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Laws by Plato

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ATHENIAN: Yes; and you must add fortunate; and his good fortune must be
that he is the contemporary of a great legislator, and that some happy
chance brings them together. When this has been accomplished, God has done
all that he ever does for a state which he desires to be eminently
prosperous; He has done second best for a state in which there are two
such rulers, and third best for a state in which there are three. The
difficulty increases with the increase, and diminishes with the diminution
of the number.

CLEINIAS: You mean to say, I suppose, that the best government is produced
from a tyranny, and originates in a good lawgiver and an orderly tyrant,
and that the change from such a tyranny into a perfect form of government
takes place most easily; less easily when from an oligarchy; and, in the
third degree, from a democracy: is not that your meaning?

ATHENIAN: Not so; I mean rather to say that the change is best made out of
a tyranny; and secondly, out of a monarchy; and thirdly, out of some sort
of democracy: fourth, in the capacity for improvement, comes oligarchy,
which has the greatest difficulty in admitting of such a change, because
the government is in the hands of a number of potentates. I am supposing
that the legislator is by nature of the true sort, and that his strength
is united with that of the chief men of the state; and when the ruling
element is numerically small, and at the same time very strong, as in a
tyranny, there the change is likely to be easiest and most rapid.

CLEINIAS: How? I do not understand.

ATHENIAN: And yet I have repeated what I am saying a good many times; but
I suppose that you have never seen a city which is under a tyranny?

CLEINIAS: No, and I cannot say that I have any great desire to see one.

ATHENIAN: And yet, where there is a tyranny, you might certainly see that
of which I am now speaking.

CLEINIAS: What do you mean?

ATHENIAN: I mean that you might see how, without trouble and in no very
long period of time, the tyrant, if he wishes, can change the manners of a
state: he has only to go in the direction of virtue or of vice, whichever
he prefers, he himself indicating by his example the lines of conduct,
praising and rewarding some actions and reproving others, and degrading
those who disobey.

CLEINIAS: But how can we imagine that the citizens in general will at once
follow the example set to them; and how can he have this power both of
persuading and of compelling them?

ATHENIAN: Let no one, my friends, persuade us that there is any quicker
and easier way in which states change their laws than when the rulers
lead: such changes never have, nor ever will, come to pass in any other
way. The real impossibility or difficulty is of another sort, and is
rarely surmounted in the course of ages; but when once it is surmounted,
ten thousand or rather all blessings follow.

CLEINIAS: Of what are you speaking?

ATHENIAN: The difficulty is to find the divine love of temperate and just
institutions existing in any powerful forms of government, whether in a
monarchy or oligarchy of wealth or of birth. You might as well hope to
reproduce the character of Nestor, who is said to have excelled all men in
the power of speech, and yet more in his temperance. This, however,
according to the tradition, was in the times of Troy; in our own days
there is nothing of the sort; but if such an one either has or ever shall
come into being, or is now among us, blessed is he and blessed are they
who hear the wise words that flow from his lips. And this may be said of
power in general: When the supreme power in man coincides with the
greatest wisdom and temperance, then the best laws and the best
constitution come into being; but in no other way. And let what I have
been saying be regarded as a kind of sacred legend or oracle, and let this
be our proof that, in one point of view, there may be a difficulty for a
city to have good laws, but that there is another point of view in which
nothing can be easier or sooner effected, granting our supposition.

CLEINIAS: How do you mean?

ATHENIAN: Let us try to amuse ourselves, old boys as we are, by moulding
in words the laws which are suitable to your state.

CLEINIAS: Let us proceed without delay.

ATHENIAN: Then let us invoke God at the settlement of our state; may He
hear and be propitious to us, and come and set in order the State and the

CLEINIAS: May He come!

ATHENIAN: But what form of polity are we going to give the city?

CLEINIAS: Tell us what you mean a little more clearly. Do you mean some
form of democracy, or oligarchy, or aristocracy, or monarchy? For we
cannot suppose that you would include tyranny.

ATHENIAN: Which of you will first tell me to which of these classes his
own government is to be referred?

MEGILLUS: Ought I to answer first, since I am the elder?

CLEINIAS: Perhaps you should.

