But here arises a difficulty. Although in any other state
a son who is disinherited does not cease to be a citizen, in ours he does;
for the number of citizens cannot exceed 5040. And therefore he who is to
suffer such a penalty ought to be abjured, not only by his father, but by
the whole family. The law, then, should run as follows:--If any man's evil
fortune or temper incline him to disinherit his son, let him not do so
lightly or on the instant; but let him have a council of his own relations
and of the maternal relations of his son, and set forth to them the
propriety of disinheriting him, and allow his son to answer. And if more
than half of the kindred male and female, being of full age, condemn the
son, let him be disinherited. If any other citizen desires to adopt him,
he may, for young men's characters often change in the course of life. But
if, after ten years, he remains unadopted, let him be sent to a colony. If
disease, or old age, or evil disposition cause a man to go out of his
mind, and he is ruining his house and property, and his son doubts about
indicting him for insanity, let him lay the case before the eldest
guardians of the law, and consult with them. And if they advise him to
proceed, and the father is decided to be imbecile, he shall have no more
control over his property, but shall live henceforward like a child in the

If a man and his wife are of incompatible tempers, ten guardians of the
law and ten of the matrons who regulate marriage shall take their case in
hand, and reconcile them, if possible. If, however, their swelling souls
cannot be pacified, the wife may try and find a new husband, and the
husband a new wife; probably they are not very gentle creatures, and
should therefore be joined to milder natures. The younger of those who are
separated should also select their partners with a view to the procreation
of children; while the older should seek a companion for their declining
years. If a woman dies, leaving children male or female, the law will
advise, but not compel, the widower to abstain from a second marriage; if
she leave no children, he shall be compelled to marry. Also a widow, if
she is not old enough to live honestly without marriage, shall marry
again; and in case she have no children, she should marry for the sake of
them. There is sometimes an uncertainty which parent the offspring is to
follow: in unions of a female slave with a male slave, or with a freedman
or free man, or of a free woman with a male slave, the offspring is to
belong to the master; but if the master or mistress be themselves the
parent of the child, the slave and the child are to be sent away to
another land.

Concerning duty to parents, let the preamble be as follows:--We honour the
Gods in their lifeless images, and believe that we thus propitiate them.
But he who has an aged father or mother has a living image, which if he
cherish it will do him far more good than any statue. 'What do you mean by
cherishing them?' I will tell you. Oedipus and Amyntor and Theseus cursed
their children, and their curses took effect. This proves that the Gods
hear the curses of parents who are wronged; and shall we doubt that they
hear and fulfil their blessings too?' 'Surely not.' And, as we were
saying, no image is more honoured by the Gods than an aged father and
mother, to whom when honour is done, the God who hears their prayers is
rejoiced, and their influence is greater than that of the lifeless statue;
for they pray that good or evil may come to us in proportion as they are
honoured or dishonoured, but the statue is silent. 'Excellent.' Good men
are glad when their parents live to extreme old age, or if they depart
early, lament their loss; but to bad man their parents are always
terrible. Wherefore let every one honour his parents, and if this preamble
fails of influencing him, let him hear the law:--If any one does not take
sufficient care of his parents, let the aggrieved person inform the three
eldest guardians of the law and three of the women who are concerned with
marriages. Women up to forty years of age, and men up to thirty, who thus
offend, shall be beaten and imprisoned. After that age they are to be
brought before a court composed of the eldest citizens, who may inflict
any punishment upon them which they please. If the injured party cannot
inform, let any freeman who hears of the case inform; a slave who does so
shall be set free,--if he be the slave of the one of the parties, by the
magistrate,--if owned by another, at the cost of the state; and let the
magistrates, take care that he is not wronged by any one out of revenge.

The injuries which one person does to another by the use of poisons are of
two kinds;--one affects the body by the employment of drugs and potions;
the other works on the mind by the practice of sorcery and magic. Fatal
cases of either sort have been already mentioned; and now we must have a
law respecting cases which are not fatal. There is no use in arguing with
a man whose mind is disturbed by waxen images placed at his own door, or
on the sepulchre of his father or mother, or at a spot where three ways
meet. But to the wizards themselves we must address a solemn preamble,
begging them not to treat the world as if they were children, or compel
the legislator to expose them, and to show men that the poisoner who is
not a physician and the wizard who is not a prophet or diviner are equally
ignorant of what they are doing. Let the law be as follows:--He who by the
use of poison does any injury not fatal to a man or his servants, or any
injury whether fatal or not to another's cattle or bees, is to be punished
with death if he be a physician, and if he be not a physician he is to
suffer the punishment awarded by the court: and he who injures another by
sorcery, if he be a diviner or prophet, shall be put to death; and, if he
be not a diviner, the court shall determine what he ought to pay or

Any one who injures another by theft or violence shall pay damages at
least equal to the injury; and besides the compensation, a suitable
punishment shall be inflicted. The foolish youth who is the victim of
others is to have a lighter punishment; he whose folly is occasioned by
his own jealousy or desire or anger is to suffer more heavily. Punishment
is to be inflicted, not for the sake of vengeance, for what is done cannot
be undone, but for the sake of prevention and reformation. And there
should be a proportion between the punishment and the crime, in which the
judge, having a discretion left him, must, by estimating the crime, second
the legislator, who, like a painter, furnishes outlines for him to fill

A madman is not to go about at large in the city, but is to be taken care
of by his relatives. Neglect on their part is to be punished in the first
class by a fine of a hundred drachmas, and proportionally in the others.
Now madness is of various kinds; in addition to that which arises from
disease there is the madness which originates in a passionate temperament,
and makes men when engaged in a quarrel use foul and abusive language
against each other. This is intolerable in a well-ordered state; and
therefore our law shall be as follows:--No one is to speak evil of
another, but when men differ in opinion they are to instruct one another
without speaking evil. Nor should any one seek to rouse the passions which
education has calmed; for he who feeds and nurses his wrath is apt to make
ribald jests at his opponent, with a loss of character or dignity to
himself. And for this reason no one may use any abusive word in a temple,
or at sacrifices, or games, or in any public assembly, and he who offends
shall be censured by the proper magistrate; and the magistrate, if he fail
to censure him, shall not claim the prize of virtue. In any other place
the angry man who indulges in revilings, whether he be the beginner or
not, may be chastised by an elder. The reviler is always trying to make
his opponent ridiculous; and the use of ridicule in anger we cannot allow.
We forbid the comic poet to ridicule our citizens, under a penalty of
expulsion from the country or a fine of three minae. Jest in which there
is no offence may be allowed; but the question of offence shall be
determined by the director of education, who is to be the licenser of
theatrical performances.

The righteous man who is in adversity will not be allowed to starve in a
well-ordered city; he will never be a beggar. Nor is a man to be pitied,
merely because he is hungry, unless he be temperate. Therefore let the law
be as follows:--Let there be no beggars in our state; and he who begs
shall be expelled by the magistrates both from town and country.

If a slave, male or female, does any harm to the property of another, who
is not himself a party to the harm, the master shall compensate the injury
or give up the offending slave. But if the master argue that the charge
has arisen by collusion, with the view of obtaining the slave, he may put
the plaintiff on his trial for malpractices, and recover from him twice
the value of the slave; or if he is cast he must make good the damage and
deliver up the slave. The injury done by a horse or other animal shall be
compensated in like manner.

A witness who will not come of himself may be summoned, and if he fail in
appearing, he shall be liable for any harm which may ensue: if he swears
that he does not know, he may leave the court. A judge who is called upon
as a witness must not vote. A free woman, if she is over forty, may bear
witness and plead, and, if she have no husband, she may also bring an
action. A slave, male or female, and a child may witness and plead only in
case of murder, but they must give sureties that they will appear at the
trial, if they should be charged with false witness. Such charges must be
made pending the trial, and the accusations shall be sealed by both
parties and kept by the magistrates until the trial for perjury comes off.
If a man is twice convicted of perjury, he is not to be required, if three
times, he is not to be allowed to bear witness, or, if he persists in
bearing witness, is to be punished with death. When more than half the
evidence is proved to be false there must be a new trial.

The best and noblest things in human life are liable to be defiled and
perverted. Is not justice the civilizer of mankind? And yet upon the noble
profession of the advocate has come an evil name. For he is said to make
the worse appear the better cause, and only requires money in return for
his services. Such an art will be forbidden by the legislator, and if
existing among us will be requested to depart to another city. To the
disobedient let the voice of the law be heard saying:--He who tries to
pervert justice in the minds of the judges, or to increase litigation,
shall be brought before the supreme court. If he does so from
contentiousness, let him be silenced for a time, and, if he offend again,
put to death. If he have acted from a love of gain, let him be sent out of
the country if he be a foreigner, or if he be a citizen let him be put to

BOOK XII. If a false message be taken to or brought from other states,
whether friendly or hostile, by ambassadors or heralds, they shall be
indicted for having dishonoured their sacred office, and, if convicted,
shall suffer a penalty.--Stealing is mean; robbery is shameless. Let no
man deceive himself by the supposed example of the Gods, for no God or son
of a God ever really practised either force or fraud. On this point the
legislator is better informed than all the poets put together. He who
listens to him shall be for ever happy, but he who will not listen shall
have the following law directed against him:--He who steals much, or he
who steals little of the public property is deserving of the same penalty;
for they are both impelled by the same evil motive. When the law punishes
one man more lightly than another, this is done under the idea, not that
he is less guilty, but that he is more curable. Now a thief who is a
foreigner or slave may be curable; but the thief who is a citizen, and has
had the advantages of education, should be put to death, for he is

Much consideration and many regulations are necessary about military
expeditions; the great principal of all is that no one, male or female, in
war or peace, in great matters or small, shall be without a commander.
Whether men stand or walk, or drill, or pursue, or retreat, or wash, or
eat, they should all act together and in obedience to orders. We should
practise from our youth upwards the habits of command and obedience. All
dances, relaxations, endurances of meats and drinks, of cold and heat, and
of hard couches, should have a view to war, and care should be taken not
to destroy the natural covering and use of the head and feet by wearing
shoes and caps; for the head is the lord of the body, and the feet are the
best of servants. The soldier should have thoughts like these; and let him
hear the law:--He who is enrolled shall serve, and if he absent himself
without leave he shall be indicted for failure of service before his own
branch of the army when the expedition returns, and if he be found guilty
he shall suffer the penalty which the courts award, and never be allowed
to contend for any prize of valour, or to accuse another of misbehaviour
in military matters. Desertion shall also be tried and punished in the
same manner. After the courts for trying failure of service and desertion
have been held, the generals shall hold another court, in which the
several arms of the service will award prizes for the expedition which has
just concluded. The prize is to be a crown of olive, which the victor
shall offer up at the temple of his favourite war God...In any suit which
a man brings, let the indictment be scrupulously true, for justice is an
honourable maiden, to whom falsehood is naturally hateful. For example,
when men are prosecuted for having lost their arms, great care should be
taken by the witnesses to distinguish between cases in which they have
been lost from necessity and from cowardice. If the hero Patroclus had not
been killed but had been brought back alive from the field, he might have
been reproached with having lost the divine armour. And a man may lose his
arms in a storm at sea, or from a fall, and under many other
circumstances. There is a distinction of language to be observed in the
use of the two terms, 'thrower away of a shield' (ripsaspis), and 'loser
of arms' (apoboleus oplon), one being the voluntary, the other the
involuntary relinquishment of them. Let the law then be as follows:--If
any one is overtaken by the enemy, having arms in his hands, and he leaves
them behind him voluntarily, choosing base life instead of honourable
death, let justice be done. The old legend of Caeneus, who was changed by
Poseidon from a woman into a man, may teach by contraries the appropriate
punishment. Let the thrower away of his shield be changed from a man into
a woman--that is to say, let him be all his life out of danger, and never
again be admitted by any commander into the ranks of his army; and let him
pay a heavy fine according to his class. And any commander who permits him
to serve shall also be punished by a fine.

