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Laws by Plato

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ATHENIAN: When a man is advancing in years, he is afraid and reluctant to
sing;--he has no pleasure in his own performances; and if compulsion is
used, he will be more and more ashamed, the older and more discreet he
grows;--is not this true?

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: Well, and will he not be yet more ashamed if he has to stand up
and sing in the theatre to a mixed audience?--and if moreover when he is
required to do so, like the other choirs who contend for prizes, and have
been trained under a singing master, he is pinched and hungry, he will
certainly have a feeling of shame and discomfort which will make him very
unwilling to exhibit.

CLEINIAS: No doubt.

ATHENIAN: How, then, shall we reassure him, and get him to sing? Shall we
begin by enacting that boys shall not taste wine at all until they are
eighteen years of age; we will tell them that fire must not be poured upon
fire, whether in the body or in the soul, until they begin to go to work--
this is a precaution which has to be taken against the excitableness of
youth;--afterwards they may taste wine in moderation up to the age of
thirty, but while a man is young he should abstain altogether from
intoxication and from excess of wine; when, at length, he has reached
forty years, after dinner at a public mess, he may invite not only the
other Gods, but Dionysus above all, to the mystery and festivity of the
elder men, making use of the wine which he has given men to lighten the
sourness of old age; that in age we may renew our youth, and forget our
sorrows; and also in order that the nature of the soul, like iron melted
in the fire, may become softer and so more impressible. In the first
place, will not any one who is thus mellowed be more ready and less
ashamed to sing--I do not say before a large audience, but before a
moderate company; nor yet among strangers, but among his familiars, and,
as we have often said, to chant, and to enchant?

CLEINIAS: He will be far more ready.

ATHENIAN: There will be no impropriety in our using such a method of
persuading them to join with us in song.

CLEINIAS: None at all.

ATHENIAN: And what strain will they sing, and what muse will they hymn?
The strain should clearly be one suitable to them.

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: And what strain is suitable for heroes? Shall they sing a choric

CLEINIAS: Truly, Stranger, we of Crete and Lacedaemon know no strain other
than that which we have learnt and been accustomed to sing in our chorus.

ATHENIAN: I dare say; for you have never acquired the knowledge of the
most beautiful kind of song, in your military way of life, which is
modelled after the camp, and is not like that of dwellers in cities; and
you have your young men herding and feeding together like young colts. No
one takes his own individual colt and drags him away from his fellows
against his will, raging and foaming, and gives him a groom to attend to
him alone, and trains and rubs him down privately, and gives him the
qualities in education which will make him not only a good soldier, but
also a governor of a state and of cities. Such an one, as we said at
first, would be a greater warrior than he of whom Tyrtaeus sings; and he
would honour courage everywhere, but always as the fourth, and not as the
first part of virtue, either in individuals or states.

CLEINIAS: Once more, Stranger, I must complain that you depreciate our

ATHENIAN: Not intentionally, if at all, my good friend; but whither the
argument leads, thither let us follow; for if there be indeed some strain
of song more beautiful than that of the choruses or the public theatres, I
should like to impart it to those who, as we say, are ashamed of these,
and want to have the best.

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: When things have an accompanying charm, either the best thing in
them is this very charm, or there is some rightness or utility possessed
by them;--for example, I should say that eating and drinking, and the use
of food in general, have an accompanying charm which we call pleasure; but
that this rightness and utility is just the healthfulness of the things
served up to us, which is their true rightness.

CLEINIAS: Just so.

ATHENIAN: Thus, too, I should say that learning has a certain accompanying
charm which is the pleasure; but that the right and the profitable, the
good and the noble, are qualities which the truth gives to it.

CLEINIAS: Exactly.

ATHENIAN: And so in the imitative arts--if they succeed in making
likenesses, and are accompanied by pleasure, may not their works be said
to have a charm?


ATHENIAN: But equal proportions, whether of quality or quantity, and not
pleasure, speaking generally, would give them truth or rightness.


ATHENIAN: Then that only can be rightly judged by the standard of
pleasure, which makes or furnishes no utility or truth or likeness, nor on
the other hand is productive of any hurtful quality, but exists solely for
the sake of the accompanying charm; and the term 'pleasure' is most
appropriately applied to it when these other qualities are absent.

CLEINIAS: You are speaking of harmless pleasure, are you not?

ATHENIAN: Yes; and this I term amusement, when doing neither harm nor good
in any degree worth speaking of.

CLEINIAS: Very true.

ATHENIAN: Then, if such be our principles, we must assert that imitation
is not to be judged of by pleasure and false opinion; and this is true of
all equality, for the equal is not equal or the symmetrical symmetrical,
because somebody thinks or likes something, but they are to be judged of
by the standard of truth, and by no other whatever.

CLEINIAS: Quite true.

ATHENIAN: Do we not regard all music as representative and imitative?

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: Then, when any one says that music is to be judged of by
pleasure, his doctrine cannot be admitted; and if there be any music of
which pleasure is the criterion, such music is not to be sought out or
deemed to have any real excellence, but only that other kind of music
which is an imitation of the good.

CLEINIAS: Very true.

ATHENIAN: And those who seek for the best kind of song and music ought not
to seek for that which is pleasant, but for that which is true; and the
truth of imitation consists, as we were saying, in rendering the thing
imitated according to quantity and quality.

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: And every one will admit that musical compositions are all
imitative and representative. Will not poets and spectators and actors all
agree in this?

CLEINIAS: They will.

ATHENIAN: Surely then he who would judge correctly must know what each
composition is; for if he does not know what is the character and meaning
of the piece, and what it represents, he will never discern whether the
intention is true or false.

CLEINIAS: Certainly not.

ATHENIAN: And will he who does not know what is true be able to
distinguish what is good and bad? My statement is not very clear; but
perhaps you will understand me better if I put the matter in another way.


ATHENIAN: There are ten thousand likenesses of objects of sight?


ATHENIAN: And can he who does not know what the exact object is which is
imitated, ever know whether the resemblance is truthfully executed? I
mean, for example, whether a statue has the proportions of a body, and the
true situation of the parts; what those proportions are, and how the parts
fit into one another in due order; also their colours and conformations,
or whether this is all confused in the execution: do you think that any
one can know about this, who does not know what the animal is which has
been imitated?

CLEINIAS: Impossible.

ATHENIAN: But even if we know that the thing pictured or sculptured is a
man, who has received at the hand of the artist all his proper parts and
colours and shapes, must we not also know whether the work is beautiful or
in any respect deficient in beauty?

CLEINIAS: If this were not required, Stranger, we should all of us be
judges of beauty.

ATHENIAN: Very true; and may we not say that in everything imitated,
whether in drawing, music, or any other art, he who is to be a competent
judge must possess three things;--he must know, in the first place, of
what the imitation is; secondly, he must know that it is true; and
thirdly, that it has been well executed in words and melodies and rhythms?

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: Then let us not faint in discussing the peculiar difficulty of
music. Music is more celebrated than any other kind of imitation, and
therefore requires the greatest care of them all. For if a man makes a
mistake here, he may do himself the greatest injury by welcoming evil
dispositions, and the mistake may be very difficult to discern, because
the poets are artists very inferior in character to the Muses themselves,
who would never fall into the monstrous error of assigning to the words of
men the gestures and songs of women; nor after combining the melodies with
the gestures of freemen would they add on the rhythms of slaves and men of
the baser sort; nor, beginning with the rhythms and gestures of freemen,
would they assign to them a melody or words which are of an opposite
character; nor would they mix up the voices and sounds of animals and of
men and instruments, and every other sort of noise, as if they were all
one. But human poets are fond of introducing this sort of inconsistent
mixture, and so make themselves ridiculous in the eyes of those who, as
Orpheus says, 'are ripe for true pleasure.' The experienced see all this
confusion, and yet the poets go on and make still further havoc by
separating the rhythm and the figure of the dance from the melody, setting
bare words to metre, and also separating the melody and the rhythm from
the words, using the lyre or the flute alone. For when there are no words,
it is very difficult to recognize the meaning of the harmony and rhythm,
or to see that any worthy object is imitated by them. And we must
acknowledge that all this sort of thing, which aims only at swiftness and
smoothness and a brutish noise, and uses the flute and the lyre not as the
mere accompaniments of the dance and song, is exceedingly coarse and
tasteless. The use of either instrument, when unaccompanied, leads to
every sort of irregularity and trickery. This is all rational enough. But
we are considering not how our choristers, who are from thirty to fifty
years of age, and may be over fifty, are not to use the Muses, but how
they are to use them. And the considerations which we have urged seem to
show in what way these fifty years' old choristers who are to sing, may be
expected to be better trained. For they need to have a quick perception
and knowledge of harmonies and rhythms; otherwise, how can they ever know
whether a melody would be rightly sung to the Dorian mode, or to the
rhythm which the poet has assigned to it?

CLEINIAS: Clearly they cannot.

ATHENIAN: The many are ridiculous in imagining that they know what is in
proper harmony and rhythm, and what is not, when they can only be made to
sing and step in rhythm by force; it never occurs to them that they are
ignorant of what they are doing. Now every melody is right when it has
suitable harmony and rhythm, and wrong when unsuitable.

CLEINIAS: That is most certain.

ATHENIAN: But can a man who does not know a thing, as we were saying, know
that the thing is right?

CLEINIAS: Impossible.