MEGILLUS: And yet, Stranger, I perceive that I cannot say, without more
thought, what I should call the government of Lacedaemon, for it seems to
me to be like a tyranny,--the power of our Ephors is marvellously
tyrannical; and sometimes it appears to me to be of all cities the most
democratical; and who can reasonably deny that it is an aristocracy
(compare Ar. Pol.)? We have also a monarchy which is held for life, and is
said by all mankind, and not by ourselves only, to be the most ancient of
all monarchies; and, therefore, when asked on a sudden, I cannot precisely
say which form of government the Spartan is.

CLEINIAS: I am in the same difficulty, Megillus; for I do not feel
confident that the polity of Cnosus is any of these.

ATHENIAN: The reason is, my excellent friends, that you really have
polities, but the states of which we were just now speaking are merely
aggregations of men dwelling in cities who are the subjects and servants
of a part of their own state, and each of them is named after the dominant
power; they are not polities at all. But if states are to be named after
their rulers, the true state ought to be called by the name of the God who
rules over wise men.

CLEINIAS: And who is this God?

ATHENIAN: May I still make use of fable to some extent, in the hope that I
may be better able to answer your question: shall I?

CLEINIAS: By all means.

ATHENIAN: In the primeval world, and a long while before the cities came
into being whose settlements we have described, there is said to have been
in the time of Cronos a blessed rule and life, of which the best-ordered
of existing states is a copy (compare Statesman).

CLEINIAS: It will be very necessary to hear about that.

ATHENIAN: I quite agree with you; and therefore I have introduced the

CLEINIAS: Most appropriately; and since the tale is to the point, you will
do well in giving us the whole story.

ATHENIAN: I will do as you suggest. There is a tradition of the happy life
of mankind in days when all things were spontaneous and abundant. And of
this the reason is said to have been as follows:--Cronos knew what we
ourselves were declaring, that no human nature invested with supreme power
is able to order human affairs and not overflow with insolence and wrong.
Which reflection led him to appoint not men but demigods, who are of a
higher and more divine race, to be the kings and rulers of our cities; he
did as we do with flocks of sheep and other tame animals. For we do not
appoint oxen to be the lords of oxen, or goats of goats; but we ourselves
are a superior race, and rule over them. In like manner God, in His love
of mankind, placed over us the demons, who are a superior race, and they
with great ease and pleasure to themselves, and no less to us, taking care
of us and giving us peace and reverence and order and justice never
failing, made the tribes of men happy and united. And this tradition,
which is true, declares that cities of which some mortal man and not God
is the ruler, have no escape from evils and toils. Still we must do all
that we can to imitate the life which is said to have existed in the days
of Cronos, and, as far as the principle of immortality dwells in us, to
that we must hearken, both in private and public life, and regulate our
cities and houses according to law, meaning by the very term 'law,' the
distribution of mind. But if either a single person or an oligarchy or a
democracy has a soul eager after pleasures and desires--wanting to be
filled with them, yet retaining none of them, and perpetually afflicted
with an endless and insatiable disorder; and this evil spirit, having
first trampled the laws under foot, becomes the master either of a state
or of an individual,--then, as I was saying, salvation is hopeless. And
now, Cleinias, we have to consider whether you will or will not accept
this tale of mine.

CLEINIAS: Certainly we will.

ATHENIAN: You are aware,--are you not?--that there are often said to be as
many forms of laws as there are of governments, and of the latter we have
already mentioned all those which are commonly recognized. Now you must
regard this as a matter of first-rate importance. For what is to be the
standard of just and unjust, is once more the point at issue. Men say that
the law ought not to regard either military virtue, or virtue in general,
but only the interests and power and preservation of the established form
of government; this is thought by them to be the best way of expressing
the natural definition of justice.


ATHENIAN: Justice is said by them to be the interest of the stronger

CLEINIAS: Speak plainer.

ATHENIAN: I will:--'Surely,' they say, 'the governing power makes whatever
laws have authority in any state'?


ATHENIAN: 'Well,' they would add, 'and do you suppose that tyranny or
democracy, or any other conquering power, does not make the continuance of
the power which is possessed by them the first or principal object of
their laws'?

CLEINIAS: How can they have any other?

ATHENIAN: 'And whoever transgresses these laws is punished as an evil-doer
by the legislator, who calls the laws just'?

CLEINIAS: Naturally.

ATHENIAN: 'This, then, is always the mode and fashion in which justice

CLEINIAS: Certainly, if they are correct in their view.

ATHENIAN: Why, yes, this is one of those false principles of government to
which we were referring.

CLEINIAS: Which do you mean?