All magistrates, whatever be their tenure of office, must give an account
of their magistracy. But where shall we find the magistrate who is worthy
to supervise them or look into their short-comings and crooked ways? The
examiner must be more than man who is sufficient for these things. For the
truth is that there are many causes of the dissolution of states; which,
like ships or animals, have their cords, and girders, and sinews easily
relaxed, and nothing tends more to their welfare and preservation than the
supervision of them by examiners who are better than the magistrates;
failing in this they fall to pieces, and each becomes many instead of one.
Wherefore let the people meet after the summer solstice, in the precincts
of Apollo and the Sun, and appoint three men of not less than fifty years
of age. They shall proceed as follows:--Each citizen shall select some
one, not himself, whom he thinks the best. The persons selected shall be
reduced to one half, who have the greatest number of votes, if they are an
even number; but if an odd number, he who has the smallest number of votes
shall be previously withdrawn. The voting shall continue in the same
manner until three only remain; and if the number of votes cast for them
be equal, a distinction between the first, second, and third shall be made
by lot. The three shall be crowned with an olive wreath, and proclamation
made, that the city of the Magnetes, once more preserved by the Gods,
presents her three best men to Apollo and the Sun, to whom she dedicates
them as long as their lives answer to the judgment formed of them. They
shall choose in the first year of their office twelve examiners, to
continue until they are seventy-five years of age; afterwards three shall
be added annually. While they hold office, they shall dwell within the
precinct of the God. They are to divide all the magistracies into twelve
classes, and may apply any methods of enquiry, and inflict any punishments
which they please; in some cases singly, in other cases together,
announcing the acquittal or punishment of the magistrate on a tablet which
they will place in the agora. A magistrate who has been condemned by the
examiners may appeal to the select judges, and, if he gain his suit, may
in turn prosecute the examiners; but if the appellant is cast, his
punishment shall be doubled, unless he was previously condemned to death.

And what honours shall be paid to these examiners, whom the whole state
counts worthy of the rewards of virtue? They shall have the first place at
all sacrifices and other ceremonies, and in all assemblies and public
places; they shall go on sacred embassies, and have the exclusive
privilege of wearing a crown of laurel. They are priests of Apollo and the
Sun, and he of their number who is judged first shall be high priest, and
give his name to the year. The manner of their burial, too, shall be
different from that of the other citizens. The colour of their funeral
array shall be white, and, instead of the voice of lamentation, around the
bier shall stand a chorus of fifteen boys and fifteen maidens, chanting
hymns in honour of the deceased in alternate strains during an entire day;
and at dawn a band of a hundred youths shall carry the bier to the grave,
marching in the garb of warriors, and the boys in front of the bier shall
sing their national hymn, while the maidens and women past child-bearing
follow after. Priests and priestesses may also follow, unless the Pythian
oracle forbids. The sepulchre shall be a vault built underground, which
will last for ever, having couches of stone placed side by side; on one of
these they shall lay the departed saint, and then cover the tomb with a
mound, and plant trees on every side except one, where an opening shall be
left for other interments. Every year there shall be games--musical,
gymnastic, or equestrian, in honour of those who have passed every ordeal.
But if any of them, after having been acquitted on any occasion, begin to
show the wickedness of human nature, he who pleases may bring them to
trial before a court composed of the guardians of the law, and of the
select judges, and of any of the examiners who are alive. If he be
convicted he shall be deprived of his honours, and if the accuser do not
obtain a fifth part of the votes, he shall pay a fine according to his

What is called the judgment of Rhadamanthus is suited to 'ages of faith,'
but not to our days. He knew that his contemporaries believed in the Gods,
for many of them were the sons of Gods; and he thought that the easiest
and surest method of ending litigation was to commit the decision to
Heaven. In our own day, men either deny the existence of Gods or their
care of men, or maintain that they may be bribed by attentions and gifts;
and the procedure of Rhadamanthus would therefore be out of date. When the
religious ideas of mankind change, their laws should also change. Thus
oaths should no longer be taken from plaintiff and defendant; simple
statements of affirmation and denial should be substituted. For there is
something dreadful in the thought, that nearly half the citizens of a
state are perjured men. There is no objection to an oath, where a man has
no interest in forswearing himself; as, for example, when a judge is about
to give his decision, or in voting at an election, or in the judgment of
games and contests. But where there would be a premium on perjury, oaths
and imprecations should be prohibited as irrelevant, like appeals to
feeling. Let the principles of justice be learned and taught without words
of evil omen. The oaths of a stranger against a stranger may be allowed,
because strangers are not permitted to become permanent residents in our

Trials in private causes are to be decided in the same manner as lesser
offences against the state. The non-attendance at a chorus or sacrifice,
or the omission to pay a war-tax, may be regarded as in the first instance
remediable, and the defaulter may give security; but if he forfeits the
security, the goods pledged shall be sold and the money given to the
state. And for obstinate disobedience, the magistrate shall have the power
of inflicting greater penalties.

A city which is without trade or commerce must consider what it will do
about the going abroad of its own people and the admission of strangers.
For out of intercourse with strangers there arises great confusion of
manners, which in most states is not of any consequence, because the
confusion exists already; but in a well-ordered state it may be a great
evil. Yet the absolute prohibition of foreign travel, or the exclusion of
strangers, is impossible, and would appear barbarous to the rest of
mankind. Public opinion should never be lightly regarded, for the many are
not so far wrong in their judgments as in their lives. Even the worst of
men have often a divine instinct, which enables them to judge of the
differences between the good and bad. States are rightly advised when they
desire to have the praise of men; and the greatest and truest praise is
that of virtue. And our Cretan colony should, and probably will, have a
character for virtue, such as few cities have. Let this, then, be our law
about foreign travel and the reception of strangers:--No one shall be
allowed to leave the country who is under forty years of age--of course
military service abroad is not included in this regulation--and no one at
all except in a public capacity. To the Olympic, and Pythian, and Nemean,
and Isthmian games, shall be sent the fairest and best and bravest, who
shall support the dignity of the city in time of peace. These, when they
come home, shall teach the youth the inferiority of all other governments.
Besides those who go on sacred missions, other persons shall be sent out
by permission of the guardians to study the institutions of foreign
countries. For a people which has no experience, and no knowledge of the
characters of men or the reason of things, but lives by habit only, can
never be perfectly civilized. Moreover, in all states, bad as well as
good, there are holy and inspired men; these the citizen of a well-ordered
city should be ever seeking out; he should go forth to find them over sea
and over land, that he may more firmly establish institutions in his own
state which are good already and amend the bad. 'What will be the best way
of accomplishing such an object?' In the first place, let the visitor of
foreign countries be between fifty and sixty years of age, and let him be
a citizen of repute, especially in military matters. On his return he
shall appear before the Nocturnal Council: this is a body which sits from
dawn to sunrise, and includes amongst its members the priests who have
gained the prize of virtue, and the ten oldest guardians of the law, and
the director and past directors of education; each of whom has power to
bring with him a younger friend of his own selection, who is between
thirty and forty. The assembly thus constituted shall consider the laws of
their own and other states, and gather information relating to them.
Anything of the sort which is approved by the elder members of the council
shall be studied with all diligence by the younger; who are to be
specially watched by the rest of the citizens, and shall receive honour,
if they are deserving of honour, or dishonour, if they prove inferior.
This is the assembly to which the visitor of foreign countries shall come
and tell anything which he has heard from others in the course of his
travels, or which he has himself observed. If he be made neither better
nor worse, let him at least be praised for his zeal; and let him receive
still more praise, and special honour after death, if he be improved. But
if he be deteriorated by his travels, let him be prohibited from speaking
to any one; and if he submit, he may live as a private individual: but if
he be convicted of attempting to make innovations in education and the
laws, let him die.

Next, as to the reception of strangers. Of these there are four classes:--
First, merchants, who, like birds of passage, find their way over the sea
at a certain time of the year, that they may exhibit their wares. These
should be received in markets and public buildings without the city, by
proper officers, who shall see that justice is done them, and shall also
watch against any political designs which they may entertain; no more
intercourse is to be held with them than is absolutely necessary.
Secondly, there are the visitors at the festivals, who shall be
entertained by hospitable persons at the temples for a reasonable time;
the priests and ministers of the temples shall have a care of them. In
small suits brought by them or against them, the priests shall be the
judges; but in the more important, the wardens of the agora. Thirdly,
there are ambassadors of foreign states; these are to be honourably
received by the generals and commanders, and placed under the care of the
Prytanes and of the persons with whom they are lodged. Fourthly, there is
the philosophical stranger, who, like our own spectators, from time to
time goes to see what is rich and rare in foreign countries. Like them he
must be fifty years of age: and let him go unbidden to the doors of the
wise and rich, that he may learn from them, and they from him.

These are the rules of missions into foreign countries, and of the
reception of strangers. Let Zeus, the God of hospitality, be honoured; and
let not the stranger be excluded, as in Egypt, from meals and sacrifices,
or, (as at Sparta,) driven away by savage proclamations.

Let guarantees be clearly given in writing and before witnesses. The
number of witnesses shall be three when the sum lent is under a thousand
drachmas, or five when above. The agent and principal at a fraudulent sale
shall be equally liable. He who would search another man's house for
anything must swear that he expects to find it there; and he shall enter
naked, or having on a single garment and no girdle. The owner shall place
at the disposal of the searcher all his goods, sealed as well as unsealed;
if he refuse, he shall be liable in double the value of the property, if
it shall prove to be in his possession. If the owner be absent, the
searcher may counter-seal the property which is under seal, and place
watchers. If the owner remain absent more than five days, the searcher
shall take the magistrates, and open the sealed property, and seal it up
again in their presence. The recovery of goods disputed, except in the
case of lands and houses, (about which there can be no dispute in our
state), is to be barred by time. The public and unimpeached use of
anything for a year in the city, or for five years in the country, or the
private possession and domestic use for three years in the city, or for
ten years in the country, is to give a right of ownership. But if the
possessor have the property in a foreign country, there shall be no bar as
to time. The proceedings of any trial are to be void, in which either the
parties or the witnesses, whether bond or free, have been prevented by
violence from attending:--if a slave be prevented, the suit shall be
invalid; or if a freeman, he who is guilty of the violence shall be
imprisoned for a year, and shall also be liable to an action for
kidnapping. If one competitor forcibly prevents another from attending at
the games, the other may be inscribed as victor in the temples, and the
first, whether victor or not, shall be liable to an action for damages.
The receiver of stolen goods shall undergo the same punishment as the
thief. The receiver of an exile shall be punished with death. A man ought
to have the same friends and enemies as his country; and he who makes war
or peace for himself shall be put to death. And if a party in the state
make war or peace, their leaders shall be indicted by the generals, and,
if convicted, they shall be put to death. The ministers and officers of a
country ought not to receive gifts, even as the reward of good deeds. He
who disobeys shall die.

With a view to taxation a man should have his property and income valued:
and the government may, at their discretion, levy the tax upon the annual
return, or take a portion of the whole.

The good man will offer moderate gifts to the Gods; his land or hearth
cannot be offered, because they are already consecrated to all Gods. Gold
and silver, which arouse envy, and ivory, which is taken from the dead
body of an animal, are unsuitable offerings; iron and brass are materials
of war. Wood and stone of a single piece may be offered; also woven work
which has not occupied one woman more than a month in making. White is a
colour which is acceptable to the Gods; figures of birds and similar
offerings are the best of gifts, but they must be such as the painter can
execute in a day.