ATHENIAN: Then now, as would appear, we are making the discovery that our
newly-appointed choristers, whom we hereby invite and, although they are
their own masters, compel to sing, must be educated to such an extent as
to be able to follow the steps of the rhythm and the notes of the song,
that they may know the harmonies and rhythms, and be able to select what
are suitable for men of their age and character to sing; and may sing
them, and have innocent pleasure from their own performance, and also lead
younger men to welcome with dutiful delight good dispositions. Having such
training, they will attain a more accurate knowledge than falls to the lot
of the common people, or even of the poets themselves. For the poet need
not know the third point, viz., whether the imitation is good or not,
though he can hardly help knowing the laws of melody and rhythm. But the
aged chorus must know all the three, that they may choose the best, and
that which is nearest to the best; for otherwise they will never be able
to charm the souls of young men in the way of virtue. And now the original
design of the argument which was intended to bring eloquent aid to the
Chorus of Dionysus, has been accomplished to the best of our ability, and
let us see whether we were right:--I should imagine that a drinking
assembly is likely to become more and more tumultuous as the drinking goes
on: this, as we were saying at first, will certainly be the case.

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: Every man has a more than natural elevation; his heart is glad
within him, and he will say anything and will be restrained by nobody at
such a time; he fancies that he is able to rule over himself and all

CLEINIAS: Quite true.

ATHENIAN: Were we not saying that on such occasions the souls of the
drinkers become like iron heated in the fire, and grow softer and younger,
and are easily moulded by him who knows how to educate and fashion them,
just as when they were young, and that this fashioner of them is the same
who prescribed for them in the days of their youth, viz., the good
legislator; and that he ought to enact laws of the banquet, which, when a
man is confident, bold, and impudent, and unwilling to wait his turn and
have his share of silence and speech, and drinking and music, will change
his character into the opposite--such laws as will infuse into him a just
and noble fear, which will take up arms at the approach of insolence,
being that divine fear which we have called reverence and shame?


ATHENIAN: And the guardians of these laws and fellow-workers with them are
the calm and sober generals of the drinkers; and without their help there
is greater difficulty in fighting against drink than in fighting against
enemies when the commander of an army is not himself calm; and he who is
unwilling to obey them and the commanders of Dionysiac feasts who are more
than sixty years of age, shall suffer a disgrace as great as he who
disobeys military leaders, or even greater.


ATHENIAN: If, then, drinking and amusement were regulated in this way,
would not the companions of our revels be improved? they would part better
friends than they were, and not, as now, enemies. Their whole intercourse
would be regulated by law and observant of it, and the sober would be the
leaders of the drunken.

CLEINIAS: I think so too, if drinking were regulated as you propose.

ATHENIAN: Let us not then simply censure the gift of Dionysus as bad and
unfit to be received into the State. For wine has many excellences, and
one pre-eminent one, about which there is a difficulty in speaking to the
many, from a fear of their misconceiving and misunderstanding what is

CLEINIAS: To what do you refer?

ATHENIAN: There is a tradition or story, which has somehow crept about the
world, that Dionysus was robbed of his wits by his stepmother Here, and
that out of revenge he inspires Bacchic furies and dancing madnesses in
others; for which reason he gave men wine. Such traditions concerning the
Gods I leave to those who think that they may be safely uttered (compare
Euthyph.; Republic); I only know that no animal at birth is mature or
perfect in intelligence; and in the intermediate period, in which he has
not yet acquired his own proper sense, he rages and roars without rhyme or
reason; and when he has once got on his legs he jumps about without rhyme
or reason; and this, as you will remember, has been already said by us to
be the origin of music and gymnastic.

CLEINIAS: To be sure, I remember.

ATHENIAN: And did we not say that the sense of harmony and rhythm sprang
from this beginning among men, and that Apollo and the Muses and Dionysus
were the Gods whom we had to thank for them?

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: The other story implied that wine was given man out of revenge,
and in order to make him mad; but our present doctrine, on the contrary,
is, that wine was given him as a balm, and in order to implant modesty in
the soul, and health and strength in the body.

CLEINIAS: That, Stranger, is precisely what was said.

ATHENIAN: Then half the subject may now be considered to have been
discussed; shall we proceed to the consideration of the other half?

CLEINIAS: What is the other half, and how do you divide the subject?

ATHENIAN: The whole choral art is also in our view the whole of education;
and of this art, rhythms and harmonies form the part which has to do with
the voice.


ATHENIAN: The movement of the body has rhythm in common with the movement
of the voice, but gesture is peculiar to it, whereas song is simply the
movement of the voice.

CLEINIAS: Most true.

ATHENIAN: And the sound of the voice which reaches and educates the soul,
we have ventured to term music.

CLEINIAS: We were right.

ATHENIAN: And the movement of the body, when regarded as an amusement, we
termed dancing; but when extended and pursued with a view to the
excellence of the body, this scientific training may be called gymnastic.

CLEINIAS: Exactly.

ATHENIAN: Music, which was one half of the choral art, may be said to have
been completely discussed. Shall we proceed to the other half or not? What
would you like?

CLEINIAS: My good friend, when you are talking with a Cretan and
Lacedaemonian, and we have discussed music and not gymnastic, what answer
are either of us likely to make to such an enquiry?

ATHENIAN: An answer is contained in your question; and I understand and
accept what you say not only as an answer, but also as a command to
proceed with gymnastic.

CLEINIAS: You quite understand me; do as you say.

ATHENIAN: I will; and there will not be any difficulty in speaking
intelligibly to you about a subject with which both of you are far more
familiar than with music.

CLEINIAS: There will not.

ATHENIAN: Is not the origin of gymnastics, too, to be sought in the
tendency to rapid motion which exists in all animals; man, as we were
saying, having attained the sense of rhythm, created and invented dancing;
and melody arousing and awakening rhythm, both united formed the choral

CLEINIAS: Very true.

ATHENIAN: And one part of this subject has been already discussed by us,
and there still remains another to be discussed?

CLEINIAS: Exactly.

ATHENIAN: I have first a final word to add to my discourse about drink, if
you will allow me to do so.

CLEINIAS: What more have you to say?

ATHENIAN: I should say that if a city seriously means to adopt the
practice of drinking under due regulation and with a view to the
enforcement of temperance, and in like manner, and on the same principle,
will allow of other pleasures, designing to gain the victory over them--in
this way all of them may be used. But if the State makes drinking an
amusement only, and whoever likes may drink whenever he likes, and with
whom he likes, and add to this any other indulgences, I shall never agree
or allow that this city or this man should practise drinking. I would go
further than the Cretans and Lacedaemonians, and am disposed rather to the
law of the Carthaginians, that no one while he is on a campaign should be
allowed to taste wine at all, but that he should drink water during all
that time, and that in the city no slave, male or female, should ever
drink wine; and that no magistrates should drink during their year of
office, nor should pilots of vessels or judges while on duty taste wine at
all, nor any one who is going to hold a consultation about any matter of
importance; nor in the day-time at all, unless in consequence of exercise
or as medicine; nor again at night, when any one, either man or woman, is
minded to get children. There are numberless other cases also in which
those who have good sense and good laws ought not to drink wine, so that
if what I say is true, no city will need many vineyards. Their husbandry
and their way of life in general will follow an appointed order, and their
cultivation of the vine will be the most limited and the least common of
their employments. And this, Stranger, shall be the crown of my discourse
about wine, if you agree.

CLEINIAS: Excellent: we agree.


ATHENIAN: Enough of this. And what, then, is to be regarded as the origin
of government? Will not a man be able to judge of it best from a point of
view in which he may behold the progress of states and their transitions
to good or evil?

CLEINIAS: What do you mean?

ATHENIAN: I mean that he might watch them from the point of view of time,
and observe the changes which take place in them during infinite ages.


ATHENIAN: Why, do you think that you can reckon the time which has elapsed
since cities first existed and men were citizens of them?


ATHENIAN: But are sure that it must be vast and incalculable?

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: And have not thousands and thousands of cities come into being
during this period and as many perished? And has not each of them had
every form of government many times over, now growing larger, now smaller,
and again improving or declining?

CLEINIAS: To be sure.

ATHENIAN: Let us endeavour to ascertain the cause of these changes; for
that will probably explain the first origin and development of forms of

CLEINIAS: Very good. You shall endeavour to impart your thoughts to us,
and we will make an effort to understand you.

ATHENIAN: Do you believe that there is any truth in ancient traditions?

CLEINIAS: What traditions?

ATHENIAN: The traditions about the many destructions of mankind which have
been occasioned by deluges and pestilences, and in many other ways, and of
the survival of a remnant?

CLEINIAS: Every one is disposed to believe them.

ATHENIAN: Let us consider one of them, that which was caused by the famous

CLEINIAS: What are we to observe about it?

ATHENIAN: I mean to say that those who then escaped would only be hill
shepherds,--small sparks of the human race preserved on the tops of

CLEINIAS: Clearly.

ATHENIAN: Such survivors would necessarily be unacquainted with the arts
and the various devices which are suggested to the dwellers in cities by
interest or ambition, and with all the wrongs which they contrive against
one another.

CLEINIAS: Very true.

ATHENIAN: Let us suppose, then, that the cities in the plain and on the
sea-coast were utterly destroyed at that time.

CLEINIAS: Very good.

ATHENIAN: Would not all implements have then perished and every other
excellent invention of political or any other sort of wisdom have utterly

CLEINIAS: Why, yes, my friend; and if things had always continued as they
are at present ordered, how could any discovery have ever been made even
in the least particular? For it is evident that the arts were unknown
during ten thousand times ten thousand years. And no more than a thousand
or two thousand years have elapsed since the discoveries of Daedalus,
Orpheus and Palamedes,--since Marsyas and Olympus invented music, and
Amphion the lyre--not to speak of numberless other inventions which are
but of yesterday.

ATHENIAN: Have you forgotten, Cleinias, the name of a friend who is really
of yesterday?

CLEINIAS: I suppose that you mean Epimenides.

ATHENIAN: The same, my friend; he does indeed far overleap the heads of
all mankind by his invention; for he carried out in practice, as you
declare, what of old Hesiod (Works and Days) only preached.