ATHENIAN: Those which we were examining when we spoke of who ought to
govern whom. Did we not arrive at the conclusion that parents ought to
govern their children, and the elder the younger, and the noble the
ignoble? And there were many other principles, if you remember, and they
were not always consistent. One principle was this very principle of
might, and we said that Pindar considered violence natural and justified

CLEINIAS: Yes; I remember.

ATHENIAN: Consider, then, to whom our state is to be entrusted. For there
is a thing which has occurred times without number in states--

CLEINIAS: What thing?

ATHENIAN: That when there has been a contest for power, those who gain the
upper hand so entirely monopolize the government, as to refuse all share
to the defeated party and their descendants--they live watching one
another, the ruling class being in perpetual fear that some one who has a
recollection of former wrongs will come into power and rise up against
them. Now, according to our view, such governments are not polities at
all, nor are laws right which are passed for the good of particular
classes and not for the good of the whole state. States which have such
laws are not polities but parties, and their notions of justice are simply
unmeaning. I say this, because I am going to assert that we must not
entrust the government in your state to any one because he is rich, or
because he possesses any other advantage, such as strength, or stature, or
again birth: but he who is most obedient to the laws of the state, he
shall win the palm; and to him who is victorious in the first degree shall
be given the highest office and chief ministry of the gods; and the second
to him who bears the second palm; and on a similar principle shall all the
other offices be assigned to those who come next in order. And when I call
the rulers servants or ministers of the law, I give them this name not for
the sake of novelty, but because I certainly believe that upon such
service or ministry depends the well- or ill-being of the state. For that
state in which the law is subject and has no authority, I perceive to be
on the highway to ruin; but I see that the state in which the law is above
the rulers, and the rulers are the inferiors of the law, has salvation,
and every blessing which the Gods can confer.

CLEINIAS: Truly, Stranger, you see with the keen vision of age.

ATHENIAN: Why, yes; every man when he is young has that sort of vision
dullest, and when he is old keenest.

CLEINIAS: Very true.

ATHENIAN: And now, what is to be the next step? May we not suppose the
colonists to have arrived, and proceed to make our speech to them?

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: 'Friends,' we say to them,--'God, as the old tradition declares,
holding in his hand the beginning, middle, and end of all that is, travels
according to His nature in a straight line towards the accomplishment of
His end. Justice always accompanies Him, and is the punisher of those who
fall short of the divine law. To justice, he who would be happy holds
fast, and follows in her company with all humility and order; but he who
is lifted up with pride, or elated by wealth or rank, or beauty, who is
young and foolish, and has a soul hot with insolence, and thinks that he
has no need of any guide or ruler, but is able himself to be the guide of
others, he, I say, is left deserted of God; and being thus deserted, he
takes to him others who are like himself, and dances about, throwing all
things into confusion, and many think that he is a great man, but in a
short time he pays a penalty which justice cannot but approve, and is
utterly destroyed, and his family and city with him. Wherefore, seeing
that human things are thus ordered, what should a wise man do or think, or
not do or think'?

CLEINIAS: Every man ought to make up his mind that he will be one of the
followers of God; there can be no doubt of that.