Next concerning lawsuits. Judges, or rather arbiters, may be agreed upon
by the plaintiff and defendant; and if no decision is obtained from them,
their fellow-tribesmen shall judge. At this stage there shall be an
increase of the penalty: the defendant, if he be cast, shall pay a fifth
more than the damages claimed. If he further persist, and appeal a second
time, the case shall be heard before the select judges; and he shall pay,
if defeated, the penalty and half as much again. And the pursuer, if on
the first appeal he is defeated, shall pay one fifth of the damages
claimed by him; and if on the second, one half. Other matters relating to
trials, such as the assignment of judges to courts, the times of sitting,
the number of judges, the modes of pleading and procedure, as we have
already said, may be determined by younger legislators.

These are to be the rules of private courts. As regards public courts,
many states have excellent modes of procedure which may serve for models;
these, when duly tested by experience, should be ratified and made
permanent by us.

Let the judge be accomplished in the laws. He should possess writings
about them, and make a study of them; for laws are the highest instrument
of mental improvement, and derive their name from mind (nous, nomos). They
afford a measure of all censure and praise, whether in verse or prose, in
conversation or in books, and are an antidote to the vain disputes of men
and their equally vain acquiescence in each other's opinions. The just
judge, who imbibes their spirit, makes the city and himself to stand
upright. He establishes justice for the good, and cures the tempers of the
bad, if they can be cured; but denounces death, which is the only remedy,
to the incurable, the threads of whose life cannot be reversed.

When the suits of the year are completed, execution is to follow. The
court is to award to the plaintiff the property of the defendant, if he is
cast, reserving to him only his lot of land. If the plaintiff is not
satisfied within a month, the court shall put into his hands the property
of the defendant. If the defendant fails in payment to the amount of a
drachma, he shall lose the use and protection of the court; or if he rebel
against the authority of the court, he shall be brought before the
guardians of the law, and if found guilty he shall be put to death.

Man having been born, educated, having begotten and brought up children,
and gone to law, fulfils the debt of nature. The rites which are to be
celebrated after death in honour of the Gods above and below shall be
determined by the Interpreters. The dead shall be buried in uncultivated
places, where they will be out of the way and do least injury to the
living. For no one either in life or after death has any right to deprive
other men of the sustenance which mother earth provides for them. No
sepulchral mound is to be piled higher than five men can raise it in five
days, and the grave-stone shall not be larger than is sufficient to
contain an inscription of four heroic verses. The dead are only to be
exposed for three days, which is long enough to test the reality of death.
The legislator will instruct the people that the body is a mere shadow or
image, and that the soul, which is our true being, is gone to give an
account of herself before the Gods below. When they hear this, the good
are full of hope, and the evil are terrified. It is also said that not
much can be done for any one after death. And therefore while in life all
man should be helped by their kindred to pass their days justly and
holily, that they may depart in peace. When a man loses a son or a
brother, he should consider that the beloved one has gone away to fulfil
his destiny in another place, and should not waste money over his lifeless
remains. Let the law then order a moderate funeral of five minae for the
first class, of three for the second, of two for the third, of one for the
fourth. One of the guardians of the law, to be selected by the relatives,
shall assist them in arranging the affairs of the deceased. There would be
a want of delicacy in prescribing that there should or should not be
mourning for the dead. But, at any rate, such mourning is to be confined
to the house; there must be no processions in the streets, and the dead
body shall be taken out of the city before daybreak. Regulations about
other forms of burial and about the non-burial of parricides and other
sacrilegious persons have already been laid down. The work of legislation
is therefore nearly completed; its end will be finally accomplished when
we have provided for the continuance of the state.

Do you remember the names of the Fates? Lachesis, the giver of the lots,
is the first of them; Clotho, the spinster, the second; Atropos, the
unchanging one, is the third and last, who makes the threads of the web
irreversible. And we too want to make our laws irreversible, for the
unchangeable quality in them will be the salvation of the state, and the
source of health and order in the bodies and souls of our citizens. 'But
can such a quality be implanted?' I think that it may; and at any rate we
must try; for, after all our labour, to have been piling up a fabric which
has no foundation would be too ridiculous. 'What foundation would you
lay?' We have already instituted an assembly which was composed of the ten
oldest guardians of the law, and secondly, of those who had received
prizes of virtue, and thirdly, of the travellers who had gone abroad to
enquire into the laws of other countries. Moreover, each of the members
was to choose a young man, of not less than thirty years of age, to be
approved by the rest; and they were to meet at dawn, when all the world is
at leisure. This assembly will be an anchor to the vessel of state, and
provide the means of permanence; for the constitutions of states, like all
other things, have their proper saviours, which are to them what the head
and soul are to the living being. 'How do you mean?' Mind in the soul, and
sight and hearing in the head, or rather, the perfect union of mind and
sense, may be justly called every man's salvation. 'Certainly.' Yes; but
of what nature is this union? In the case of a ship, for example, the
senses of the sailors are added to the intelligence of the pilot, and the
two together save the ship and the men in the ship. Again, the physician
and the general have their objects; and the object of the one is health,
of the other victory. States, too, have their objects, and the ruler must
understand, first, their nature, and secondly, the means of attaining
them, whether in laws or men. The state which is wanting in this knowledge
cannot be expected to be wise when the time for action arrives. Now what
class or institution is there in our state which has such a saving power?
'I suspect that you are referring to the Nocturnal Council.' Yes, to that
council which is to have all virtue, and which should aim directly at the
mark. 'Very true.' The inconsistency of legislation in most states is not
surprising, when the variety of their objects is considered. One of them
makes their rule of justice the government of a class; another aims at
wealth; another at freedom, or at freedom and power; and some who call
themselves philosophers maintain that you should seek for all of them at
once. But our object is unmistakeably virtue, and virtue is of four kinds.
'Yes; and we said that mind is the chief and ruler of the three other
kinds of virtue and of all else.' True, Cleinias; and now, having already
declared the object which is present to the mind of the pilot, the
general, the physician, we will interrogate the mind of the statesman.
Tell me, I say, as the physician and general have told us their object,
what is the object of the statesman. Can you tell me? 'We cannot.' Did we
not say that there are four virtues--courage, wisdom, and two others, all
of which are called by the common name of virtue, and are in a sense one?
'Certainly we did.' The difficulty is, not in understanding the
differences of the virtues, but in apprehending their unity. Why do we
call virtue, which is a single thing, by the two names of wisdom and
courage? The reason is that courage is concerned with fear, and is found
both in children and in brutes; for the soul may be courageous without
reason, but no soul was, or ever will be, wise without reason. 'That is
true.' I have explained to you the difference, and do you in return
explain to me the unity. But first let us consider whether any one who
knows the name of a thing without the definition has any real knowledge of
it. Is not such knowledge a disgrace to a man of sense, especially where
great and glorious truths are concerned? and can any subject be more
worthy of the attention of our legislators than the four virtues of which
we are speaking--courage, temperance, justice, wisdom? Ought not the
magistrates and officers of the state to instruct the citizens in the
nature of virtue and vice, instead of leaving them to be taught by some
chance poet or sophist? A city which is without instruction suffers the
usual fate of cities in our day. What then shall we do? How shall we
perfect the ideas of our guardians about virtue? how shall we give our
state a head and eyes? 'Yes, but how do you apply the figure?' The city
will be the body or trunk; the best of our young men will mount into the
head or acropolis and be our eyes; they will look about them, and inform
the elders, who are the mind and use the younger men as their instruments:
together they will save the state. Shall this be our constitution, or
shall all be educated alike, and the special training be given up? 'That
is impossible.' Let us then endeavour to attain to some more exact idea of
education. Did we not say that the true artist or guardian ought to have
an eye, not only to the many, but to the one, and to order all things with
a view to the one? Can there be any more philosophical speculation than
how to reduce many things which are unlike to one idea? 'Perhaps not.' Say
rather, 'Certainly not.' And the rulers of our divine state ought to have
an exact knowledge of the common principle in courage, temperance,
justice, wisdom, which is called by the name of virtue; and unless we know
whether virtue is one or many, we shall hardly know what virtue is. Shall
we contrive some means of engrafting this knowledge on our state, or give
the matter up? 'Anything rather than that.' Let us begin by making an
agreement. 'By all means, if we can.' Well, are we not agreed that our
guardians ought to know, not only how the good and the honourable are
many, but also how they are one? 'Yes, certainly.' The true guardian of
the laws ought to know their truth, and should also be able to interpret
and execute them? 'He should.' And is there any higher knowledge than the
knowledge of the existence and power of the Gods? The people may be
excused for following tradition; but the guardian must be able to give a
reason of the faith which is in him. And there are two great evidences of
religion--the priority of the soul and the order of the heavens. For no
man of sense, when he contemplates the universe, will be likely to
substitute necessity for reason and will. Those who maintain that the sun
and the stars are inanimate beings are utterly wrong in their opinions.
The men of a former generation had a suspicion, which has been confirmed
by later thinkers, that things inanimate could never without mind have
attained such scientific accuracy; and some (Anaxagoras) even in those
days ventured to assert that mind had ordered all things in heaven; but
they had no idea of the priority of mind, and they turned the world, or
more properly themselves, upside down, and filled the universe with
stones, and earth, and other inanimate bodies. This led to great impiety,
and the poets said many foolish things against the philosophers, whom they
compared to 'yelping she-dogs,' besides making other abusive remarks. No
man can now truly worship the Gods who does not believe that the soul is
eternal, and prior to the body, and the ruler of all bodies, and does not
perceive also that there is mind in the stars; or who has not heard the
connexion of these things with music, and has not harmonized them with
manners and laws, giving a reason of things which are matters of reason.
He who is unable to acquire this knowledge, as well as the ordinary
virtues of a citizen, can only be a servant, and not a ruler in the state.

Let us then add another law to the effect that the Nocturnal Council shall
be a guard set for the salvation of the state. 'Very good.' To establish
this will be our aim, and I hope that others besides myself will assist.
'Let us proceed along the road in which God seems to guide us.' We cannot,
Megillus and Cleinias, anticipate the details which will hereafter be
needed; they must be supplied by experience. 'What do you mean?' First of
all a register will have to be made of all those whose age, character, or
education would qualify them to be guardians. The subjects which they are
to learn, and the order in which they are to be learnt, are mysteries
which cannot be explained beforehand, but not mysteries in any other
sense. 'If that is the case, what is to be done?' We must stake our all on
a lucky throw, and I will share the risk by stating my views on education.
And I would have you, Cleinias, who are the founder of the Magnesian
state, and will obtain the greatest glory if you succeed, and will at
least be praised for your courage, if you fail, take especial heed of this
matter. If we can only establish the Nocturnal Council, we will hand over
the city to its keeping; none of the present company will hesitate about
that. Our dream will then become a reality; and our citizens, if they are
carefully chosen and well educated, will be saviours and guardians such as
the world hitherto has never seen.

The want of completeness in the Laws becomes more apparent in the later
books. There is less arrangement in them, and the transitions are more
abrupt from one subject to another. Yet they contain several noble
passages, such as the 'prelude to the discourse concerning the honour and
dishonour of parents,' or the picture of the dangers attending the
'friendly intercourse of young men and maidens with one another,' or the
soothing remonstrance which is addressed to the dying man respecting his
right to do what he will with his own, or the fine description of the
burial of the dead. The subject of religion in Book X is introduced as a
prelude to offences against the Gods, and this portion of the work appears
to be executed in Plato's best manner.

In the last four books, several questions occur for consideration: among
them are (I) the detection and punishment of offences; (II) the nature of
the voluntary and involuntary; (III) the arguments against atheism, and
against the opinion that the Gods have no care of human affairs; (IV) the
remarks upon retail trade; (V) the institution of the Nocturnal Council.