CLEINIAS: Yes, according to our tradition.

ATHENIAN: After the great destruction, may we not suppose that the state
of man was something of this sort:--In the beginning of things there was a
fearful illimitable desert and a vast expanse of land; a herd or two of
oxen would be the only survivors of the animal world; and there might be a
few goats, these too hardly enough to maintain the shepherds who tended


ATHENIAN: And of cities or governments or legislation, about which we are
now talking, do you suppose that they could have any recollection at all?

CLEINIAS: None whatever.

ATHENIAN: And out of this state of things has there not sprung all that we
now are and have: cities and governments, and arts and laws, and a great
deal of vice and a great deal of virtue?

CLEINIAS: What do you mean?

ATHENIAN: Why, my good friend, how can we possibly suppose that those who
knew nothing of all the good and evil of cities could have attained their
full development, whether of virtue or of vice?

CLEINIAS: I understand your meaning, and you are quite right.

ATHENIAN: But, as time advanced and the race multiplied, the world came to
be what the world is.

CLEINIAS: Very true.

ATHENIAN: Doubtless the change was not made all in a moment, but little by
little, during a very long period of time.

CLEINIAS: A highly probable supposition.

ATHENIAN: At first, they would have a natural fear ringing in their ears
which would prevent their descending from the heights into the plain.

CLEINIAS: Of course.

ATHENIAN: The fewness of the survivors at that time would have made them
all the more desirous of seeing one another; but then the means of
travelling either by land or sea had been almost entirely lost, as I may
say, with the loss of the arts, and there was great difficulty in getting
at one another; for iron and brass and all metals were jumbled together
and had disappeared in the chaos; nor was there any possibility of
extracting ore from them; and they had scarcely any means of felling
timber. Even if you suppose that some implements might have been preserved
in the mountains, they must quickly have worn out and vanished, and there
would be no more of them until the art of metallurgy had again revived.

CLEINIAS: There could not have been.

ATHENIAN: In how many generations would this be attained?

CLEINIAS: Clearly, not for many generations.

ATHENIAN: During this period, and for some time afterwards, all the arts
which require iron and brass and the like would disappear.

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: Faction and war would also have died out in those days, and for
many reasons.

CLEINIAS: How would that be?

ATHENIAN: In the first place, the desolation of these primitive men would
create in them a feeling of affection and goodwill towards one another;
and, secondly, they would have no occasion to quarrel about their
subsistence, for they would have pasture in abundance, except just at
first, and in some particular cases; and from their pasture-land they
would obtain the greater part of their food in a primitive age, having
plenty of milk and flesh; moreover they would procure other food by the
chase, not to be despised either in quantity or quality. They would also
have abundance of clothing, and bedding, and dwellings, and utensils
either capable of standing on the fire or not; for the plastic and weaving
arts do not require any use of iron: and God has given these two arts to
man in order to provide him with all such things, that, when reduced to
the last extremity, the human race may still grow and increase. Hence in
those days mankind were not very poor; nor was poverty a cause of
difference among them; and rich they could not have been, having neither
gold nor silver:--such at that time was their condition. And the community
which has neither poverty nor riches will always have the noblest
principles; in it there is no insolence or injustice, nor, again, are
there any contentions or envyings. And therefore they were good, and also
because they were what is called simple-minded; and when they were told
about good and evil, they in their simplicity believed what they heard to
be very truth and practised it. No one had the wit to suspect another of a
falsehood, as men do now; but what they heard about Gods and men they
believed to be true, and lived accordingly; and therefore they were in all
respects such as we have described them.

CLEINIAS: That quite accords with my views, and with those of my friend

ATHENIAN: Would not many generations living on in a simple manner,
although ruder, perhaps, and more ignorant of the arts generally, and in
particular of those of land or naval warfare, and likewise of other arts,
termed in cities legal practices and party conflicts, and including all
conceivable ways of hurting one another in word and deed;--although
inferior to those who lived before the deluge, or to the men of our day in
these respects, would they not, I say, be simpler and more manly, and also
more temperate and altogether more just? The reason has been already

CLEINIAS: Very true.

ATHENIAN: I should wish you to understand that what has preceded and what
is about to follow, has been, and will be said, with the intention of
explaining what need the men of that time had of laws, and who was their

CLEINIAS: And thus far what you have said has been very well said.

ATHENIAN: They could hardly have wanted lawgivers as yet; nothing of that
sort was likely to have existed in their days, for they had no letters at
this early period; they lived by habit and the customs of their ancestors,
as they are called.

CLEINIAS: Probably.

ATHENIAN: But there was already existing a form of government which, if I
am not mistaken, is generally termed a lordship, and this still remains in
many places, both among Hellenes and barbarians (compare Arist. Pol.), and
is the government which is declared by Homer to have prevailed among the

'They have neither councils nor judgments, but they dwell in hollow caves
on the tops of high mountains, and every one gives law to his wife and
children, and they do not busy themselves about one another.' (Odyss.)

CLEINIAS: That seems to be a charming poet of yours; I have read some
other verses of his, which are very clever; but I do not know much of him,
for foreign poets are very little read among the Cretans.

MEGILLUS: But they are in Lacedaemon, and he appears to be the prince of
them all; the manner of life, however, which he describes is not Spartan,
but rather Ionian, and he seems quite to confirm what you are saying, when
he traces up the ancient state of mankind by the help of tradition to

ATHENIAN: Yes, he does confirm it; and we may accept his witness to the
fact that such forms of government sometimes arise.


ATHENIAN: And were not such states composed of men who had been dispersed
in single habitations and families by the poverty which attended the
devastations; and did not the eldest then rule among them, because with
them government originated in the authority of a father and a mother,
whom, like a flock of birds, they followed, forming one troop under the
patriarchal rule and sovereignty of their parents, which of all
sovereignties is the most just?

CLEINIAS: Very true.

ATHENIAN: After this they came together in greater numbers, and increased
the size of their cities, and betook themselves to husbandry, first of all
at the foot of the mountains, and made enclosures of loose walls and works
of defence, in order to keep off wild beasts; thus creating a single large
and common habitation.

CLEINIAS: Yes; at least we may suppose so.

ATHENIAN: There is another thing which would probably happen.


ATHENIAN: When these larger habitations grew up out of the lesser original
ones, each of the lesser ones would survive in the larger; every family
would be under the rule of the eldest, and, owing to their separation from
one another, would have peculiar customs in things divine and human, which
they would have received from their several parents who had educated them;
and these customs would incline them to order, when the parents had the
element of order in their nature, and to courage, when they had the
element of courage. And they would naturally stamp upon their children,
and upon their children's children, their own likings; and, as we are
saying, they would find their way into the larger society, having already
their own peculiar laws.

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: And every man surely likes his own laws best, and the laws of
others not so well.


ATHENIAN: Then now we seem to have stumbled upon the beginnings of

CLEINIAS: Exactly.

ATHENIAN: The next step will be that these persons who have met together,
will select some arbiters, who will review the laws of all of them, and
will publicly present such as they approve to the chiefs who lead the
tribes, and who are in a manner their kings, allowing them to choose those
which they think best. These persons will themselves be called
legislators, and will appoint the magistrates, framing some sort of
aristocracy, or perhaps monarchy, out of the dynasties or lordships, and
in this altered state of the government they will live.

CLEINIAS: Yes, that would be the natural order of things.

ATHENIAN: Then, now let us speak of a third form of government, in which
all other forms and conditions of polities and cities concur.

CLEINIAS: What is that?

ATHENIAN: The form which in fact Homer indicates as following the second.
This third form arose when, as he says, Dardanus founded Dardania:--

'For not as yet had the holy Ilium been built on the plain to be a city of
speaking men; but they were still dwelling at the foot of many-fountained

For indeed, in these verses, and in what he said of the Cyclopes, he
speaks the words of God and nature; for poets are a divine race, and often
in their strains, by the aid of the Muses and the Graces, they attain


ATHENIAN: Then now let us proceed with the rest of our tale, which will
probably be found to illustrate in some degree our proposed design:--Shall
we do so?

CLEINIAS: By all means.

ATHENIAN: Ilium was built, when they descended from the mountain, in a
large and fair plain, on a sort of low hill, watered by many rivers
descending from Ida.

CLEINIAS: Such is the tradition.

ATHENIAN: And we must suppose this event to have taken place many ages
after the deluge?

ATHENIAN: A marvellous forgetfulness of the former destruction would
appear to have come over them, when they placed their town right under
numerous streams flowing from the heights, trusting for their security to
not very high hills, either.

CLEINIAS: There must have been a long interval, clearly.

ATHENIAN: And, as population increased, many other cities would begin to
be inhabited.

CLEINIAS: Doubtless.

ATHENIAN: Those cities made war against Troy--by sea as well as land--for
at that time men were ceasing to be afraid of the sea.

CLEINIAS: Clearly.

ATHENIAN: The Achaeans remained ten years, and overthrew Troy.


ATHENIAN: And during the ten years in which the Achaeans were besieging
Ilium, the homes of the besiegers were falling into an evil plight. Their
youth revolted; and when the soldiers returned to their own cities and
families, they did not receive them properly, and as they ought to have
done, and numerous deaths, murders, exiles, were the consequence. The
exiles came again, under a new name, no longer Achaeans, but Dorians,--a
name which they derived from Dorieus; for it was he who gathered them
together. The rest of the story is told by you Lacedaemonians as part of
the history of Sparta.

MEGILLUS: To be sure.