ATHENIAN: Then what life is agreeable to God, and becoming in His
followers? One only, expressed once for all in the old saying that 'like
agrees with like, with measure measure,' but things which have no measure
agree neither with themselves nor with the things which have. Now God
ought to be to us the measure of all things, and not man (compare Crat.;
Theaet.), as men commonly say (Protagoras): the words are far more true of
Him. And he who would be dear to God must, as far as is possible, be like
Him and such as He is. Wherefore the temperate man is the friend of God,
for he is like Him; and the intemperate man is unlike Him, and different
from Him, and unjust. And the same applies to other things; and this is
the conclusion, which is also the noblest and truest of all sayings,--that
for the good man to offer sacrifice to the Gods, and hold converse with
them by means of prayers and offerings and every kind of service, is the
noblest and best of all things, and also the most conducive to a happy
life, and very fit and meet. But with the bad man, the opposite of this is
true: for the bad man has an impure soul, whereas the good is pure; and
from one who is polluted, neither a good man nor God can without
impropriety receive gifts. Wherefore the unholy do only waste their much
service upon the Gods, but when offered by any holy man, such service is
most acceptable to them. This is the mark at which we ought to aim. But
what weapons shall we use, and how shall we direct them? In the first
place, we affirm that next after the Olympian Gods and the Gods of the
State, honour should be given to the Gods below; they should receive
everything in even numbers, and of the second choice, and ill omen, while
the odd numbers, and the first choice, and the things of lucky omen, are
given to the Gods above, by him who would rightly hit the mark of piety.
Next to these Gods, a wise man will do service to the demons or spirits,
and then to the heroes, and after them will follow the private and
ancestral Gods, who are worshipped as the law prescribes in the places
which are sacred to them. Next comes the honour of living parents, to
whom, as is meet, we have to pay the first and greatest and oldest of all
debts, considering that all which a man has belongs to those who gave him
birth and brought him up, and that he must do all that he can to minister
to them, first, in his property, secondly, in his person, and thirdly, in
his soul, in return for the endless care and travail which they bestowed
upon him of old, in the days of his infancy, and which he is now to pay
back to them when they are old and in the extremity of their need. And all
his life long he ought never to utter, or to have uttered, an unbecoming
word to them; for of light and fleeting words the penalty is most severe;
Nemesis, the messenger of justice, is appointed to watch over all such
matters. When they are angry and want to satisfy their feelings in word or
deed, he should give way to them; for a father who thinks that he has been
wronged by his son may be reasonably expected to be very angry. At their
death, the most moderate funeral is best, neither exceeding the customary
expense, nor yet falling short of the honour which has been usually shown
by the former generation to their parents. And let a man not forget to pay
the yearly tribute of respect to the dead, honouring them chiefly by
omitting nothing that conduces to a perpetual remembrance of them, and
giving a reasonable portion of his fortune to the dead. Doing this, and
living after this manner, we shall receive our reward from the Gods and
those who are above us (i.e. the demons); and we shall spend our days for
the most part in good hope. And how a man ought to order what relates to
his descendants and his kindred and friends and fellow-citizens, and the
rites of hospitality taught by Heaven, and the intercourse which arises
out of all these duties, with a view to the embellishment and orderly
regulation of his own life--these things, I say, the laws, as we proceed
with them, will accomplish, partly persuading, and partly when natures do
not yield to the persuasion of custom, chastising them by might and right,
and will thus render our state, if the Gods co-operate with us, prosperous
and happy. But of what has to be said, and must be said by the legislator
who is of my way of thinking, and yet, if said in the form of law, would
be out of place--of this I think that he may give a sample for the
instruction of himself and of those for whom he is legislating; and then
when, as far as he is able, he has gone through all the preliminaries, he
may proceed to the work of legislation. Now, what will be the form of such
prefaces? There may be a difficulty in including or describing them all
under a single form, but I think that we may get some notion of them if we
can guarantee one thing.

CLEINIAS: What is that?

ATHENIAN: I should wish the citizens to be as readily persuaded to virtue
as possible; this will surely be the aim of the legislator in all his

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: The proposal appears to me to be of some value; and I think that
a person will listen with more gentleness and good-will to the precepts
addressed to him by the legislator, when his soul is not altogether
unprepared to receive them. Even a little done in the way of conciliation
gains his ear, and is always worth having. For there is no great
inclination or readiness on the part of mankind to be made as good, or as
quickly good, as possible. The case of the many proves the wisdom of
Hesiod, who says that the road to wickedness is smooth and can be
travelled without perspiring, because it is so very short:

'But before virtue the immortal Gods have placed the sweat of labour, and
long and steep is the way thither, and rugged at first; but when you have
reached the top, although difficult before, it is then easy.' (Works and

CLEINIAS: Yes; and he certainly speaks well.

ATHENIAN: Very true: and now let me tell you the effect which the
preceding discourse has had upon me.

CLEINIAS: Proceed.

ATHENIAN: Suppose that we have a little conversation with the legislator,
and say to him--'O, legislator, speak; if you know what we ought to say
and do, you can surely tell.'

CLEINIAS: Of course he can.

ATHENIAN: 'Did we not hear you just now saying, that the legislator ought
not to allow the poets to do what they liked? For that they would not know
in which of their words they went against the laws, to the hurt of the

CLEINIAS: That is true.

ATHENIAN: May we not fairly make answer to him on behalf of the poets?

CLEINIAS: What answer shall we make to him?