I. A weak point in the Laws of Plato is the amount of inquisition into
private life which is to be made by the rulers. The magistrate is always
watching and waylaying the citizens. He is constantly to receive
information against improprieties of life. Plato does not seem to be aware
that espionage can only have a negative effect. He has not yet discovered
the boundary line which parts the domain of law from that of morality or
social life. Men will not tell of one another; nor will he ever be the
most honoured citizen, who gives the most frequent information about
offenders to the magistrates.

As in some writers of fiction, so also in philosophers, we may observe the
effect of age. Plato becomes more conservative as he grows older, and he
would govern the world entirely by men like himself, who are above fifty
years of age; for in them he hopes to find a principle of stability. He
does not remark that, in destroying the freedom he is destroying also the
life of the State. In reducing all the citizens to rule and measure, he
would have been depriving the Magnesian colony of those great men 'whose
acquaintance is beyond all price;' and he would have found that in the
worst-governed Hellenic State, there was more of a carriere ouverte for
extraordinary genius and virtue than in his own.

Plato has an evident dislike of the Athenian dicasteries; he prefers a few
judges who take a leading part in the conduct of trials to a great number
who only listen in silence. He allows of two appeals--in each case however
with an increase of the penalty. Modern jurists would disapprove of the
redress of injustice being purchased only at an increasing risk; though
indirectly the burden of legal expenses, which seems to have been little
felt among the Athenians, has a similar effect. The love of litigation,
which is a remnant of barbarism quite as much as a corruption of
civilization, and was innate in the Athenian people, is diminished in the
new state by the imposition of severe penalties. If persevered in, it is
to be punished with death.

In the Laws murder and homicide besides being crimes, are also pollutions.
Regarded from this point of view, the estimate of such offences is apt to
depend on accidental circumstances, such as the shedding of blood, and not
on the real guilt of the offender or the injury done to society. They are
measured by the horror which they arouse in a barbarous age. For there is
a superstition in law as well as in religion, and the feelings of a
primitive age have a traditional hold on the mass of the people. On the
other hand, Plato is innocent of the barbarity which would visit the sins
of the fathers upon the children, and he is quite aware that punishment
has an eye to the future, and not to the past. Compared with that of most
European nations in the last century his penal code, though sometimes
capricious, is reasonable and humane.

A defect in Plato's criminal jurisprudence is his remission of the
punishment when the homicide has obtained the forgiveness of the murdered
person; as if crime were a personal affair between individuals, and not an
offence against the State. There is a ridiculous disproportion in his
punishments. Because a slave may fairly receive a blow for stealing one
fig or one bunch of grapes, or a tradesman for selling adulterated goods
to the value of one drachma, it is rather hard upon the slave that he
should receive as many blows as he has taken grapes or figs, or upon the
tradesman who has sold adulterated goods to the value of a thousand
drachmas that he should receive a thousand blows.

II. But before punishment can be inflicted at all, the legislator must
determine the nature of the voluntary and involuntary. The great question
of the freedom of the will, which in modern times has been worn threadbare
with purely abstract discussion, was approached both by Plato and
Aristotle--first, from the judicial; secondly, from the sophistical point
of view. They were puzzled by the degrees and kinds of crime; they
observed also that the law only punished hurts which are inflicted by a
voluntary agent on an involuntary patient.

In attempting to distinguish between hurt and injury, Plato says that mere
hurt is not injury; but that a benefit when done in a wrong spirit may
sometimes injure, e.g. when conferred without regard to right and wrong,
or to the good or evil consequences which may follow. He means to say that
the good or evil disposition of the agent is the principle which
characterizes actions; and this is not sufficiently described by the terms
voluntary and involuntary. You may hurt another involuntarily, and no one
would suppose that you had injured him; and you may hurt him voluntarily,
as in inflicting punishment--neither is this injury; but if you hurt him
from motives of avarice, ambition, or cowardly fear, this is injury.
Injustice is also described as the victory of desire or passion or self-
conceit over reason, as justice is the subordination of them to reason. In
some paradoxical sense Plato is disposed to affirm all injustice to be
involuntary; because no man would do injustice who knew that it never paid
and could calculate the consequences of what he was doing. Yet, on the
other hand, he admits that the distinction of voluntary and involuntary,
taken in another and more obvious sense, is the basis of legislation. His
conception of justice and injustice is complicated (1) by the want of a
distinction between justice and virtue, that is to say, between the
quality which primarily regards others, and the quality in which self and
others are equally regarded; (2) by the confusion of doing and suffering
justice; (3) by the unwillingness to renounce the old Socratic paradox,
that evil is involuntary.

III. The Laws rest on a religious foundation; in this respect they bear
the stamp of primitive legislation. They do not escape the almost
inevitable consequence of making irreligion penal. If laws are based upon
religion, the greatest offence against them must be irreligion. Hence the
necessity for what in modern language, and according to a distinction
which Plato would scarcely have understood, might be termed persecution.
But the spirit of persecution in Plato, unlike that of modern religious
bodies, arises out of the desire to enforce a true and simple form of
religion, and is directed against the superstitions which tend to degrade
mankind. Sir Thomas More, in his Utopia, is in favour of tolerating all
except the intolerant, though he would not promote to high offices those
who disbelieved in the immortality of the soul. Plato has not advanced
quite so far as this in the path of toleration. But in judging of his
enlightenment, we must remember that the evils of necromancy and
divination were far greater than those of intolerance in the ancient
world. Human nature is always having recourse to the first; but only when
organized into some form of priesthood falls into the other; although in
primitive as in later ages the institution of a priesthood may claim
probably to be an advance on some form of religion which preceded. The
Laws would have rested on a sounder foundation, if Plato had ever
distinctly realized to his mind the difference between crime and sin or
vice. Of this, as of many other controversies, a clear definition might
have been the end. But such a definition belongs to a later age of

The arguments which Plato uses for the being of a God, have an extremely
modern character: first, the consensus gentium; secondly, the argument
which has already been adduced in the Phaedrus, of the priority of the
self-moved. The answer to those who say that God 'cares not,' is, that He
governs by general laws; and that he who takes care of the great will
assuredly take care of the small. Plato did not feel, and has not
attempted to consider, the difficulty of reconciling the special with the
general providence of God. Yet he is on the road to a solution, when he
regards the world as a whole, of which all the parts work together towards
the final end.

We are surprised to find that the scepticism, which we attribute to young
men in our own day, existed then (compare Republic); that the Epicureanism
expressed in the line of Horace (borrowed from Lucretius)--

'Namque Deos didici securum agere aevum,'

was already prevalent in the age of Plato; and that the terrors of another
world were freely used in order to gain advantages over other men in this.
The same objection which struck the Psalmist--'when I saw the prosperity
of the wicked'--is supposed to lie at the root of the better sort of
unbelief. And the answer is substantially the same which the modern
theologian would offer:--that the ways of God in this world cannot be
justified unless there be a future state of rewards and punishments. Yet
this future state of rewards and punishments is in Plato's view not any
addition of happiness or suffering imposed from without, but the
permanence of good and evil in the soul: here he is in advance of many
modern theologians. The Greek, too, had his difficulty about the existence
of evil, which in one solitary passage, remarkable for being inconsistent
with his general system, Plato explains, after the Magian fashion, by a
good and evil spirit (compare Theaet., Statesman). This passage is also
remarkable for being at variance with the general optimism of the Tenth
Book--not 'all things are ordered by God for the best,' but some things by
a good, others by an evil spirit.

The Tenth Book of the Laws presents a picture of the state of belief among
the Greeks singularly like that of the world in which we live. Plato is
disposed to attribute the incredulity of his own age to several causes.
First, to the bad effect of mythological tales, of which he retains his
disapproval; but he has a weak side for antiquity, and is unwilling, as in
the Republic, wholly to proscribe them. Secondly, he remarks the self-
conceit of a newly-fledged generation of philosophers, who declare that
the sun, moon, and stars, are earth and stones only; and who also maintain
that the Gods are made by the laws of the state. Thirdly, he notes a
confusion in the minds of men arising out of their misinterpretation of
the appearances of the world around them: they do not always see the
righteous rewarded and the wicked punished. So in modern times there are
some whose infidelity has arisen from doubts about the inspiration of
ancient writings; others who have been made unbelievers by physical
science, or again by the seemingly political character of religion; while
there is a third class to whose minds the difficulty of 'justifying the
ways of God to man' has been the chief stumblingblock. Plato is very much
out of temper at the impiety of some of his contemporaries; yet he is
determined to reason with the victims, as he regards them, of these
illusions before he punishes them. His answer to the unbelievers is
twofold: first, that the soul is prior to the body; secondly, that the
ruler of the universe being perfect has made all things with a view to
their perfection. The difficulties arising out of ancient sacred writings
were far less serious in the age of Plato than in our own.

We too have our popular Epicureanism, which would allow the world to go on
as if there were no God. When the belief in Him, whether of ancient or
modern times, begins to fade away, men relegate Him, either in theory or
practice, into a distant heaven. They do not like expressly to deny God
when it is more convenient to forget Him; and so the theory of the
Epicurean becomes the practice of mankind in general. Nor can we be said
to be free from that which Plato justly considers to be the worst unbelief
--of those who put superstition in the place of true religion. For the
larger half of Christians continue to assert that the justice of God may
be turned aside by gifts, and, if not by the 'odour of fat, and the
sacrifice steaming to heaven,' still by another kind of sacrifice placed
upon the altar--by masses for the quick and dead, by dispensations, by
building churches, by rites and ceremonies--by the same means which the
heathen used, taking other names and shapes. And the indifference of
Epicureanism and unbelief is in two ways the parent of superstition,
partly because it permits, and also because it creates, a necessity for
its development in religious and enthusiastic temperaments. If men cannot
have a rational belief, they will have an irrational. And hence the most
superstitious countries are also at a certain point of civilization the
most unbelieving, and the revolution which takes one direction is quickly
followed by a reaction in the other. So we may read 'between the lines'
ancient history and philosophy into modern, and modern into ancient.
Whether we compare the theory of Greek philosophy with the Christian
religion, or the practice of the Gentile world with the practice of the
Christian world, they will be found to differ more in words and less in
reality than we might have supposed. The greater opposition which is
sometimes made between them seems to arise chiefly out of a comparison of
the ideal of the one with the practice of the other.

To the errors of superstition and unbelief Plato opposes the simple and
natural truth of religion; the best and highest, whether conceived in the
form of a person or a principle--as the divine mind or as the idea of good
--is believed by him to be the basis of human life. That all things are
working together for good to the good and evil to the evil in this or in
some other world to which human actions are transferred, is the sum of his
faith or theology. Unlike Socrates, he is absolutely free from
superstition. Religion and morality are one and indivisible to him. He
dislikes the 'heathen mythology,' which, as he significantly remarks, was
not tolerated in Crete, and perhaps (for the meaning of his words is not
quite clear) at Sparta. He gives no encouragement to individual
enthusiasm; 'the establishment of religion could only be the work of a
mighty intellect.' Like the Hebrews, he prohibits private rites; for the
avoidance of superstition, he would transfer all worship of the Gods to
the public temples. He would not have men and women consecrating the
accidents of their lives. He trusts to human punishments and not to divine
judgments; though he is not unwilling to repeat the old tradition that
certain kinds of dishonesty 'prevent a man from having a family.' He
considers that the 'ages of faith' have passed away and cannot now be
recalled. Yet he is far from wishing to extirpate the sentiment of
religion, which he sees to be common to all mankind--Barbarians as well as
Hellenes. He remarks that no one passes through life without, sooner or
later, experiencing its power. To which we may add the further remark that
the greater the irreligion, the more violent has often been the religious

It is remarkable that Plato's account of mind at the end of the Laws goes
beyond Anaxagoras, and beyond himself in any of his previous writings.
Aristotle, in a well-known passage (Met.) which is an echo of the Phaedo,
remarks on the inconsistency of Anaxagoras in introducing the agency of
mind, and yet having recourse to other and inferior, probably material
causes. But Plato makes the further criticism, that the error of
Anaxagoras consisted, not in denying the universal agency of mind, but in
denying the priority, or, as we should say, the eternity of it. Yet in the
Timaeus he had himself allowed that God made the world out of pre-existing
materials: in the Statesman he says that there were seeds of evil in the
world arising out of the remains of a former chaos which could not be got
rid of; and even in the Tenth Book of the Laws he has admitted that there
are two souls, a good and evil. In the Meno, the Phaedrus, and the Phaedo,
he had spoken of the recovery of ideas from a former state of existence.
But now he has attained to a clearer point of view: he has discarded these
fancies. From meditating on the priority of the human soul to the body, he
has learnt the nature of soul absolutely. The power of the best, of which
he gave an intimation in the Phaedo and in the Republic, now, as in the
Philebus, takes the form of an intelligence or person. He no longer, like
Anaxagoras, supposes mind to be introduced at a certain time into the
world and to give order to a pre-existing chaos, but to be prior to the
chaos, everlasting and evermoving, and the source of order and
intelligence in all things. This appears to be the last form of Plato's
religious philosophy, which might almost be summed up in the words of
Kant, 'the starry heaven above and the moral law within.' Or rather,
perhaps, 'the starry heaven above and mind prior to the world.'