ATHENIAN: Thus, after digressing from the original subject of laws into
music and drinking-bouts, the argument has, providentially, come back to
the same point, and presents to us another handle. For we have reached the
settlement of Lacedaemon; which, as you truly say, is in laws and in
institutions the sister of Crete. And we are all the better for the
digression, because we have gone through various governments and
settlements, and have been present at the foundation of a first, second,
and third state, succeeding one another in infinite time. And now there
appears on the horizon a fourth state or nation which was once in process
of settlement and has continued settled to this day. If, out of all this,
we are able to discern what is well or ill settled, and what laws are the
salvation and what are the destruction of cities, and what changes would
make a state happy, O Megillus and Cleinias, we may now begin again,
unless we have some fault to find with the previous discussion.

MEGILLUS: If some God, Stranger, would promise us that our new enquiry
about legislation would be as good and full as the present, I would go a
great way to hear such another, and would think that a day as long as this
--and we are now approaching the longest day of the year--was too short
for the discussion.

ATHENIAN: Then I suppose that we must consider this subject?

MEGILLUS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: Let us place ourselves in thought at the moment when Lacedaemon
and Argos and Messene and the rest of the Peloponnesus were all in
complete subjection, Megillus, to your ancestors; for afterwards, as the
legend informs us, they divided their army into three portions, and
settled three cities, Argos, Messene, Lacedaemon.


ATHENIAN: Temenus was the king of Argos, Cresphontes of Messene, Procles
and Eurysthenes of Lacedaemon.

MEGILLUS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: To these kings all the men of that day made oath that they would
assist them, if any one subverted their kingdom.


ATHENIAN: But can a kingship be destroyed, or was any other form of
government ever destroyed, by any but the rulers themselves? No indeed, by
Zeus. Have we already forgotten what was said a little while ago?


ATHENIAN: And may we not now further confirm what was then mentioned? For
we have come upon facts which have brought us back again to the same
principle; so that, in resuming the discussion, we shall not be enquiring
about an empty theory, but about events which actually happened. The case
was as follows:--Three royal heroes made oath to three cities which were
under a kingly government, and the cities to the kings, that both rulers
and subjects should govern and be governed according to the laws which
were common to all of them: the rulers promised that as time and the race
went forward they would not make their rule more arbitrary; and the
subjects said that, if the rulers observed these conditions, they would
never subvert or permit others to subvert those kingdoms; the kings were
to assist kings and peoples when injured, and the peoples were to assist
peoples and kings in like manner. Is not this the fact?


ATHENIAN: And the three states to whom these laws were given, whether
their kings or any others were the authors of them, had therefore the
greatest security for the maintenance of their constitutions?

MEGILLUS: What security?

ATHENIAN: That the other two states were always to come to the rescue
against a rebellious third.


ATHENIAN: Many persons say that legislators ought to impose such laws as
the mass of the people will be ready to receive; but this is just as if
one were to command gymnastic masters or physicians to treat or cure their
pupils or patients in an agreeable manner.

MEGILLUS: Exactly.

ATHENIAN: Whereas the physician may often be too happy if he can restore
health, and make the body whole, without any very great infliction of

MEGILLUS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: There was also another advantage possessed by the men of that
day, which greatly lightened the task of passing laws.

MEGILLUS: What advantage?

ATHENIAN: The legislators of that day, when they equalized property,
escaped the great accusation which generally arises in legislation, if a
person attempts to disturb the possession of land, or to abolish debts,
because he sees that without this reform there can never be any real
equality. Now, in general, when the legislator attempts to make a new
settlement of such matters, every one meets him with the cry, that 'he is
not to disturb vested interests,'--declaring with imprecations that he is
introducing agrarian laws and cancelling of debts, until a man is at his
wits' end; whereas no one could quarrel with the Dorians for distributing
the land,--there was nothing to hinder them; and as for debts, they had
none which were considerable or of old standing.

MEGILLUS: Very true.

ATHENIAN: But then, my good friends, why did the settlement and
legislation of their country turn out so badly?

MEGILLUS: How do you mean; and why do you blame them?

ATHENIAN: There were three kingdoms, and of these, two quickly corrupted
their original constitution and laws, and the only one which remained was
the Spartan.

MEGILLUS: The question which you ask is not easily answered.

ATHENIAN: And yet must be answered when we are enquiring about laws, this
being our old man's sober game of play, whereby we beguile the way, as I
was saying when we first set out on our journey.

MEGILLUS: Certainly; and we must find out why this was.

ATHENIAN: What laws are more worthy of our attention than those which have
regulated such cities? or what settlements of states are greater or more

MEGILLUS: I know of none.

ATHENIAN: Can we doubt that your ancestors intended these institutions not
only for the protection of Peloponnesus, but of all the Hellenes, in case
they were attacked by the barbarian? For the inhabitants of the region
about Ilium, when they provoked by their insolence the Trojan war, relied
upon the power of the Assyrians and the Empire of Ninus, which still
existed and had a great prestige; the people of those days fearing the
united Assyrian Empire just as we now fear the Great King. And the second
capture of Troy was a serious offence against them, because Troy was a
portion of the Assyrian Empire. To meet the danger the single army was
distributed between three cities by the royal brothers, sons of Heracles,
--a fair device, as it seemed, and a far better arrangement than the
expedition against Troy. For, firstly, the people of that day had, as they
thought, in the Heraclidae better leaders than the Pelopidae; in the next
place, they considered that their army was superior in valour to that
which went against Troy; for, although the latter conquered the Trojans,
they were themselves conquered by the Heraclidae--Achaeans by Dorians. May
we not suppose that this was the intention with which the men of those
days framed the constitutions of their states?

MEGILLUS: Quite true.

ATHENIAN: And would not men who had shared with one another many dangers,
and were governed by a single race of royal brothers, and had taken the
advice of oracles, and in particular of the Delphian Apollo, be likely to
think that such states would be firmly and lastingly established?

MEGILLUS: Of course they would.

ATHENIAN: Yet these institutions, of which such great expectations were
entertained, seem to have all rapidly vanished away; with the exception,
as I was saying, of that small part of them which existed in your land.
And this third part has never to this day ceased warring against the two
others; whereas, if the original idea had been carried out, and they had
agreed to be one, their power would have been invincible in war.

MEGILLUS: No doubt.

ATHENIAN: But what was the ruin of this glorious confederacy? Here is a
subject well worthy of consideration.

MEGILLUS: Certainly, no one will ever find more striking instances of laws
or governments being the salvation or destruction of great and noble
interests, than are here presented to his view.

ATHENIAN: Then now we seem to have happily arrived at a real and important

MEGILLUS: Very true.

ATHENIAN: Did you never remark, sage friend, that all men, and we
ourselves at this moment, often fancy that they see some beautiful thing
which might have effected wonders if any one had only known how to make a
right use of it in some way; and yet this mode of looking at things may
turn out after all to be a mistake, and not according to nature, either in
our own case or in any other?

MEGILLUS: To what are you referring, and what do you mean?

ATHENIAN: I was thinking of my own admiration of the aforesaid Heracleid
expedition, which was so noble, and might have had such wonderful results
for the Hellenes, if only rightly used; and I was just laughing at myself.

MEGILLUS: But were you not right and wise in speaking as you did, and we
in assenting to you?

ATHENIAN: Perhaps; and yet I cannot help observing that any one who sees
anything great or powerful, immediately has the feeling that--'If the
owner only knew how to use his great and noble possession, how happy would
he be, and what great results would he achieve!'

MEGILLUS: And would he not be justified?

ATHENIAN: Reflect; in what point of view does this sort of praise appear
just: First, in reference to the question in hand:--If the then commanders
had known how to arrange their army properly, how would they have attained
success? Would not this have been the way? They would have bound them all
firmly together and preserved them for ever, giving them freedom and
dominion at pleasure, combined with the power of doing in the whole world,
Hellenic and barbarian, whatever they and their descendants desired. What
other aim would they have had?

MEGILLUS: Very good.

ATHENIAN: Suppose any one were in the same way to express his admiration
at the sight of great wealth or family honour, or the like, he would
praise them under the idea that through them he would attain either all or
the greater and chief part of what he desires.

MEGILLUS: He would.

ATHENIAN: Well, now, and does not the argument show that there is one
common desire of all mankind?

MEGILLUS: What is it?

ATHENIAN: The desire which a man has, that all things, if possible,--at
any rate, things human,--may come to pass in accordance with his soul's

MEGILLUS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: And having this desire always, and at every time of life, in
youth, in manhood, in age, he cannot help always praying for the
fulfilment of it.

MEGILLUS: No doubt.

ATHENIAN: And we join in the prayers of our friends, and ask for them what
they ask for themselves.


ATHENIAN: Dear is the son to the father--the younger to the elder.

MEGILLUS: Of course.

ATHENIAN: And yet the son often prays to obtain things which the father
prays that he may not obtain.

MEGILLUS: When the son is young and foolish, you mean?

ATHENIAN: Yes; or when the father, in the dotage of age or the heat of
youth, having no sense of right and justice, prays with fervour, under the
influence of feelings akin to those of Theseus when he cursed the
unfortunate Hippolytus, do you imagine that the son, having a sense of
right and justice, will join in his father's prayers?

MEGILLUS: I understand you to mean that a man should not desire or be in a
hurry to have all things according to his wish, for his wish may be at
variance with his reason. But every state and every individual ought to
pray and strive for wisdom.

ATHENIAN: Yes; and I remember, and you will remember, what I said at
first, that a statesman and legislator ought to ordain laws with a view to
wisdom; while you were arguing that the good lawgiver ought to order all
with a view to war. And to this I replied that there were four virtues,
but that upon your view one of them only was the aim of legislation;
whereas you ought to regard all virtue, and especially that which comes
first, and is the leader of all the rest--I mean wisdom and mind and
opinion, having affection and desire in their train. And now the argument
returns to the same point, and I say once more, in jest if you like, or in
earnest if you like, that the prayer of a fool is full of danger, being
likely to end in the opposite of what he desires. And if you would rather
receive my words in earnest, I am willing that you should; and you will
find, I suspect, as I have said already, that not cowardice was the cause
of the ruin of the Dorian kings and of their whole design, nor ignorance
of military matters, either on the part of the rulers or of their
subjects; but their misfortunes were due to their general degeneracy, and
especially to their ignorance of the most important human affairs. That
was then, and is still, and always will be the case, as I will endeavour,
if you will allow me, to make out and demonstrate as well as I am able to
you who are my friends, in the course of the argument.