ATHENIAN: That the poet, according to the tradition which has ever
prevailed among us, and is accepted of all men, when he sits down on the
tripod of the muse, is not in his right mind; like a fountain, he allows
to flow out freely whatever comes in, and his art being imitative, he is
often compelled to represent men of opposite dispositions, and thus to
contradict himself; neither can he tell whether there is more truth in one
thing that he has said than in another. This is not the case in a law; the
legislator must give not two rules about the same thing, but one only.
Take an example from what you have just been saying. Of three kinds of
funerals, there is one which is too extravagant, another is too niggardly,
the third in a mean; and you choose and approve and order the last without
qualification. But if I had an extremely rich wife, and she bade me bury
her and describe her burial in a poem, I should praise the extravagant
sort; and a poor miserly man, who had not much money to spend, would
approve of the niggardly; and the man of moderate means, who was himself
moderate, would praise a moderate funeral. Now you in the capacity of
legislator must not barely say 'a moderate funeral,' but you must define
what moderation is, and how much; unless you are definite, you must not
suppose that you are speaking a language that can become law.

CLEINIAS: Certainly not.

ATHENIAN: And is our legislator to have no preface to his laws, but to say
at once Do this, avoid that--and then holding the penalty in terrorem, to
go on to another law; offering never a word of advice or exhortation to
those for whom he is legislating, after the manner of some doctors? For of
doctors, as I may remind you, some have a gentler, others a ruder method
of cure; and as children ask the doctor to be gentle with them, so we will
ask the legislator to cure our disorders with the gentlest remedies. What
I mean to say is, that besides doctors there are doctors' servants, who
are also styled doctors.

CLEINIAS: Very true.

ATHENIAN: And whether they are slaves or freemen makes no difference; they
acquire their knowledge of medicine by obeying and observing their
masters; empirically and not according to the natural way of learning, as
the manner of freemen is, who have learned scientifically themselves the
art which they impart scientifically to their pupils. You are aware that
there are these two classes of doctors?

CLEINIAS: To be sure.

ATHENIAN: And did you ever observe that there are two classes of patients
in states, slaves and freemen; and the slave doctors run about and cure
the slaves, or wait for them in the dispensaries--practitioners of this
sort never talk to their patients individually, or let them talk about
their own individual complaints? The slave doctor prescribes what mere
experience suggests, as if he had exact knowledge; and when he has given
his orders, like a tyrant, he rushes off with equal assurance to some
other servant who is ill; and so he relieves the master of the house of
the care of his invalid slaves. But the other doctor, who is a freeman,
attends and practices upon freemen; and he carries his enquiries far back,
and goes into the nature of the disorder; he enters into discourse with
the patient and with his friends, and is at once getting information from
the sick man, and also instructing him as far as he is able, and he will
not prescribe for him until he has first convinced him; at last, when he
has brought the patient more and more under his persuasive influences and
set him on the road to health, he attempts to effect a cure. Now which is
the better way of proceeding in a physician and in a trainer? Is he the
better who accomplishes his ends in a double way, or he who works in one
way, and that the ruder and inferior?

CLEINIAS: I should say, Stranger, that the double way is far better.

ATHENIAN: Should you like to see an example of the double and single
method in legislation?

CLEINIAS: Certainly I should.

ATHENIAN: What will be our first law? Will not the legislator, observing
the order of nature, begin by making regulations for states about births?

CLEINIAS: He will.

ATHENIAN: In all states the birth of children goes back to the connexion
of marriage?

CLEINIAS: Very true.

ATHENIAN: And, according to the true order, the laws relating to marriage
should be those which are first determined in every state?

CLEINIAS: Quite so.

ATHENIAN: Then let me first give the law of marriage in a simple form; it
may run as follows:--A man shall marry between the ages of thirty and
thirty-five, or, if he does not, he shall pay such and such a fine, or
shall suffer the loss of such and such privileges. This would be the
simple law about marriage. The double law would run thus:--A man shall
marry between the ages of thirty and thirty-five, considering that in a
manner the human race naturally partakes of immortality, which every man
is by nature inclined to desire to the utmost; for the desire of every man
that he may become famous, and not lie in the grave without a name, is
only the love of continuance. Now mankind are coeval with all time, and
are ever following, and will ever follow, the course of time; and so they
are immortal, because they leave children's children behind them, and
partake of immortality in the unity of generation. And for a man
voluntarily to deprive himself of this gift, as he deliberately does who
will not have a wife or children, is impiety. He who obeys the law shall
be free, and shall pay no fine; but he who is disobedient, and does not
marry, when he has arrived at the age of thirty-five, shall pay a yearly
fine of a certain amount, in order that he may not imagine his celibacy to
bring ease and profit to him; and he shall not share in the honours which
the young men in the state give to the aged. Comparing now the two forms
of the law, you will be able to arrive at a judgment about any other laws
--whether they should be double in length even when shortest, because they
have to persuade as well as threaten, or whether they shall only threaten
and be of half the length.