IV. The remarks about retail trade, about adulteration, and about
mendicity, have a very modern character. Greek social life was more like
our own than we are apt to suppose. There was the same division of ranks,
the same aristocratic and democratic feeling, and, even in a democracy,
the same preference for land and for agricultural pursuits. Plato may be
claimed as the first free trader, when he prohibits the imposition of
customs on imports and exports, though he was clearly not aware of the
importance of the principle which he enunciated. The discredit of retail
trade he attributes to the rogueries of traders, and is inclined to
believe that if a nobleman would keep a shop, which heaven forbid! retail
trade might become honourable. He has hardly lighted upon the true reason,
which appears to be the essential distinction between buyers and sellers,
the one class being necessarily in some degree dependent on the other.
When he proposes to fix prices 'which would allow a moderate gain,' and to
regulate trade in several minute particulars, we must remember that this
is by no means so absurd in a city consisting of 5040 citizens, in which
almost every one would know and become known to everybody else, as in our
own vast population. Among ourselves we are very far from allowing every
man to charge what he pleases. Of many things the prices are fixed by law.
Do we not often hear of wages being adjusted in proportion to the profits
of employers? The objection to regulating them by law and thus avoiding
the conflicts which continually arise between the buyers and sellers of
labour, is not so much the undesirableness as the impossibility of doing
so. Wherever free competition is not reconcileable either with the order
of society, or, as in the case of adulteration, with common honesty, the
government may lawfully interfere. The only question is,--Whether the
interference will be effectual, and whether the evil of interference may
not be greater than the evil which is prevented by it.

He would prohibit beggars, because in a well-ordered state no good man
would be left to starve. This again is a prohibition which might have been
easily enforced, for there is no difficulty in maintaining the poor when
the population is small. In our own times the difficulty of pauperism is
rendered far greater, (1) by the enormous numbers, (2) by the facility of
locomotion, (3) by the increasing tenderness for human life and suffering.
And the only way of meeting the difficulty seems to be by modern nations
subdividing themselves into small bodies having local knowledge and acting
together in the spirit of ancient communities (compare Arist. Pol.)

V. Regarded as the framework of a polity the Laws are deemed by Plato to
be a decline from the Republic, which is the dream of his earlier years.
He nowhere imagines that he has reached a higher point of speculation. He
is only descending to the level of human things, and he often returns to
his original idea. For the guardians of the Republic, who were the elder
citizens, and were all supposed to be philosophers, is now substituted a
special body, who are to review and amend the laws, preserving the spirit
of the legislator. These are the Nocturnal Council, who, although they are
not specially trained in dialectic, are not wholly destitute of it; for
they must know the relation of particular virtues to the general principle
of virtue. Plato has been arguing throughout the Laws that temperance is
higher than courage, peace than war, that the love of both must enter into
the character of the good citizen. And at the end the same thought is
summed up by him in an abstract form. The true artist or guardian must be
able to reduce the many to the one, than which, as he says with an
enthusiasm worthy of the Phaedrus or Philebus, 'no more philosophical
method was ever devised by the wit of man.' But the sense of unity in
difference can only be acquired by study; and Plato does not explain to us
the nature of this study, which we may reasonably infer, though there is a
remarkable omission of the word, to be akin to the dialectic of the

The Nocturnal Council is to consist of the priests who have obtained the
rewards of virtue, of the ten eldest guardians of the law, and of the
director and ex-directors of education; each of whom is to select for
approval a younger coadjutor. To this council the 'Spectator,' who is sent
to visit foreign countries, has to make his report. It is not an
administrative body, but an assembly of sages who are to make legislation
their study. Plato is not altogether disinclined to changes in the law
where experience shows them to be necessary; but he is also anxious that
the original spirit of the constitution should never be lost sight of.

The Laws of Plato contain the latest phase of his philosophy, showing in
many respects an advance, and in others a decline, in his views of life
and the world. His Theory of Ideas in the next generation passed into one
of Numbers, the nature of which we gather chiefly from the Metaphysics of
Aristotle. Of the speculative side of this theory there are no traces in
the Laws, but doubtless Plato found the practical value which he
attributed to arithmetic greatly confirmed by the possibility of applying
number and measure to the revolution of the heavens, and to the regulation
of human life. In the return to a doctrine of numbers there is a
retrogression rather than an advance; for the most barren logical
abstraction is of a higher nature than number and figure. Philosophy fades
away into the distance; in the Laws it is confined to the members of the
Nocturnal Council. The speculative truth which was the food of the
guardians in the Republic, is for the majority of the citizens to be
superseded by practical virtues. The law, which is the expression of mind
written down, takes the place of the living word of the philosopher.
(Compare the contrast of Phaedrus, and Laws; also the plays on the words
nous, nomos, nou dianome; and the discussion in the Statesman of the
difference between the personal rule of a king and the impersonal reign of
law.) The State is based on virtue and religion rather than on knowledge;
and virtue is no longer identified with knowledge, being of the commoner
sort, and spoken of in the sense generally understood. Yet there are many
traces of advance as well as retrogression in the Laws of Plato. The
attempt to reconcile the ideal with actual life is an advance; to 'have
brought philosophy down from heaven to earth,' is a praise which may be
claimed for him as well as for his master Socrates. And the members of the
Nocturnal Council are to continue students of the 'one in many' and of the
nature of God. Education is the last word with which Plato supposes the
theory of the Laws to end and the reality to begin.

Plato's increasing appreciation of the difficulties of human affairs, and
of the element of chance which so largely influences them, is an
indication not of a narrower, but of a maturer mind, which had become more
conversant with realities. Nor can we fairly attribute any want of
originality to him, because he has borrowed many of his provisions from
Sparta and Athens. Laws and institutions grow out of habits and customs;
and they have 'better opinion, better confirmation,' if they have come
down from antiquity and are not mere literary inventions. Plato would have
been the first to acknowledge that the Book of Laws was not the creation
of his fancy, but a collection of enactments which had been devised by
inspired legislators, like Minos, Lycurgus, and Solon, to meet the actual
needs of men, and had been approved by time and experience.

In order to do justice therefore to the design of the work, it is
necessary to examine how far it rests on an historical foundation and
coincides with the actual laws of Sparta and Athens. The consideration of
the historical aspect of the Laws has been reserved for this place. In
working out the comparison the writer has been greatly assisted by the
excellent essays of C.F. Hermann ('De vestigiis institutorum veterum,
imprimis Atticorum, per Platonis de Legibus libros indagandis,' and 'Juris
domestici et familiaris apud Platonem in Legibus cum veteris Graeciae
inque primis Athenarum institutis comparatio': Marburg, 1836), and by J.B.
Telfy's 'Corpus Juris Attici' (Leipzig, 1868).


The Laws of Plato are essentially Greek: unlike Xenophon's Cyropaedia,
they contain nothing foreign or oriental. Their aim is to reconstruct the
work of the great lawgivers of Hellas in a literary form. They partake
both of an Athenian and a Spartan character. Some of them too are derived
from Crete, and are appropriately transferred to a Cretan colony. But of
Crete so little is known to us, that although, as Montesquieu (Esprit des
Lois) remarks, 'the Laws of Crete are the original of those of Sparta and
the Laws of Plato the correction of these latter,' there is only one
point, viz. the common meals, in which they can be compared. Most of
Plato's provisions resemble the laws and customs which prevailed in these
three states (especially in the two former), and which the personifying
instinct of the Greeks attributed to Minos, Lycurgus, and Solon. A very
few particulars may have been borrowed from Zaleucus (Cic. de Legibus),
and Charondas, who is said to have first made laws against perjury (Arist.
Pol.) and to have forbidden credit (Stob. Florileg., Gaisford). Some
enactments are Plato's own, and were suggested by his experience of
defects in the Athenian and other Greek states. The Laws also contain many
lesser provisions, which are not found in the ordinary codes of nations,
because they cannot be properly defined, and are therefore better left to
custom and common sense. 'The greater part of the work,' as Aristotle
remarks (Pol.), 'is taken up with laws': yet this is not wholly true, and
applies to the latter rather than to the first half of it. The book rests
on an ethical and religious foundation: the actual laws begin with a hymn
of praise in honour of the soul. And the same lofty aspiration after the
good is perpetually recurring, especially in Books X, XI, XII, and
whenever Plato's mind is filled with his highest themes. In prefixing to
most of his laws a prooemium he has two ends in view, to persuade and also
to threaten. They are to have the sanction of laws and the effect of
sermons. And Plato's 'Book of Laws,' if described in the language of
modern philosophy, may be said to be as much an ethical and educational,
as a political or legal treatise.

But although the Laws partake both of an Athenian and a Spartan character,
the elements which are borrowed from either state are necessarily very
different, because the character and origin of the two governments
themselves differed so widely. Sparta was the more ancient and primitive:
Athens was suited to the wants of a later stage of society. The relation
of the two states to the Laws may be conceived in this manner:--The
foundation and ground-plan of the work are more Spartan, while the
superstructure and details are more Athenian. At Athens the laws were
written down and were voluminous; more than a thousand fragments of them
have been collected by Telfy. Like the Roman or English law, they
contained innumerable particulars. Those of them which regulated daily
life were familiarly known to the Athenians; for every citizen was his own
lawyer, and also a judge, who decided the rights of his fellow-citizens
according to the laws, often after hearing speeches from the parties
interested or from their advocates. It is to Rome and not to Athens that
the invention of law, in the modern sense of the term, is commonly
ascribed. But it must be remembered that long before the times of the
Twelve Tables (B.C. 451), regular courts and forms of law had existed at
Athens and probably in the Greek colonies. And we may reasonably suppose,
though without any express proof of the fact, that many Roman institutions
and customs, like Latin literature and mythology, were partly derived from
Hellas and had imperceptibly drifted from one shore of the Ionian Sea to
the other (compare especially the constitutions of Servius Tullius and of

It is not proved that the laws of Sparta were in ancient times either
written down in books or engraved on tablets of marble or brass. Nor is it
certain that, if they had been, the Spartans could have read them. They
were ancient customs, some of them older probably than the settlement in
Laconia, of which the origin is unknown; they occasionally received the
sanction of the Delphic oracle, but there was a still stronger obligation
by which they were enforced,--the necessity of self-defence: the Spartans
were always living in the presence of their enemies. They belonged to an
age when written law had not yet taken the place of custom and tradition.
The old constitution was very rarely affected by new enactments, and these
only related to the duties of the Kings or Ephors, or the new relations of
classes which arose as time went on. Hence there was as great a difference
as could well be conceived between the Laws of Athens and Sparta: the one
was the creation of a civilized state, and did not differ in principle
from our modern legislation, the other of an age in which the people were
held together and also kept down by force of arms, and which afterwards
retained many traces of its barbaric origin 'surviving in culture.'