CLEINIAS: Pray go on, Stranger;--compliments are troublesome, but we will
show, not in word but in deed, how greatly we prize your words, for we
will give them our best attention; and that is the way in which a freeman
best shows his approval or disapproval.

MEGILLUS: Excellent, Cleinias; let us do as you say.

CLEINIAS: By all means, if Heaven wills. Go on.

ATHENIAN: Well, then, proceeding in the same train of thought, I say that
the greatest ignorance was the ruin of the Dorian power, and that now, as
then, ignorance is ruin. And if this be true, the legislator must
endeavour to implant wisdom in states, and banish ignorance to the utmost
of his power.

CLEINIAS: That is evident.

ATHENIAN: Then now consider what is really the greatest ignorance. I
should like to know whether you and Megillus would agree with me in what I
am about to say; for my opinion is--


ATHENIAN: That the greatest ignorance is when a man hates that which he
nevertheless thinks to be good and noble, and loves and embraces that
which he knows to be unrighteous and evil. This disagreement between the
sense of pleasure and the judgment of reason in the soul is, in my
opinion, the worst ignorance; and also the greatest, because affecting the
great mass of the human soul; for the principle which feels pleasure and
pain in the individual is like the mass or populace in a state. And when
the soul is opposed to knowledge, or opinion, or reason, which are her
natural lords, that I call folly, just as in the state, when the multitude
refuses to obey their rulers and the laws; or, again, in the individual,
when fair reasonings have their habitation in the soul and yet do no good,
but rather the reverse of good. All these cases I term the worst
ignorance, whether in individuals or in states. You will understand,
Stranger, that I am speaking of something which is very different from the
ignorance of handicraftsmen.

CLEINIAS: Yes, my friend, we understand and agree.

ATHENIAN: Let us, then, in the first place declare and affirm that the
citizen who does not know these things ought never to have any kind of
authority entrusted to him: he must be stigmatized as ignorant, even
though he be versed in calculation and skilled in all sorts of
accomplishments, and feats of mental dexterity; and the opposite are to be
called wise, even although, in the words of the proverb, they know neither
how to read nor how to swim; and to them, as to men of sense, authority is
to be committed. For, O my friends, how can there be the least shadow of
wisdom when there is no harmony? There is none; but the noblest and
greatest of harmonies may be truly said to be the greatest wisdom; and of
this he is a partaker who lives according to reason; whereas he who is
devoid of reason is the destroyer of his house and the very opposite of a
saviour of the state: he is utterly ignorant of political wisdom. Let
this, then, as I was saying, be laid down by us.

CLEINIAS: Let it be so laid down.

ATHENIAN: I suppose that there must be rulers and subjects in states?

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: And what are the principles on which men rule and obey in
cities, whether great or small; and similarly in families? What are they,
and how many in number? Is there not one claim of authority which is
always just,--that of fathers and mothers and in general of progenitors to
rule over their offspring?

CLEINIAS: There is.

ATHENIAN: Next follows the principle that the noble should rule over the
ignoble; and, thirdly, that the elder should rule and the younger obey?

CLEINIAS: To be sure.

ATHENIAN: And, fourthly, that slaves should be ruled, and their masters

CLEINIAS: Of course.

ATHENIAN: Fifthly, if I am not mistaken, comes the principle that the
stronger shall rule, and the weaker be ruled?

CLEINIAS: That is a rule not to be disobeyed.

ATHENIAN: Yes, and a rule which prevails very widely among all creatures,
and is according to nature, as the Theban poet Pindar once said; and the
sixth principle, and the greatest of all, is, that the wise should lead
and command, and the ignorant follow and obey; and yet, O thou most wise
Pindar, as I should reply him, this surely is not contrary to nature, but
according to nature, being the rule of law over willing subjects, and not
a rule of compulsion.

CLEINIAS: Most true.

ATHENIAN: There is a seventh kind of rule which is awarded by lot, and is
dear to the Gods and a token of good fortune: he on whom the lot falls is
a ruler, and he who fails in obtaining the lot goes away and is the
subject; and this we affirm to be quite just.

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: 'Then now,' as we say playfully to any of those who lightly
undertake the making of laws, 'you see, legislator, the principles of
government, how many they are, and that they are naturally opposed to each
other. There we have discovered a fountain-head of seditions, to which you
must attend. And, first, we will ask you to consider with us, how and in
what respect the kings of Argos and Messene violated these our maxims, and
ruined themselves and the great and famous Hellenic power of the olden
time. Was it because they did not know how wisely Hesiod spoke when he
said that the half is often more than the whole? His meaning was, that
when to take the whole would be dangerous, and to take the half would be
the safe and moderate course, then the moderate or better was more than
the immoderate or worse.'

CLEINIAS: Very true.

ATHENIAN: And may we suppose this immoderate spirit to be more fatal when
found among kings than when among peoples?

CLEINIAS: The probability is that ignorance will be a disorder especially
prevalent among kings, because they lead a proud and luxurious life.

ATHENIAN: Is it not palpable that the chief aim of the kings of that time
was to get the better of the established laws, and that they were not in
harmony with the principles which they had agreed to observe by word and
oath? This want of harmony may have had the appearance of wisdom, but was
really, as we assert, the greatest ignorance, and utterly overthrew the
whole empire by dissonance and harsh discord.

CLEINIAS: Very likely.

ATHENIAN: Good; and what measures ought the legislator to have then taken
in order to avert this calamity? Truly there is no great wisdom in
knowing, and no great difficulty in telling, after the evil has happened;
but to have foreseen the remedy at the time would have taken a much wiser
head than ours.

MEGILLUS: What do you mean?

ATHENIAN: Any one who looks at what has occurred with you Lacedaemonians,
Megillus, may easily know and may easily say what ought to have been done
at that time.

MEGILLUS: Speak a little more clearly.

ATHENIAN: Nothing can be clearer than the observation which I am about to

MEGILLUS: What is it?

ATHENIAN: That if any one gives too great a power to anything, too large a
sail to a vessel, too much food to the body, too much authority to the
mind, and does not observe the mean, everything is overthrown, and, in the
wantonness of excess, runs in the one case to disorders, and in the other
to injustice, which is the child of excess. I mean to say, my dear
friends, that there is no soul of man, young and irresponsible, who will
be able to sustain the temptation of arbitrary power--no one who will not,
under such circumstances, become filled with folly, that worst of
diseases, and be hated by his nearest and dearest friends: when this
happens his kingdom is undermined, and all his power vanishes from him.
And great legislators who know the mean should take heed of the danger. As
far as we can guess at this distance of time, what happened was as


ATHENIAN: A God, who watched over Sparta, seeing into the future, gave you
two families of kings instead of one; and thus brought you more within the
limits of moderation. In the next place, some human wisdom mingled with
divine power, observing that the constitution of your government was still
feverish and excited, tempered your inborn strength and pride of birth
with the moderation which comes of age, making the power of your twenty-
eight elders equal with that of the kings in the most important matters.
But your third saviour, perceiving that your government was still swelling
and foaming, and desirous to impose a curb upon it, instituted the Ephors,
whose power he made to resemble that of magistrates elected by lot; and by
this arrangement the kingly office, being compounded of the right elements
and duly moderated, was preserved, and was the means of preserving all the
rest. Since, if there had been only the original legislators, Temenus,
Cresphontes, and their contemporaries, as far as they were concerned not
even the portion of Aristodemus would have been preserved; for they had no
proper experience in legislation, or they would surely not have imagined
that oaths would moderate a youthful spirit invested with a power which
might be converted into a tyranny. Now that God has instructed us what
sort of government would have been or will be lasting, there is no wisdom,
as I have already said, in judging after the event; there is no difficulty
in learning from an example which has already occurred. But if any one
could have foreseen all this at the time, and had been able to moderate
the government of the three kingdoms and unite them into one, he might
have saved all the excellent institutions which were then conceived; and
no Persian or any other armament would have dared to attack us, or would
have regarded Hellas as a power to be despised.


ATHENIAN: There was small credit to us, Cleinias, in defeating them; and
the discredit was, not that the conquerors did not win glorious victories
both by land and sea, but what, in my opinion, brought discredit was,
first of all, the circumstance that of the three cities one only fought on
behalf of Hellas, and the two others were so utterly good for nothing that
the one was waging a mighty war against Lacedaemon, and was thus
preventing her from rendering assistance, while the city of Argos, which
had the precedence at the time of the distribution, when asked to aid in
repelling the barbarian, would not answer to the call, or give aid. Many
things might be told about Hellas in connexion with that war which are far
from honourable; nor, indeed, can we rightly say that Hellas repelled the
invader; for the truth is, that unless the Athenians and Lacedaemonians,
acting in concert, had warded off the impending yoke, all the tribes of
Hellas would have been fused in a chaos of Hellenes mingling with one
another, of barbarians mingling with Hellenes, and Hellenes with
barbarians; just as nations who are now subject to the Persian power,
owing to unnatural separations and combinations of them, are dispersed and
scattered, and live miserably. These, Cleinias and Megillus, are the
reproaches which we have to make against statesmen and legislators, as
they are called, past and present, if we would analyse the causes of their
failure, and find out what else might have been done. We said, for
instance, just now, that there ought to be no great and unmixed powers;
and this was under the idea that a state ought to be free and wise and
harmonious, and that a legislator ought to legislate with a view to this
end. Nor is there any reason to be surprised at our continually proposing
aims for the legislator which appear not to be always the same; but we
should consider when we say that temperance is to be the aim, or wisdom is
to be the aim, or friendship is to be the aim, that all these aims are
really the same; and if so, a variety in the modes of expression ought not
to disturb us.