MEGILLUS: The shorter form, Stranger, would be more in accordance with
Lacedaemonian custom; although, for my own part, if any one were to ask me
which I myself prefer in the state, I should certainly determine in favour
of the longer; and I would have every law made after the same pattern, if
I had to choose. But I think that Cleinias is the person to be consulted,
for his is the state which is going to use these laws.

CLEINIAS: Thank you, Megillus.

ATHENIAN: Whether, in the abstract, words are to be many or few, is a very
foolish question; the best form, and not the shortest, is to be approved;
nor is length at all to be regarded. Of the two forms of law which have
been recited, the one is not only twice as good in practical usefulness as
the other, but the case is like that of the two kinds of doctors, which I
was just now mentioning. And yet legislators never appear to have
considered that they have two instruments which they might use in
legislation--persuasion and force; for in dealing with the rude and
uneducated multitude, they use the one only as far as they can; they do
not mingle persuasion with coercion, but employ force pure and simple.
Moreover, there is a third point, sweet friends, which ought to be, and
never is, regarded in our existing laws.

CLEINIAS: What is it?

ATHENIAN: A point arising out of our previous discussion, which comes into
my mind in some mysterious way. All this time, from early dawn until noon,
have we been talking about laws in this charming retreat: now we are going
to promulgate our laws, and what has preceded was only the prelude of
them. Why do I mention this? For this reason:--Because all discourses and
vocal exercises have preludes and overtures, which are a sort of artistic
beginnings intended to help the strain which is to be performed; lyric
measures and music of every other kind have preludes framed with wonderful
care. But of the truer and higher strain of law and politics, no one has
ever yet uttered any prelude, or composed or published any, as though
there was no such thing in nature. Whereas our present discussion seems to
me to imply that there is;--these double laws, of which we were speaking,
are not exactly double, but they are in two parts, the law and the prelude
of the law. The arbitrary command, which was compared to the commands of
doctors, whom we described as of the meaner sort, was the law pure and
simple; and that which preceded, and was described by our friend here as
being hortatory only, was, although in fact, an exhortation, likewise
analogous to the preamble of a discourse. For I imagine that all this
language of conciliation, which the legislator has been uttering in the
preface of the law, was intended to create good-will in the person whom he
addressed, in order that, by reason of this good-will, he might more
intelligently receive his command, that is to say, the law. And therefore,
in my way of speaking, this is more rightly described as the preamble than
as the matter of the law. And I must further proceed to observe, that to
all his laws, and to each separately, the legislator should prefix a
preamble; he should remember how great will be the difference between
them, according as they have, or have not, such preambles, as in the case
already given.

CLEINIAS: The lawgiver, if he asks my opinion, will certainly legislate in
the form which you advise.

ATHENIAN: I think that you are right, Cleinias, in affirming that all laws
have preambles, and that throughout the whole of this work of legislation
every single law should have a suitable preamble at the beginning; for
that which is to follow is most important, and it makes all the difference
whether we clearly remember the preambles or not. Yet we should be wrong
in requiring that all laws, small and great alike, should have preambles
of the same kind, any more than all songs or speeches; although they may
be natural to all, they are not always necessary, and whether they are to
be employed or not has in each case to be left to the judgment of the
speaker or the musician, or, in the present instance, of the lawgiver.

CLEINIAS: That I think is most true. And now, Stranger, without delay let
us return to the argument, and, as people say in play, make a second and
better beginning, if you please, with the principles which we have been
laying down, which we never thought of regarding as a preamble before, but
of which we may now make a preamble, and not merely consider them to be
chance topics of discourse. Let us acknowledge, then, that we have a
preamble. About the honour of the Gods and the respect of parents, enough
has been already said; and we may proceed to the topics which follow next
in order, until the preamble is deemed by you to be complete; and after
that you shall go through the laws themselves.

ATHENIAN: I understand you to mean that we have made a sufficient preamble
about Gods and demigods, and about parents living or dead; and now you
would have us bring the rest of the subject into the light of day?