Nevertheless the Lacedaemonian was the ideal of a primitive Greek state.
According to Thucydides it was the first which emerged out of confusion
and became a regular government. It was also an army devoted to military
exercises, but organized with a view to self-defence and not to conquest.
It was not quick to move or easily excited; but stolid, cautious,
unambitious, procrastinating. For many centuries it retained the same
character which was impressed upon it by the hand of the legislator. This
singular fabric was partly the result of circumstances, partly the
invention of some unknown individual in prehistoric times, whose ideal of
education was military discipline, and who, by the ascendency of his
genius, made a small tribe into a nation which became famous in the
world's history. The other Hellenes wondered at the strength and stability
of his work. The rest of Hellas, says Thucydides, undertook the
colonisation of Heraclea the more readily, having a feeling of security
now that they saw the Lacedaemonians taking part in it. The Spartan state
appears to us in the dawn of history as a vision of armed men,
irresistible by any other power then existing in the world. It can hardly
be said to have understood at all the rights or duties of nations to one
another, or indeed to have had any moral principle except patriotism and
obedience to commanders. Men were so trained to act together that they
lost the freedom and spontaneity of human life in cultivating the
qualities of the soldier and ruler. The Spartan state was a composite body
in which kings, nobles, citizens, perioeci, artisans, slaves, had to find
a 'modus vivendi' with one another. All of them were taught some use of
arms. The strength of the family tie was diminished among them by an
enforced absence from home and by common meals. Sparta had no life or
growth; no poetry or tradition of the past; no art, no thought. The
Athenians started on their great career some centuries later, but the
Spartans would have been easily conquered by them, if Athens had not been
deficient in the qualities which constituted the strength (and also the
weakness) of her rival.

The ideal of Athens has been pictured for all time in the speech which
Thucydides puts into the mouth of Pericles, called the Funeral Oration. He
contrasts the activity and freedom and pleasantness of Athenian life with
the immobility and severe looks and incessant drill of the Spartans. The
citizens of no city were more versatile, or more readily changed from land
to sea or more quickly moved about from place to place. They 'took their
pleasures' merrily, and yet, when the time for fighting arrived, were not
a whit behind the Spartans, who were like men living in a camp, and,
though always keeping guard, were often too late for the fray. Any
foreigner might visit Athens; her ships found a way to the most distant
shores; the riches of the whole earth poured in upon her. Her citizens had
their theatres and festivals; they 'provided their souls with many
relaxations'; yet they were not less manly than the Spartans or less
willing to sacrifice this enjoyable existence for their country's good.
The Athenian was a nobler form of life than that of their rivals, a life
of music as well as of gymnastic, the life of a citizen as well as of a
soldier. Such is the picture which Thucydides has drawn of the Athenians
in their glory. It is the spirit of this life which Plato would infuse
into the Magnesian state and which he seeks to combine with the common
meals and gymnastic discipline of Sparta.

The two great types of Athens and Sparta had deeply entered into his mind.
He had heard of Sparta at a distance and from common Hellenic fame: he was
a citizen of Athens and an Athenian of noble birth. He must often have sat
in the law-courts, and may have had personal experience of the duties of
offices such as he is establishing. There is no need to ask the question,
whence he derived his knowledge of the Laws of Athens: they were a part of
his daily life. Many of his enactments are recognized to be Athenian laws
from the fragments preserved in the Orators and elsewhere: many more would
be found to be so if we had better information. Probably also still more
of them would have been incorporated in the Magnesian code, if the work
had ever been finally completed. But it seems to have come down to us in a
form which is partly finished and partly unfinished, having a beginning
and end, but wanting arrangement in the middle. The Laws answer to Plato's
own description of them, in the comparison which he makes of himself and
his two friends to gatherers of stones or the beginners of some composite
work, 'who are providing materials and partly putting them together:--
having some of their laws, like stones, already fixed in their places,
while others lie about.'

Plato's own life coincided with the period at which Athens rose to her
greatest heights and sank to her lowest depths. It was impossible that he
should regard the blessings of democracy in the same light as the men of a
former generation, whose view was not intercepted by the evil shadow of
the taking of Athens, and who had only the glories of Marathon and Salamis
and the administration of Pericles to look back upon. On the other hand
the fame and prestige of Sparta, which had outlived so many crimes and
blunders, was not altogether lost at the end of the life of Plato. Hers
was the only great Hellenic government which preserved something of its
ancient form; and although the Spartan citizens were reduced to almost
one-tenth of their original number (Arist. Pol.), she still retained,
until the rise of Thebes and Macedon, a certain authority and predominance
due to her final success in the struggle with Athens and to the victories
which Agesilaus won in Asia Minor.

Plato, like Aristotle, had in his mind some form of a mean state which
should escape the evils and secure the advantages of both aristocracy and
democracy. It may however be doubted whether the creation of such a state
is not beyond the legislator's art, although there have been examples in
history of forms of government, which through some community of interest
or of origin, through a balance of parties in the state itself, or through
the fear of a common enemy, have for a while preserved such a character of
moderation. But in general there arises a time in the history of a state
when the struggle between the few and the many has to be fought out. No
system of checks and balances, such as Plato has devised in the Laws,
could have given equipoise and stability to an ancient state, any more
than the skill of the legislator could have withstood the tide of
democracy in England or France during the last hundred years, or have
given life to China or India.

The basis of the Magnesian constitution is the equal division of land. In
the new state, as in the Republic, there was to be neither poverty nor
riches. Every citizen under all circumstances retained his lot, and as
much money as was necessary for the cultivation of it, and no one was
allowed to accumulate property to the amount of more than five times the
value of the lot, inclusive of it. The equal division of land was a
Spartan institution, not known to have existed elsewhere in Hellas. The
mention of it in the Laws of Plato affords considerable presumption that
it was of ancient origin, and not first introduced, as Mr. Grote and
others have imagined, in the reformation of Cleomenes III. But at Sparta,
if we may judge from the frequent complaints of the accumulation of
property in the hands of a few persons (Arist. Pol.), no provision could
have been made for the maintenance of the lot. Plutarch indeed speaks of a
law introduced by the Ephor Epitadeus soon after the Peloponnesian War,
which first allowed the Spartans to sell their land (Agis): but from the
manner in which Aristotle refers to the subject, we should imagine this
evil in the state to be of a much older standing. Like some other
countries in which small proprietors have been numerous, the original
equality passed into inequality, and, instead of a large middle class,
there was probably at Sparta greater disproportion in the property of the
citizens than in any other state of Hellas. Plato was aware of the danger,
and has improved on the Spartan custom. The land, as at Sparta, must have
been tilled by slaves, since other occupations were found for the
citizens. Bodies of young men between the ages of twenty-five and thirty
were engaged in making biennial peregrinations of the country. They and
their officers are to be the magistrates, police, engineers, aediles, of
the twelve districts into which the colony was divided. Their way of life
may be compared with that of the Spartan secret police or Crypteia, a name
which Plato freely applies to them without apparently any consciousness of
the odium which has attached to the word in history.

Another great institution which Plato borrowed from Sparta (or Crete) is
the Syssitia or common meals. These were established in both states, and
in some respects were considered by Aristotle to be better managed in
Crete than at Lacedaemon (Pol.). In the Laws the Cretan custom appears to
be adopted (This is not proved, as Hermann supposes ('De Vestigiis,'
etc.)): that is to say, if we may interpret Plato by Aristotle, the cost
of them was defrayed by the state and not by the individuals (Arist. Pol);
so that the members of the mess, who could not pay their quota, still
retained their rights of citizenship. But this explanation is hardly
consistent with the Laws, where contributions to the Syssitia from private
estates are expressly mentioned. Plato goes further than the legislators
of Sparta and Crete, and would extend the common meals to women as well as
men: he desires to curb the disorders, which existed among the female sex
in both states, by the application to women of the same military
discipline to which the men were already subject. It was an extension of
the custom of Syssitia from which the ancient legislators shrank, and
which Plato himself believed to be very difficult of enforcement.

Like Sparta, the new colony was not to be surrounded by walls,--a state
should learn to depend upon the bravery of its citizens only--a fallacy or
paradox, if it is not to be regarded as a poetical fancy, which is fairly
enough ridiculed by Aristotle (Pol.). Women, too, must be ready to assist
in the defence of their country: they are not to rush to the temples and
altars, but to arm themselves with shield and spear. In the regulation of
the Syssitia, in at least one of his enactments respecting property, and
in the attempt to correct the licence of women, Plato shows, that while he
borrowed from the institutions of Sparta and favoured the Spartan mode of
life, he also sought to improve upon them.

The enmity to the sea is another Spartan feature which is transferred by
Plato to the Magnesian state. He did not reflect that a non-maritime power
would always be at the mercy of one which had a command of the great
highway. Their many island homes, the vast extent of coast which had to be
protected by them, their struggles first of all with the Phoenicians and
Carthaginians, and secondly with the Persian fleets, forced the Greeks,
mostly against their will, to devote themselves to the sea. The islanders
before the inhabitants of the continent, the maritime cities before the
inland, the Corinthians and Athenians before the Spartans, were compelled
to fit out ships: last of all the Spartans, by the pressure of the
Peloponnesian War, were driven to establish a naval force, which, after
the battle of Aegospotami, for more than a generation commanded the
Aegean. Plato, like the Spartans, had a prejudice against a navy, because
he regarded it as the nursery of democracy. But he either never
considered, or did not care to explain, how a city, set upon an island and
'distant not more than ten miles from the sea, having a seaboard provided
with excellent harbours,' could have safely subsisted without one.

Neither the Spartans nor the Magnesian colonists were permitted to engage
in trade or commerce. In order to limit their dealings as far as possible
to their own country, they had a separate coinage; the Magnesians were
only allowed to use the common currency of Hellas when they travelled
abroad, which they were forbidden to do unless they received permission
from the government. Like the Spartans, Plato was afraid of the evils
which might be introduced into his state by intercourse with foreigners;
but he also shrinks from the utter exclusiveness of Sparta, and is not
unwilling to allow visitors of a suitable age and rank to come from other
states to his own, as he also allows citizens of his own state to go to
foreign countries and bring back a report of them. Such international
communication seemed to him both honourable and useful.

We may now notice some points in which the commonwealth of the Laws
approximates to the Athenian model. These are much more numerous than the
previous class of resemblances; we are better able to compare the laws of
Plato with those of Athens, because a good deal more is known to us of
Athens than of Sparta.

The information which we possess about Athenian law, though comparatively
fuller, is still fragmentary. The sources from which our knowledge is
derived are chiefly the following:--

(1) The Orators,--Antiphon, Andocides, Lysias, Isocrates, Demosthenes,
Aeschines, Lycurgus, and others.

(2) Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Plato, Aristotle, as well as later
writers, such as Cicero de Legibus, Plutarch, Aelian, Pausanias.

(3) Lexicographers, such as Harpocration, Pollux, Hesychius, Suidas, and
the compiler of the Etymologicum Magnum, many of whom are of uncertain
date, and to a great extent based upon one another. Their writings extend
altogether over more than eight hundred years, from the second to the
tenth century.

(4) The Scholia on Aristophanes, Plato, Demosthenes.

(5) A few inscriptions.

Our knowledge of a subject derived from such various sources and for the
most part of uncertain date and origin, is necessarily precarious. No
critic can separate the actual laws of Solon from those which passed under
his name in later ages. Nor do the Scholiasts and Lexicographers attempt
to distinguish how many of these laws were still in force at the time when
they wrote, or when they fell into disuse and were to be found in books
only. Nor can we hastily assume that enactments which occur in the Laws of
Plato were also a part of Athenian law, however probable this may appear.