CLEINIAS: Let us resume the argument in that spirit. And now, speaking of
friendship and wisdom and freedom, I wish that you would tell me at what,
in your opinion, the legislator should aim.

ATHENIAN: Hear me, then: there are two mother forms of states from which
the rest may be truly said to be derived; and one of them may be called
monarchy and the other democracy: the Persians have the highest form of
the one, and we of the other; almost all the rest, as I was saying, are
variations of these. Now, if you are to have liberty and the combination
of friendship with wisdom, you must have both these forms of government in
a measure; the argument emphatically declares that no city can be well
governed which is not made up of both.

CLEINIAS: Impossible.

ATHENIAN: Neither the one, if it be exclusively and excessively attached
to monarchy, nor the other, if it be similarly attached to freedom,
observes moderation; but your states, the Laconian and Cretan, have more
of it; and the same was the case with the Athenians and Persians of old
time, but now they have less. Shall I tell you why?

CLEINIAS: By all means, if it will tend to elucidate our subject.

ATHENIAN: Hear, then:--There was a time when the Persians had more of the
state which is a mean between slavery and freedom. In the reign of Cyrus
they were freemen and also lords of many others: the rulers gave a share
of freedom to the subjects, and being treated as equals, the soldiers were
on better terms with their generals, and showed themselves more ready in
the hour of danger. And if there was any wise man among them, who was able
to give good counsel, he imparted his wisdom to the public; for the king
was not jealous, but allowed him full liberty of speech, and gave honour
to those who could advise him in any matter. And the nation waxed in all
respects, because there was freedom and friendship and communion of mind
among them.

CLEINIAS: That certainly appears to have been the case.

ATHENIAN: How, then, was this advantage lost under Cambyses, and again
recovered under Darius? Shall I try to divine?

CLEINIAS: The enquiry, no doubt, has a bearing upon our subject.

ATHENIAN: I imagine that Cyrus, though a great and patriotic general, had
never given his mind to education, and never attended to the order of his

CLEINIAS: What makes you say so?

ATHENIAN: I think that from his youth upwards he was a soldier, and
entrusted the education of his children to the women; and they brought
them up from their childhood as the favourites of fortune, who were
blessed already, and needed no more blessings. They thought that they were
happy enough, and that no one should be allowed to oppose them in any way,
and they compelled every one to praise all that they said or did. This was
how they brought them up.

CLEINIAS: A splendid education truly!

ATHENIAN: Such an one as women were likely to give them, and especially
princesses who had recently grown rich, and in the absence of the men,
too, who were occupied in wars and dangers, and had no time to look after

CLEINIAS: What would you expect?

ATHENIAN: Their father had possessions of cattle and sheep, and many herds
of men and other animals, but he did not consider that those to whom he
was about to make them over were not trained in his own calling, which was
Persian; for the Persians are shepherds--sons of a rugged land, which is a
stern mother, and well fitted to produce a sturdy race able to live in the
open air and go without sleep, and also to fight, if fighting is required
(compare Arist. Pol.). He did not observe that his sons were trained
differently; through the so-called blessing of being royal they were
educated in the Median fashion by women and eunuchs, which led to their
becoming such as people do become when they are brought up unreproved. And
so, after the death of Cyrus, his sons, in the fulness of luxury and
licence, took the kingdom, and first one slew the other because he could
not endure a rival; and, afterwards, the slayer himself, mad with wine and
brutality, lost his kingdom through the Medes and the Eunuch, as they
called him, who despised the folly of Cambyses.

CLEINIAS: So runs the tale, and such probably were the facts.

ATHENIAN: Yes; and the tradition says, that the empire came back to the
Persians, through Darius and the seven chiefs.


ATHENIAN: Let us note the rest of the story. Observe, that Darius was not
the son of a king, and had not received a luxurious education. When he
came to the throne, being one of the seven, he divided the country into
seven portions, and of this arrangement there are some shadowy traces
still remaining; he made laws upon the principle of introducing universal
equality in the order of the state, and he embodied in his laws the
settlement of the tribute which Cyrus promised,--thus creating a feeling
of friendship and community among all the Persians, and attaching the
people to him with money and gifts. Hence his armies cheerfully acquired
for him countries as large as those which Cyrus had left behind him.
Darius was succeeded by his son Xerxes; and he again was brought up in the
royal and luxurious fashion. Might we not most justly say: 'O Darius, how
came you to bring up Xerxes in the same way in which Cyrus brought up
Cambyses, and not to see his fatal mistake?' For Xerxes, being the
creation of the same education, met with much the same fortune as
Cambyses; and from that time until now there has never been a really great
king among the Persians, although they are all called Great. And their
degeneracy is not to be attributed to chance, as I maintain; the reason is
rather the evil life which is generally led by the sons of very rich and
royal persons; for never will boy or man, young or old, excel in virtue,
who has been thus educated. And this, I say, is what the legislator has to
consider, and what at the present moment has to be considered by us.
Justly may you, O Lacedaemonians, be praised, in that you do not give
special honour or a special education to wealth rather than to poverty, or
to a royal rather than to a private station, where the divine and inspired
lawgiver has not originally commanded them to be given. For no man ought
to have pre-eminent honour in a state because he surpasses others in
wealth, any more than because he is swift of foot or fair or strong,
unless he have some virtue in him; nor even if he have virtue, unless he
have this particular virtue of temperance.

MEGILLUS: What do you mean, Stranger?

ATHENIAN: I suppose that courage is a part of virtue?

MEGILLUS: To be sure.

ATHENIAN: Then, now hear and judge for yourself:--Would you like to have
for a fellow-lodger or neighbour a very courageous man, who had no control
over himself?

MEGILLUS: Heaven forbid!

ATHENIAN: Or an artist, who was clever in his profession, but a rogue?

MEGILLUS: Certainly not.

ATHENIAN: And surely justice does not grow apart from temperance?

MEGILLUS: Impossible.

ATHENIAN: Any more than our pattern wise man, whom we exhibited as having
his pleasures and pains in accordance with and corresponding to true
reason, can be intemperate?


ATHENIAN: There is a further consideration relating to the due and undue
award of honours in states.

MEGILLUS: What is it?

ATHENIAN: I should like to know whether temperance without the other
virtues, existing alone in the soul of man, is rightly to be praised or

MEGILLUS: I cannot tell.

ATHENIAN: And that is the best answer; for whichever alternative you had
chosen, I think that you would have gone wrong.

MEGILLUS: I am fortunate.

ATHENIAN: Very good; a quality, which is a mere appendage of things which
can be praised or blamed, does not deserve an expression of opinion, but
is best passed over in silence.

MEGILLUS: You are speaking of temperance?

ATHENIAN: Yes; but of the other virtues, that which having this appendage
is also most beneficial, will be most deserving of honour, and next that
which is beneficial in the next degree; and so each of them will be
rightly honoured according to a regular order.


ATHENIAN: And ought not the legislator to determine these classes?

MEGILLUS: Certainly he should.

ATHENIAN: Suppose that we leave to him the arrangement of details. But the
general division of laws according to their importance into a first and
second and third class, we who are lovers of law may make ourselves.

MEGILLUS: Very good.

ATHENIAN: We maintain, then, that a State which would be safe and happy,
as far as the nature of man allows, must and ought to distribute honour
and dishonour in the right way. And the right way is to place the goods of
the soul first and highest in the scale, always assuming temperance to be
the condition of them; and to assign the second place to the goods of the
body; and the third place to money and property. And if any legislator or
state departs from this rule by giving money the place of honour, or in
any way preferring that which is really last, may we not say, that he or
the state is doing an unholy and unpatriotic thing?

MEGILLUS: Yes; let that be plainly declared.

ATHENIAN: The consideration of the Persian governments led us thus far to
enlarge. We remarked that the Persians grew worse and worse. And we affirm
the reason of this to have been, that they too much diminished the freedom
of the people, and introduced too much of despotism, and so destroyed
friendship and community of feeling. And when there is an end of these, no
longer do the governors govern on behalf of their subjects or of the
people, but on behalf of themselves; and if they think that they can gain
ever so small an advantage for themselves, they devastate cities, and send
fire and desolation among friendly races. And as they hate ruthlessly and
horribly, so are they hated; and when they want the people to fight for
them, they find no community of feeling or willingness to risk their lives
on their behalf; their untold myriads are useless to them on the field of
battle, and they think that their salvation depends on the employment of
mercenaries and strangers whom they hire, as if they were in want of more
men. And they cannot help being stupid, since they proclaim by their
actions that the ordinary distinctions of right and wrong which are made
in a state are a trifle, when compared with gold and silver.

MEGILLUS: Quite true.

ATHENIAN: And now enough of the Persians, and their present mal-
administration of their government, which is owing to the excess of
slavery and despotism among them.