CLEINIAS: Exactly.

ATHENIAN: After this, as is meet and for the interest of us all, I the
speaker, and you the listeners, will try to estimate all that relates to
the souls and bodies and properties of the citizens, as regards both their
occupations and amusements, and thus arrive, as far as in us lies, at the
nature of education. These then are the topics which follow next in order.

CLEINIAS: Very good.


ATHENIAN: Listen, all ye who have just now heard the laws about Gods, and
about our dear forefathers:--Of all the things which a man has, next to
the Gods, his soul is the most divine and most truly his own. Now in every
man there are two parts: the better and superior, which rules, and the
worse and inferior, which serves; and the ruling part of him is always to
be preferred to the subject. Wherefore I am right in bidding every one
next to the Gods, who are our masters, and those who in order follow them
(i.e. the demons), to honour his own soul, which every one seems to
honour, but no one honours as he ought; for honour is a divine good, and
no evil thing is honourable; and he who thinks that he can honour the soul
by word or gift, or any sort of compliance, without making her in any way
better, seems to honour her, but honours her not at all. For example,
every man, from his very boyhood, fancies that he is able to know
everything, and thinks that he honours his soul by praising her, and he is
very ready to let her do whatever she may like. But I mean to say that in
acting thus he injures his soul, and is far from honouring her; whereas,
in our opinion, he ought to honour her as second only to the Gods. Again,
when a man thinks that others are to be blamed, and not himself, for the
errors which he has committed from time to time, and the many and great
evils which befell him in consequence, and is always fancying himself to
be exempt and innocent, he is under the idea that he is honouring his
soul; whereas the very reverse is the fact, for he is really injuring her.
And when, disregarding the word and approval of the legislator, he
indulges in pleasure, then again he is far from honouring her; he only
dishonours her, and fills her full of evil and remorse; or when he does
not endure to the end the labours and fears and sorrows and pains which
the legislator approves, but gives way before them, then, by yielding, he
does not honour the soul, but by all such conduct he makes her to be
dishonourable; nor when he thinks that life at any price is a good, does
he honour her, but yet once more he dishonours her; for the soul having a
notion that the world below is all evil, he yields to her, and does not
resist and teach or convince her that, for aught she knows, the world of
the Gods below, instead of being evil, may be the greatest of all goods.
Again, when any one prefers beauty to virtue, what is this but the real
and utter dishonour of the soul? For such a preference implies that the
body is more honourable than the soul; and this is false, for there is
nothing of earthly birth which is more honourable than the heavenly, and
he who thinks otherwise of the soul has no idea how greatly he undervalues
this wonderful possession; nor, again, when a person is willing, or not
unwilling, to acquire dishonest gains, does he then honour his soul with
gifts--far otherwise; he sells her glory and honour for a small piece of
gold; but all the gold which is under or upon the earth is not enough to
give in exchange for virtue. In a word, I may say that he who does not
estimate the base and evil, the good and noble, according to the standard
of the legislator, and abstain in every possible way from the one and
practise the other to the utmost of his power, does not know that in all
these respects he is most foully and disgracefully abusing his soul, which
is the divinest part of man; for no one, as I may say, ever considers that
which is declared to be the greatest penalty of evil-doing--namely, to
grow into the likeness of bad men, and growing like them to fly from the
conversation of the good, and be cut off from them, and cleave to and
follow after the company of the bad. And he who is joined to them must do
and suffer what such men by nature do and say to one another,--a suffering
which is not justice but retribution; for justice and the just are noble,
whereas retribution is the suffering which waits upon injustice; and
whether a man escape or endure this, he is miserable,--in the former case,
because he is not cured; while in the latter, he perishes in order that
the rest of mankind may be saved.