There are two classes of similarities between Plato's Laws and those of
Athens: (i) of institutions (ii) of minor enactments.

(i) The constitution of the Laws in its general character resembles much
more nearly the Athenian constitution of Solon's time than that which
succeeded it, or the extreme democracy which prevailed in Plato's own day.
It was a mean state which he hoped to create, equally unlike a Syracusan
tyranny or the mob-government of the Athenian assembly. There are various
expedients by which he sought to impart to it the quality of moderation.
(1) The whole people were to be educated: they could not be all trained in
philosophy, but they were to acquire the simple elements of music,
arithmetic, geometry, astronomy; they were also to be subject to military
discipline, archontes kai archomenoi. (2) The majority of them were, or
had been at some time in their lives, magistrates, and had the experience
which is given by office. (3) The persons who held the highest offices
were to have a further education, not much inferior to that provided for
the guardians in the Republic, though the range of their studies is
narrowed to the nature and divisions of virtue: here their philosophy
comes to an end. (4) The entire number of the citizens (5040) rarely, if
ever, assembled, except for purposes of elections. The whole people were
divided into four classes, each having the right to be represented by the
same number of members in the Council. The result of such an arrangement
would be, as in the constitution of Servius Tullius, to give a
disproportionate share of power to the wealthier classes, who may be
supposed to be always much fewer in number than the poorer. This tendency
was qualified by the complicated system of selection by vote, previous to
the final election by lot, of which the object seems to be to hand over to
the wealthy few the power of selecting from the many poor, and vice versa.
(5) The most important body in the state was the Nocturnal Council, which
is borrowed from the Areopagus at Athens, as it existed, or was supposed
to have existed, in the days before Ephialtes and the Eumenides of
Aeschylus, when its power was undiminished. In some particulars Plato
appears to have copied exactly the customs and procedure of the Areopagus:
both assemblies sat at night (Telfy). There was a resemblance also in more
important matters. Like the Areopagus, the Nocturnal Council was partly
composed of magistrates and other state officials, whose term of office
had expired. (7) The constitution included several diverse and even
opposing elements, such as the Assembly and the Nocturnal Council. (8)
There was much less exclusiveness than at Sparta; the citizens were to
have an interest in the government of neighbouring states, and to know
what was going on in the rest of the world.--All these were moderating

A striking similarity between Athens and the constitution of the Magnesian
colony is the use of the lot in the election of judges and other
magistrates. That such a mode of election should have been resorted to in
any civilized state, or that it should have been transferred by Plato to
an ideal or imaginary one, is very singular to us. The most extreme
democracy of modern times has never thought of leaving government wholly
to chance. It was natural that Socrates should scoff at it, and ask, 'Who
would choose a pilot or carpenter or flute-player by lot' (Xen. Mem.)? Yet
there were many considerations which made this mode of choice attractive
both to the oligarch and to the democrat:--(1) It seemed to recognize that
one man was as good as another, and that all the members of the governing
body, whether few or many, were on a perfect equality in every sense of
the word. (2) To the pious mind it appeared to be a choice made, not by
man, but by heaven (compare Laws). (3) It afforded a protection against
corruption and intrigue...It must also be remembered that, although
elected by lot, the persons so elected were subject to a scrutiny before
they entered on their office, and were therefore liable, after election,
if disqualified, to be rejected (Laws). They were, moreover, liable to be
called to account after the expiration of their office. In the election of
councillors Plato introduces a further check: they are not to be chosen
directly by lot from all the citizens, but from a select body previously
elected by vote. In Plato's state at least, as we may infer from his
silence on this point, judges and magistrates performed their duties
without pay, which was a guarantee both of their disinterestedness and of
their belonging probably to the higher class of citizens (compare Arist.
Pol.). Hence we are not surprised that the use of the lot prevailed, not
only in the election of the Athenian Council, but also in many
oligarchies, and even in Plato's colony. The evil consequences of the lot
are to a great extent avoided, if the magistrates so elected do not, like
the dicasts at Athens, receive pay from the state.

Another parallel is that of the Popular Assembly, which at Athens was
omnipotent, but in the Laws has only a faded and secondary existence. In
Plato it was chiefly an elective body, having apparently no judicial and
little political power entrusted to it. At Athens it was the mainspring of
the democracy; it had the decision of war or peace, of life and death; the
acts of generals or statesmen were authorized or condemned by it; no
office or person was above its control. Plato was far from allowing such a
despotic power to exist in his model community, and therefore he minimizes
the importance of the Assembly and narrows its functions. He probably
never asked himself a question, which naturally occurs to the modern
reader, where was to be the central authority in this new community, and
by what supreme power would the differences of inferior powers be decided.
At the same time he magnifies and brings into prominence the Nocturnal
Council (which is in many respects a reflection of the Areopagus), but
does not make it the governing body of the state.

Between the judicial system of the Laws and that of Athens there was very
great similarity, and a difference almost equally great. Plato not
unfrequently adopts the details when he rejects the principle. At Athens
any citizen might be a judge and member of the great court of the Heliaea.
This was ordinarily subdivided into a number of inferior courts, but an
occasion is recorded on which the whole body, in number six thousand, met
in a single court (Andoc. de Myst.). Plato significantly remarks that a
few judges, if they are good, are better than a great number. He also, at
least in capital cases, confines the plaintiff and defendant to a single
speech each, instead of allowing two apiece, as was the common practice at
Athens. On the other hand, in all private suits he gives two appeals, from
the arbiters to the courts of the tribes, and from the courts of the
tribes to the final or supreme court. There was nothing answering to this
at Athens. The three courts were appointed in the following manner:--the
arbiters were to be agreed upon by the parties to the cause; the judges of
the tribes to be elected by lot; the highest tribunal to be chosen at the
end of each year by the great officers of state out of their own number--
they were to serve for a year, to undergo a scrutiny, and, unlike the
Athenian judges, to vote openly. Plato does not dwell upon methods of
procedure: these are the lesser matters which he leaves to the younger
legislators. In cases of murder and some other capital offences, the cause
was to be tried by a special tribunal, as was the custom at Athens:
military offences, too, as at Athens, were decided by the soldiers. Public
causes in the Laws, as sometimes at Athens, were voted upon by the whole
people: because, as Plato remarks, they are all equally concerned in them.
They were to be previously investigated by three of the principal
magistrates. He believes also that in private suits all should take part;
'for he who has no share in the administration of justice is apt to
imagine that he has no share in the state at all.' The wardens of the
country, like the Forty at Athens, also exercised judicial power in small
matters, as well as the wardens of the agora and city. The department of
justice is better organized in Plato than in an ordinary Greek state,
proceeding more by regular methods, and being more restricted to distinct

The executive of Plato's Laws, like the Athenian, was different from that
of a modern civilized state. The difference chiefly consists in this, that
whereas among ourselves there are certain persons or classes of persons
set apart for the execution of the duties of government, in ancient
Greece, as in all other communities in the earlier stages of their
development, they were not equally distinguished from the rest of the
citizens. The machinery of government was never so well organized as in
the best modern states. The judicial department was not so completely
separated from the legislative, nor the executive from the judicial, nor
the people at large from the professional soldier, lawyer, or priest. To
Aristotle (Pol.) it was a question requiring serious consideration--Who
should execute a sentence? There was probably no body of police to whom
were entrusted the lives and properties of the citizens in any Hellenic
state. Hence it might be reasonably expected that every man should be the
watchman of every other, and in turn be watched by him. The ancients do
not seem to have remembered the homely adage that, 'What is every man's
business is no man's business,' or always to have thought of applying the
principle of a division of labour to the administration of law and to
government. Every Athenian was at some time or on some occasion in his
life a magistrate, judge, advocate, soldier, sailor, policeman. He had not
necessarily any private business; a good deal of his time was taken up
with the duties of office and other public occupations. So, too, in
Plato's Laws. A citizen was to interfere in a quarrel, if older than the
combatants, or to defend the outraged party, if his junior. He was
especially bound to come to the rescue of a parent who was ill-treated by
his children. He was also required to prosecute the murderer of a kinsman.
In certain cases he was allowed to arrest an offender. He might even use
violence to an abusive person. Any citizen who was not less than thirty
years of age at times exercised a magisterial authority, to be enforced
even by blows. Both in the Magnesian state and at Athens many thousand
persons must have shared in the highest duties of government, if a section
only of the Council, consisting of thirty or of fifty persons, as in the
Laws, or at Athens after the days of Cleisthenes, held office for a month,
or for thirty-five days only. It was almost as if, in our own country, the
Ministry or the Houses of Parliament were to change every month. The
average ability of the Athenian and Magnesian councillors could not have
been very high, considering there were so many of them. And yet they were
entrusted with the performance of the most important executive duties. In
these respects the constitution of the Laws resembles Athens far more than
Sparta. All the citizens were to be, not merely soldiers, but politicians
and administrators.

(ii) There are numerous minor particulars in which the Laws of Plato
resemble those of Athens. These are less interesting than the preceding,
but they show even more strikingly how closely in the composition of his
work Plato has followed the laws and customs of his own country.

(1) Evidence. (a) At Athens a child was not allowed to give evidence
(Telfy). Plato has a similar law: 'A child shall be allowed to give
evidence only in cases of murder.' (b) At Athens an unwilling witness
might be summoned; but he was not required to appear if he was ready to
declare on oath that he knew nothing about the matter in question (Telfy).
So in the Laws. (c) Athenian law enacted that when more than half the
witnesses in a case had been convicted of perjury, there was to be a new
trial (anadikos krisis--Telfy). There is a similar provision in the Laws.
(d) False-witness was punished at Athens by atimia and a fine (Telfy).
Plato is at once more lenient and more severe: '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,...he shall be punished with death.'

(2) Murder. (a) Wilful murder was punished in Athenian law by death,
perpetual exile, and confiscation of property (Telfy). Plato, too, has the
alternative of death or exile, but he does not confiscate the murderer's
property. (b) The Parricide was not allowed to escape by going into exile
at Athens (Telfy), nor, apparently, in the Laws. (c) A homicide, if
forgiven by his victim before death, received no punishment, either at
Athens (Telfy), or in the Magnesian state. In both (Telfy) the contriver
of a murder is punished as severely as the doer; and persons accused of
the crime are forbidden to enter temples or the agora until they have been
tried (Telfy). (d) At Athens slaves who killed their masters and were
caught red-handed, were not to be put to death by the relations of the
murdered man, but to be handed over to the magistrates (Telfy). So in the
Laws, the slave who is guilty of wilful murder has a public execution: but
if the murder is committed in anger, it is punished by the kinsmen of the

(3) Involuntary homicide. (a) The guilty person, according to the Athenian
law, had to go into exile, and might not return, until the family of the
man slain were conciliated. Then he must be purified (Telfy). If he is
caught before he has obtained forgiveness, he may be put to death. These
enactments reappear in the Laws. (b) The curious provision of Plato, that
a stranger who has been banished for involuntary homicide and is
subsequently wrecked upon the coast, must 'take up his abode on the sea-
shore, wetting his feet in the sea, and watching for an opportunity of
sailing,' recalls the procedure of the Judicium Phreatteum at Athens,
according to which an involuntary homicide, who, having gone into exile,
is accused of a wilful murder, was tried at Phreatto for this offence in a
boat by magistrates on the shore. (c) A still more singular law, occurring
both in the Athenian and Magnesian code, enacts that a stone or other
inanimate object which kills a man is to be tried, and cast over the
border (Telfy).