ATHENIAN: Next, we must pass in review the government of Attica in like
manner, and from this show that entire freedom and the absence of all
superior authority is not by any means so good as government by others
when properly limited, which was our ancient Athenian constitution at the
time when the Persians made their attack on Hellas, or, speaking more
correctly, on the whole continent of Europe. There were four classes,
arranged according to a property census, and reverence was our queen and
mistress, and made us willing to live in obedience to the laws which then
prevailed. Also the vastness of the Persian armament, both by sea and on
land, caused a helpless terror, which made us more and more the servants
of our rulers and of the laws; and for all these reasons an exceeding
harmony prevailed among us. About ten years before the naval engagement at
Salamis, Datis came, leading a Persian host by command of Darius, which
was expressly directed against the Athenians and Eretrians, having orders
to carry them away captive; and these orders he was to execute under pain
of death. Now Datis and his myriads soon became complete masters of
Eretria, and he sent a fearful report to Athens that no Eretrian had
escaped him; for the soldiers of Datis had joined hands and netted the
whole of Eretria. And this report, whether well or ill founded, was
terrible to all the Hellenes, and above all to the Athenians, and they
dispatched embassies in all directions, but no one was willing to come to
their relief, with the exception of the Lacedaemonians; and they, either
because they were detained by the Messenian war, which was then going on,
or for some other reason of which we are not told, came a day too late for
the battle of Marathon. After a while, the news arrived of mighty
preparations being made, and innumerable threats came from the king. Then,
as time went on, a rumour reached us that Darius had died, and that his
son, who was young and hot-headed, had come to the throne and was
persisting in his design. The Athenians were under the impression that the
whole expedition was directed against them, in consequence of the battle
of Marathon; and hearing of the bridge over the Hellespont, and the canal
of Athos, and the host of ships, considering that there was no salvation
for them either by land or by sea, for there was no one to help them, and
remembering that in the first expedition, when the Persians destroyed
Eretria, no one came to their help, or would risk the danger of an
alliance with them, they thought that this would happen again, at least on
land; nor, when they looked to the sea, could they descry any hope of
salvation; for they were attacked by a thousand vessels and more. One
chance of safety remained, slight indeed and desperate, but their only
one. They saw that on the former occasion they had gained a seemingly
impossible victory, and borne up by this hope, they found that their only
refuge was in themselves and in the Gods. All these things created in them
the spirit of friendship; there was the fear of the moment, and there was
that higher fear, which they had acquired by obedience to their ancient
laws, and which I have several times in the preceding discourse called
reverence, of which the good man ought to be a willing servant, and of
which the coward is independent and fearless. If this fear had not
possessed them, they would never have met the enemy, or defended their
temples and sepulchres and their country, and everything that was near and
dear to them, as they did; but little by little they would have been all
scattered and dispersed.

MEGILLUS: Your words, Athenian, are quite true, and worthy of yourself and
of your country.

ATHENIAN: They are true, Megillus; and to you, who have inherited the
virtues of your ancestors, I may properly speak of the actions of that
day. And I would wish you and Cleinias to consider whether my words have
not also a bearing on legislation; for I am not discoursing only for the
pleasure of talking, but for the argument's sake. Please to remark that
the experience both of ourselves and the Persians was, in a certain sense,
the same; for as they led their people into utter servitude, so we too led
ours into all freedom. And now, how shall we proceed? for I would like you
to observe that our previous arguments have good deal to say for

MEGILLUS: True; but I wish that you would give us a fuller explanation.

ATHENIAN: I will. Under the ancient laws, my friends, the people was not
as now the master, but rather the willing servant of the laws.

MEGILLUS: What laws do you mean?

ATHENIAN: In the first place, let us speak of the laws about music,--that
is to say, such music as then existed--in order that we may trace the
growth of the excess of freedom from the beginning. Now music was early
divided among us into certain kinds and manners. One sort consisted of
prayers to the Gods, which were called hymns; and there was another and
opposite sort called lamentations, and another termed paeans, and another,
celebrating the birth of Dionysus, called, I believe, 'dithyrambs.' And
they used the actual word 'laws,' or nomoi, for another kind of song; and
to this they added the term 'citharoedic.' All these and others were duly
distinguished, nor were the performers allowed to confuse one style of
music with another. And the authority which determined and gave judgment,
and punished the disobedient, was not expressed in a hiss, nor in the most
unmusical shouts of the multitude, as in our days, nor in applause and
clapping of hands. But the directors of public instruction insisted that
the spectators should listen in silence to the end; and boys and their
tutors, and the multitude in general, were kept quiet by a hint from a
stick. Such was the good order which the multitude were willing to
observe; they would never have dared to give judgment by noisy cries. And
then, as time went on, the poets themselves introduced the reign of vulgar
and lawless innovation. They were men of genius, but they had no
perception of what is just and lawful in music; raging like Bacchanals and
possessed with inordinate delights--mingling lamentations with hymns, and
paeans with dithyrambs; imitating the sounds of the flute on the lyre, and
making one general confusion; ignorantly affirming that music has no
truth, and, whether good or bad, can only be judged of rightly by the
pleasure of the hearer (compare Republic). And by composing such
licentious works, and adding to them words as licentious, they have
inspired the multitude with lawlessness and boldness, and made them fancy
that they can judge for themselves about melody and song. And in this way
the theatres from being mute have become vocal, as though they had
understanding of good and bad in music and poetry; and instead of an
aristocracy, an evil sort of theatrocracy has grown up (compare Arist.
Pol.). For if the democracy which judged had only consisted of educated
persons, no fatal harm would have been done; but in music there first
arose the universal conceit of omniscience and general lawlessness;--
freedom came following afterwards, and men, fancying that they knew what
they did not know, had no longer any fear, and the absence of fear begets
shamelessness. For what is this shamelessness, which is so evil a thing,
but the insolent refusal to regard the opinion of the better by reason of
an over-daring sort of liberty?

MEGILLUS: Very true.

ATHENIAN: Consequent upon this freedom comes the other freedom, of
disobedience to rulers (compare Republic); and then the attempt to escape
the control and exhortation of father, mother, elders, and when near the
end, the control of the laws also; and at the very end there is the
contempt of oaths and pledges, and no regard at all for the Gods,--herein
they exhibit and imitate the old so-called Titanic nature, and come to the
same point as the Titans when they rebelled against God, leading a life of
endless evils. But why have I said all this? I ask, because the argument
ought to be pulled up from time to time, and not be allowed to run away,
but held with bit and bridle, and then we shall not, as the proverb says,
fall off our ass. Let us then once more ask the question, To what end has
all this been said?

MEGILLUS: Very good.

ATHENIAN: This, then, has been said for the sake--

MEGILLUS: Of what?

ATHENIAN: We were maintaining that the lawgiver ought to have three things
in view: first, that the city for which he legislates should be free; and
secondly, be at unity with herself; and thirdly, should have
understanding;--these were our principles, were they not?

MEGILLUS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: With a view to this we selected two kinds of government, the one
the most despotic, and the other the most free; and now we are considering
which of them is the right form: we took a mean in both cases, of
despotism in the one, and of liberty in the other, and we saw that in a
mean they attained their perfection; but that when they were carried to
the extreme of either, slavery or licence, neither party were the gainers.

MEGILLUS: Very true.

ATHENIAN: And that was our reason for considering the settlement of the
Dorian army, and of the city built by Dardanus at the foot of the
mountains, and the removal of cities to the seashore, and of our mention
of the first men, who were the survivors of the deluge. And all that was
previously said about music and drinking, and what preceded, was said with
the view of seeing how a state might be best administered, and how an
individual might best order his own life. And now, Megillus and Cleinias,
how can we put to the proof the value of our words?

CLEINIAS: Stranger, I think that I see how a proof of their value may be
obtained. This discussion of ours appears to me to have been singularly
fortunate, and just what I at this moment want; most auspiciously have you
and my friend Megillus come in my way. For I will tell you what has
happened to me; and I regard the coincidence as a sort of omen. The
greater part of Crete is going to send out a colony, and they have
entrusted the management of the affair to the Cnosians; and the Cnosian
government to me and nine others. And they desire us to give them any laws
which we please, whether taken from the Cretan model or from any other;
and they do not mind about their being foreign if they are better. Grant
me then this favour, which will also be a gain to yourselves:--Let us make
a selection from what has been said, and then let us imagine a State of
which we will suppose ourselves to be the original founders. Thus we shall
proceed with our enquiry, and, at the same time, I may have the use of the
framework which you are constructing, for the city which is in

ATHENIAN: Good news, Cleinias; if Megillus has no objection, you may be
sure that I will do all in my power to please you.

CLEINIAS: Thank you.

MEGILLUS: And so will I.

CLEINIAS: Excellent; and now let us begin to frame the State.


ATHENIAN: And now, what will this city be? I do not mean to ask what is or
will hereafter be the name of the place; that may be determined by the
accident of locality or of the original settlement--a river or fountain,
or some local deity may give the sanction of a name to the newly-founded
city; but I do want to know what the situation is, whether maritime or

CLEINIAS: I should imagine, Stranger, that the city of which we are
speaking is about eighty stadia distant from the sea.

ATHENIAN: And are there harbours on the seaboard?

CLEINIAS: Excellent harbours, Stranger; there could not be better.

ATHENIAN: Alas! what a prospect! And is the surrounding country
productive, or in need of importations?

CLEINIAS: Hardly in need of anything.

ATHENIAN: And is there any neighbouring State?

CLEINIAS: None whatever, and that is the reason for selecting the place;
in days of old, there was a migration of the inhabitants, and the region
has been deserted from time immemorial.

ATHENIAN: And has the place a fair proportion of hill, and plain, and

CLEINIAS: Like the rest of Crete in that.

ATHENIAN: You mean to say that there is more rock than plain?

CLEINIAS: Exactly.