(4) Justifiable or excusable homicide. Plato and Athenian law agree in
making homicide justifiable or excusable in the following cases:--(1) at
the games (Telfy); (2) in war (Telfy); (3) if the person slain was found
doing violence to a free woman (Telfy); (4) if a doctor's patient dies;
(5) in the case of a robber (Telfy); (6) in self-defence (Telfy).

(5) Impiety. Death or expulsion was the Athenian penalty for impiety
(Telfy). In the Laws it is punished in various cases by imprisonment for
five years, for life, and by death.

(6) Sacrilege. Robbery of temples at Athens was punished by death, refusal
of burial in the land, and confiscation of property (Telfy). In the Laws
the citizen who is guilty of such a crime is to 'perish ingloriously and
be cast beyond the borders of the land,' but his property is not

(7) Sorcery. The sorcerer at Athens was to be executed (Telfy): compare
Laws, where it is enacted that the physician who poisons and the
professional sorcerer shall be punished with death.

(8) Treason. Both at Athens and in the Laws the penalty for treason was
death (Telfy), and refusal of burial in the country (Telfy).

(9) Sheltering exiles. 'If a man receives an exile, he shall be punished
with death.' So, too, in Athenian law (Telfy.).

(10) Wounding. Athenian law compelled a man who had wounded another to go
into exile; if he returned, he was to be put to death (Telfy). Plato only
punishes the offence with death when children wound their parents or one
another, or a slave wounds his master.

(11) Bribery. Death was the punishment for taking a bribe, both at Athens
(Telfy) and in the Laws; but Athenian law offered an alternative--the
payment of a fine of ten times the amount of the bribe.

(12) Theft. Plato, like Athenian law (Telfy), punishes the theft of public
property by death; the theft of private property in both involves a fine
of double the value of the stolen goods (Telfy).

(13) Suicide. He 'who slays him who of all men, as they say, is his own
best friend,' is regarded in the same spirit by Plato and by Athenian law.
Plato would have him 'buried ingloriously on the borders of the twelve
portions of the land, in such places as are uncultivated and nameless,'
and 'no column or inscription is to mark the place of his interment.'
Athenian law enacted that the hand which did the deed should be separated
from the body and be buried apart (Telfy).

(14) Injury. In cases of wilful injury, Athenian law compelled the guilty
person to pay double the damage; in cases of involuntary injury, simple
damages (Telfy). Plato enacts that if a man wounds another in passion, and
the wound is curable, he shall pay double the damage, if incurable or
disfiguring, fourfold damages. If, however, the wounding is accidental, he
shall simply pay for the harm done.

(15) Treatment of parents. Athenian law allowed any one to indict another
for neglect or illtreatment of parents (Telfy). So Plato bids bystanders
assist a father who is assaulted by his son, and allows any one to give
information against children who neglect their parents.

(16) Execution of sentences. Both Plato and Athenian law give to the
winner of a suit power to seize the goods of the loser, if he does not pay
within the appointed time (Telfy). At Athens the penalty was also doubled
(Telfy); not so in Plato. Plato however punishes contempt of court by
death, which at Athens seems only to have been visited with a further fine

(17) Property. (a) Both at Athens and in the Laws a man who has disputed
property in his possession must give the name of the person from whom he
received it (Telfy); and any one searching for lost property must enter a
house naked (Telfy), or, as Plato says, 'naked, or wearing only a short
tunic and without a girdle. (b) Athenian law, as well as Plato, did not
allow a father to disinherit his son without good reason and the consent
of impartial persons (Telfy). Neither grants to the eldest son any special
claim on the paternal estate (Telfy). In the law of inheritance both
prefer males to females (Telfy). (c) Plato and Athenian law enacted that a
tree should be planted at a fair distance from a neighbour's property
(Telfy), and that when a man could not get water, his neighbour must
supply him (Telfy). Both at Athens and in Plato there is a law about bees,
the former providing that a beehive must be set up at not less a distance
than 300 feet from a neighbour's (Telfy), and the latter forbidding the
decoying of bees.

(18) Orphans. A ward must proceed against a guardian whom he suspects of
fraud within five years of the expiration of the guardianship. This
provision is common to Plato and to Athenian law (Telfy). Further, the
latter enacted that the nearest male relation should marry or provide a
husband for an heiress (Telfy),--a point in which Plato follows it

(19) Contracts. Plato's law that 'when a man makes an agreement which he
does not fulfil, unless the agreement be of a nature which the law or a
vote of the assembly does not allow, or which he has made under the
influence of some unjust compulsion, or which he is prevented from
fulfilling against his will by some unexpected chance,--the other party
may go to law with him,' according to Pollux (quoted in Telfy's note)
prevailed also at Athens.

(20) Trade regulations. (a) Lying was forbidden in the agora both by Plato
and at Athens (Telfy). (b) Athenian law allowed an action of recovery
against a man who sold an unsound slave as sound (Telfy). Plato's
enactment is more explicit: he allows only an unskilled person (i.e. one
who is not a trainer or physician) to take proceedings in such a case. (c)
Plato diverges from Athenian practice in the disapproval of credit, and
does not even allow the supply of goods on the deposit of a percentage of
their value (Telfy). He enacts that 'when goods are exchanged by buying
and selling, a man shall deliver them and receive the price of them at a
fixed place in the agora, and have done with the matter,' and that 'he who
gives credit must be satisfied whether he obtain his money or not, for in
such exchanges he will not be protected by law. (d) Athenian law forbad an
extortionate rate of interest (Telfy); Plato allows interest in one case
only--if a contractor does not receive the price of his work within a year
of the time agreed--and at the rate of 200 per cent. per annum for every
drachma a monthly interest of an obol. (e) Both at Athens and in the Laws
sales were to be registered (Telfy), as well as births (Telfy).

(21) Sumptuary laws. Extravagance at weddings (Telfy), and at funerals
(Telfy) was forbidden at Athens and also in the Magnesian state.

There remains the subject of family life, which in Plato's Laws partakes
both of an Athenian and Spartan character. Under this head may
conveniently be included the condition of women and of slaves. To family
life may be added citizenship.

As at Sparta, marriages are to be contracted for the good of the state;
and they may be dissolved on the same ground, where there is a failure of
issue,--the interest of the state requiring that every one of the 5040
lots should have an heir. Divorces are likewise permitted by Plato where
there is an incompatibility of temper, as at Athens by mutual consent. The
duty of having children is also enforced by a still higher motive,
expressed by Plato in the noble words:--'A man should cling to
immortality, and leave behind him children's children to be the servants
of God in his place.' Again, as at Athens, the father is allowed to put
away his undutiful son, but only with the consent of impartial persons
(Telfy), and the only suit which may be brought by a son against a father
is for imbecility. The class of elder and younger men and women are still
to regard one another, as in the Republic, as standing in the relation of
parents and children. This is a trait of Spartan character rather than of
Athenian. A peculiar sanctity and tenderness was to be shown towards the
aged; the parent or grandparent stricken with years was to be loved and
worshipped like the image of a God, and was to be deemed far more able
than any lifeless statue to bring good or ill to his descendants. Great
care is to be taken of orphans: they are entrusted to the fifteen eldest
Guardians of the Law, who are to be 'lawgivers and fathers to them not
inferior to their natural fathers,' as at Athens they were entrusted to
the Archons. Plato wishes to make the misfortune of orphanhood as little
sad to them as possible.

Plato, seeing the disorder into which half the human race had fallen at
Athens and Sparta, is minded to frame for them a new rule of life. He
renounces his fanciful theory of communism, but still desires to place
women as far as possible on an equality with men. They were to be trained
in the use of arms, they are to live in public. Their time was partly
taken up with gymnastic exercises; there could have been little family or
private life among them. Their lot was to be neither like that of Spartan
women, who were made hard and common by excessive practice of gymnastic
and the want of all other education,--nor yet like that of Athenian women,
who, at least among the upper classes, retired into a sort of oriental
seclusion,--but something better than either. They were to be the perfect
mothers of perfect children, yet not wholly taken up with the duties of
motherhood, which were to be made easy to them as far as possible (compare
Republic), but able to share in the perils of war and to be the companions
of their husbands. Here, more than anywhere else, the spirit of the Laws
reverts to the Republic. In speaking of them as the companions of their
husbands we must remember that it is an Athenian and not a Spartan way of
life which they are invited to share, a life of gaiety and brightness, not
of austerity and abstinence, which often by a reaction degenerated into
licence and grossness.

In Plato's age the subject of slavery greatly interested the minds of
thoughtful men; and how best to manage this 'troublesome piece of goods'
exercised his own mind a good deal. He admits that they have often been
found better than brethren or sons in the hour of danger, and are capable
of rendering important public services by informing against offenders--for
this they are to be rewarded; and the master who puts a slave to death for
the sake of concealing some crime which he has committed, is held guilty
of murder. But they are not always treated with equal consideration. The
punishments inflicted on them bear no proportion to their crimes. They are
to be addressed only in the language of command. Their masters are not to
jest with them, lest they should increase the hardship of their lot. Some
privileges were granted to them by Athenian law of which there is no
mention in Plato; they were allowed to purchase their freedom from their
master, and if they despaired of being liberated by him they could demand
to be sold, on the chance of falling into better hands. But there is no
suggestion in the Laws that a slave who tried to escape should be branded
with the words--kateche me, pheugo, or that evidence should be extracted
from him by torture, that the whole household was to be executed if the
master was murdered and the perpetrator remained undetected: all these
were provisions of Athenian law. Plato is more consistent than either the
Athenians or the Spartans; for at Sparta too the Helots were treated in a
manner almost unintelligible to us. On the one hand, they had arms put
into their hands, and served in the army, not only, as at Plataea, in
attendance on their masters, but, after they had been manumitted, as a
separate body of troops called Neodamodes: on the other hand, they were
the victims of one of the greatest crimes recorded in Greek history
(Thucyd.). The two great philosophers of Hellas sought to extricate
themselves from this cruel condition of human life, but acquiesced in the
necessity of it. A noble and pathetic sentiment of Plato, suggested by the
thought of their misery, may be quoted in this place:--'The right
treatment of slaves is to behave properly to them, and to do to them, if
possible, even more justice than to those who are our equals; for he who
naturally and genuinely reverences justice, and hates injustice, is
discovered in his dealings with any class of men to whom he can easily be
unjust. And he who in regard to the natures and actions of his slaves is
undefiled by impiety and injustice, will best sow the seeds of virtue in
them; and this may be truly said of every master, and tyrant, and of every
other having authority in relation to his inferiors.'

All the citizens of the Magnesian state were free and equal; there was no
distinction of rank among them, such as is believed to have prevailed at
Sparta. Their number was a fixed one, corresponding to the 5040 lots. One
of the results of this is the requirement that younger sons or those who
have been disinherited shall go out to a colony. At Athens, where there
was not the same religious feeling against increasing the size of the
city, the number of citizens must have been liable to considerable
fluctuations. Several classes of persons, who were not citizens by birth,
were admitted to the privilege. Perpetual exiles from other countries,
people who settled there to practise a trade (Telfy), any one who had
shown distinguished valour in the cause of Athens, the Plataeans who
escaped from the siege, metics and strangers who offered to serve in the
army, the slaves who fought at Arginusae,--all these could or did become
citizens. Even those who were only on one side of Athenian parentage were
at more than one period accounted citizens. But at times there seems to
have arisen a feeling against this promiscuous extension of the citizen
body, an expression of which is to be found in the law of Pericles--monous
Athenaious einai tous ek duoin Athenaion gegonotas (Plutarch, Pericles);
and at no time did the adopted citizen enjoy the full rights of
citizenship--e.g. he might not be elected archon or to the office of
priest (Telfy), although this prohibition did not extend to his children,
if born of a citizen wife. Plato never thinks of making the metic, much
less the slave, a citizen. His treatment of the former class is at once
more gentle and more severe than that which prevailed at Athens. He

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