ATHENIAN: Then there is some hope that your citizens may be virtuous: had
you been on the sea, and well provided with harbours, and an importing
rather than a producing country, some mighty saviour would have been
needed, and lawgivers more than mortal, if you were ever to have a chance
of preserving your state from degeneracy and discordance of manners
(compare Ar. Pol.). But there is comfort in the eighty stadia; although
the sea is too near, especially if, as you say, the harbours are so good.
Still we may be content. The sea is pleasant enough as a daily companion,
but has indeed also a bitter and brackish quality; filling the streets
with merchants and shopkeepers, and begetting in the souls of men
uncertain and unfaithful ways--making the state unfriendly and unfaithful
both to her own citizens, and also to other nations. There is a
consolation, therefore, in the country producing all things at home; and
yet, owing to the ruggedness of the soil, not providing anything in great
abundance. Had there been abundance, there might have been a great export
trade, and a great return of gold and silver; which, as we may safely
affirm, has the most fatal results on a State whose aim is the attainment
of just and noble sentiments: this was said by us, if you remember, in the
previous discussion.

CLEINIAS: I remember, and am of opinion that we both were and are in the

ATHENIAN: Well, but let me ask, how is the country supplied with timber
for ship-building?

CLEINIAS: There is no fir of any consequence, nor pine, and not much
cypress; and you will find very little stone-pine or plane-wood, which
shipwrights always require for the interior of ships.

ATHENIAN: These are also natural advantages.


ATHENIAN: Because no city ought to be easily able to imitate its enemies
in what is mischievous.

CLEINIAS: How does that bear upon any of the matters of which we have been

ATHENIAN: Remember, my good friend, what I said at first about the Cretan
laws, that they looked to one thing only, and this, as you both agreed,
was war; and I replied that such laws, in so far as they tended to promote
virtue, were good; but in that they regarded a part only, and not the
whole of virtue, I disapproved of them. And now I hope that you in your
turn will follow and watch me if I legislate with a view to anything but
virtue, or with a view to a part of virtue only. For I consider that the
true lawgiver, like an archer, aims only at that on which some eternal
beauty is always attending, and dismisses everything else, whether wealth
or any other benefit, when separated from virtue. I was saying that the
imitation of enemies was a bad thing; and I was thinking of a case in
which a maritime people are harassed by enemies, as the Athenians were by
Minos (I do not speak from any desire to recall past grievances); but he,
as we know, was a great naval potentate, who compelled the inhabitants of
Attica to pay him a cruel tribute; and in those days they had no ships of
war as they now have, nor was the country filled with ship-timber, and
therefore they could not readily build them. Hence they could not learn
how to imitate their enemy at sea, and in this way, becoming sailors
themselves, directly repel their enemies. Better for them to have lost
many times over the seven youths, than that heavy-armed and stationary
troops should have been turned into sailors, and accustomed to be often
leaping on shore, and again to come running back to their ships; or should
have fancied that there was no disgrace in not awaiting the attack of an
enemy and dying boldly; and that there were good reasons, and plenty of
them, for a man throwing away his arms, and betaking himself to flight,--
which is not dishonourable, as people say, at certain times. This is the
language of naval warfare, and is anything but worthy of extraordinary
praise. For we should not teach bad habits, least of all to the best part
of the citizens. You may learn the evil of such a practice from Homer, by
whom Odysseus is introduced, rebuking Agamemnon, because he desires to
draw down the ships to the sea at a time when the Achaeans are hard
pressed by the Trojans,--he gets angry with him, and says:

'Who, at a time when the battle is in full cry, biddest to drag the well-
benched ships into the sea, that the prayers of the Trojans may be
accomplished yet more, and high ruin fall upon us. For the Achaeans will
not maintain the battle, when the ships are drawn into the sea, but they
will look behind and will cease from strife; in that the counsel which you
give will prove injurious.'

You see that he quite knew triremes on the sea, in the neighbourhood of
fighting men, to be an evil;--lions might be trained in that way to fly
from a herd of deer. Moreover, naval powers which owe their safety to
ships, do not give honour to that sort of warlike excellence which is most
deserving of it. For he who owes his safety to the pilot and the captain,
and the oarsman, and all sorts of rather inferior persons, cannot rightly
give honour to whom honour is due. But how can a state be in a right
condition which cannot justly award honour?

CLEINIAS: It is hardly possible, I admit; and yet, Stranger, we Cretans
are in the habit of saying that the battle of Salamis was the salvation of

ATHENIAN: Why, yes; and that is an opinion which is widely spread both
among Hellenes and barbarians. But Megillus and I say rather, that the
battle of Marathon was the beginning, and the battle of Plataea the
completion, of the great deliverance, and that these battles by land made
the Hellenes better; whereas the sea-fights of Salamis and Artemisium--for
I may as well put them both together--made them no better, if I may say so
without offence about the battles which helped to save us. And in
estimating the goodness of a state, we regard both the situation of the
country and the order of the laws, considering that the mere preservation
and continuance of life is not the most honourable thing for men, as the
vulgar think, but the continuance of the best life, while we live; and
that again, if I am not mistaken, is a remark which has been made already.


ATHENIAN: Then we have only to ask, whether we are taking the course which
we acknowledge to be the best for the settlement and legislation of

CLEINIAS: The best by far.

ATHENIAN: And now let me proceed to another question: Who are to be the
colonists? May any one come out of all Crete; and is the idea that the
population in the several states is too numerous for the means of
subsistence? For I suppose that you are not going to send out a general
invitation to any Hellene who likes to come. And yet I observe that to
your country settlers have come from Argos and Aegina and other parts of
Hellas. Tell me, then, whence do you draw your recruits in the present

CLEINIAS: They will come from all Crete; and of other Hellenes,
Peloponnesians will be most acceptable. For, as you truly observe, there
are Cretans of Argive descent; and the race of Cretans which has the
highest character at the present day is the Gortynian, and this has come
from Gortys in the Peloponnesus.

ATHENIAN: Cities find colonization in some respects easier if the
colonists are one race, which like a swarm of bees is sent out from a
single country, either when friends leave friends, owing to some pressure
of population or other similar necessity, or when a portion of a state is
driven by factions to emigrate. And there have been whole cities which
have taken flight when utterly conquered by a superior power in war. This,
however, which is in one way an advantage to the colonist or legislator,
in another point of view creates a difficulty. There is an element of
friendship in the community of race, and language, and laws, and in common
temples and rites of worship; but colonies which are of this homogeneous
sort are apt to kick against any laws or any form of constitution
differing from that which they had at home; and although the badness of
their own laws may have been the cause of the factions which prevailed
among them, yet from the force of habit they would fain preserve the very
customs which were their ruin, and the leader of the colony, who is their
legislator, finds them troublesome and rebellious. On the other hand, the
conflux of several populations might be more disposed to listen to new
laws; but then, to make them combine and pull together, as they say of
horses, is a most difficult task, and the work of years. And yet there is
nothing which tends more to the improvement of mankind than legislation
and colonization.

CLEINIAS: No doubt; but I should like to know why you say so.

ATHENIAN: My good friend, I am afraid that the course of my speculations
is leading me to say something depreciatory of legislators; but if the
word be to the purpose, there can be no harm. And yet, why am I
disquieted, for I believe that the same principle applies equally to all
human things?

CLEINIAS: To what are you referring?

ATHENIAN: I was going to say that man never legislates, but accidents of
all sorts, which legislate for us in all sorts of ways. The violence of
war and the hard necessity of poverty are constantly overturning
governments and changing laws. And the power of disease has often caused
innovations in the state, when there have been pestilences, or when there
has been a succession of bad seasons continuing during many years. Any one
who sees all this, naturally rushes to the conclusion of which I was
speaking, that no mortal legislates in anything, but that in human affairs
chance is almost everything. And this may be said of the arts of the
sailor, and the pilot, and the physician, and the general, and may seem to
be well said; and yet there is another thing which may be said with equal
truth of all of them.

CLEINIAS: What is it?

ATHENIAN: That God governs all things, and that chance and opportunity co-
operate with Him in the government of human affairs. There is, however, a
third and less extreme view, that art should be there also; for I should
say that in a storm there must surely be a great advantage in having the
aid of the pilot's art. You would agree?


ATHENIAN: And does not a like principle apply to legislation as well as to
other things: even supposing all the conditions to be favourable which are
needed for the happiness of the state, yet the true legislator must from
time to time appear on the scene?

CLEINIAS: Most true.

ATHENIAN: In each case the artist would be able to pray rightly for
certain conditions, and if these were granted by fortune, he would then
only require to exercise his art?

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: And all the other artists just now mentioned, if they were
bidden to offer up each their special prayer, would do so?

CLEINIAS: Of course.

ATHENIAN: And the legislator would do likewise?

CLEINIAS: I believe that he would.

ATHENIAN: 'Come, legislator,' we will say to him; 'what are the conditions
which you require in a state before you can organize it?' How ought he to
answer this question? Shall I give his answer?


ATHENIAN: He will say--'Give me a state which is governed by a tyrant, and
let the tyrant be young and have a good memory; let him be quick at
learning, and of a courageous and noble nature; let him have that quality
which, as I said before, is the inseparable companion of all the other
parts of virtue, if there is to be any good in them.'

CLEINIAS: I suppose, Megillus, that this companion virtue of which the
Stranger speaks, must be temperance?

ATHENIAN: Yes, Cleinias, temperance in the vulgar sense; not that which in
the forced and exaggerated language of some philosophers is called
prudence, but that which is the natural gift of children and animals, of
whom some live continently and others incontinently, but when isolated,
was, as we said, hardly worth reckoning in the catalogue of goods. I think
that you must understand my meaning.

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: Then our tyrant must have this as well as the other qualities,
if the state is to acquire in the best manner and in the shortest time the
form of government which is most conducive to happiness; for there neither
is nor ever will be a better or speedier way of establishing a polity than
by a tyranny.

CLEINIAS: By what possible arguments, Stranger, can any man persuade
himself of such a monstrous doctrine?

ATHENIAN: There is surely no difficulty in seeing, Cleinias, what is in
accordance with the order of nature?

CLEINIAS: You would assume, as you say, a tyrant who was young, temperate,
quick at learning, having a good memory, courageous, of a noble nature?

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