Speaking generally, our glory is to follow the better and improve the
inferior, which is susceptible of improvement, as far as this is possible.
And of all human possessions, the soul is by nature most inclined to avoid
the evil, and track out and find the chief good; which when a man has
found, he should take up his abode with it during the remainder of his
life. Wherefore the soul also is second (or next to God) in honour; and
third, as every one will perceive, comes the honour of the body in natural
order. Having determined this, we have next to consider that there is a
natural honour of the body, and that of honours some are true and some are
counterfeit. To decide which are which is the business of the legislator;
and he, I suspect, would intimate that they are as follows:--Honour is not
to be given to the fair body, or to the strong or the swift or the tall,
or to the healthy body (although many may think otherwise), any more than
to their opposites; but the mean states of all these habits are by far the
safest and most moderate; for the one extreme makes the soul braggart and
insolent, and the other, illiberal and base; and money, and property, and
distinction all go to the same tune. The excess of any of these things is
apt to be a source of hatreds and divisions among states and individuals;
and the defect of them is commonly a cause of slavery. And, therefore, I
would not have any one fond of heaping up riches for the sake of his
children, in order that he may leave them as rich as possible. For the
possession of great wealth is of no use, either to them or to the state.
The condition of youth which is free from flattery, and at the same time
not in need of the necessaries of life, is the best and most harmonious of
all, being in accord and agreement with our nature, and making life to be
most entirely free from sorrow. Let parents, then, bequeath to their
children not a heap of riches, but the spirit of reverence. We, indeed,
fancy that they will inherit reverence from us, if we rebuke them when
they show a want of reverence. But this quality is not really imparted to
them by the present style of admonition, which only tells them that the
young ought always to be reverential. A sensible legislator will rather
exhort the elders to reverence the younger, and above all to take heed
that no young man sees or hears one of themselves doing or saying anything
disgraceful; for where old men have no shame, there young men will most
certainly be devoid of reverence. The best way of training the young is to
train yourself at the same time; not to admonish them, but to be always
carrying out your own admonitions in practice. He who honours his kindred,
and reveres those who share in the same Gods and are of the same blood and
family, may fairly expect that the Gods who preside over generation will
be propitious to him, and will quicken his seed. And he who deems the
services which his friends and acquaintances do for him, greater and more
important than they themselves deem them, and his own favours to them less
than theirs to him, will have their good-will in the intercourse of life.
And surely in his relations to the state and his fellow citizens, he is by
far the best, who rather than the Olympic or any other victory of peace or
war, desires to win the palm of obedience to the laws of his country, and
who, of all mankind, is the person reputed to have obeyed them best
through life. In his relations to strangers, a man should consider that a
contract is a most holy thing, and that all concerns and wrongs of
strangers are more directly dependent on the protection of God, than
wrongs done to citizens; for the stranger, having no kindred and friends,
is more to be pitied by Gods and men. Wherefore, also, he who is most able
to avenge him is most zealous in his cause; and he who is most able is the
genius and the god of the stranger, who follow in the train of Zeus, the
god of strangers. And for this reason, he who has a spark of caution in
him, will do his best to pass through life without sinning against the
stranger. And of offences committed, whether against strangers or fellow-
countrymen, that against suppliants is the greatest. For the God who
witnessed to the agreement made with the suppliant, becomes in a special
manner the guardian of the sufferer; and he will certainly not suffer

Thus we have fairly described the manner in which a man is to act about
his parents, and himself, and his own affairs; and in relation to the
state, and his friends, and kindred, both in what concerns his own
countrymen, and in what concerns the stranger. We will now consider what
manner of man he must be who would best pass through life in respect of
those other things which are not matters of law, but of praise and blame
only; in which praise and blame educate a man, and make him more tractable
and amenable to the laws which are about to be imposed.

Truth is the beginning of every good thing, both to Gods and men; and he
who would be blessed and happy, should be from the first a partaker of the
truth, that he may live a true man as long as possible, for then he can be
trusted; but he is not to be trusted who loves voluntary falsehood, and he
who loves involuntary falsehood is a fool. Neither condition is enviable,
for the untrustworthy and ignorant has no friend, and as time advances he
becomes known, and lays up in store for himself isolation in crabbed age
when life is on the wane: so that, whether his children or friends are
alive or not, he is equally solitary.--Worthy of honour is he who does no
injustice, and of more than twofold honour, if he not only does no
injustice himself, but hinders others from doing any; the first may count
as one man, the second is worth many men, because he informs the rulers of
the injustice of others. And yet more highly to be esteemed is he who co-
operates with the rulers in correcting the citizens as far as he can--he
shall be proclaimed the great and perfect citizen, and bear away the palm
of virtue. The same praise may be given about temperance and wisdom, and
all other goods which may be imparted to others, as well as acquired by a
man for himself; he who imparts them shall be honoured as the man of men,
and he who is willing, yet is not able, may be allowed the second place;
but he who is jealous and will not, if he can help, allow others to
partake in a friendly way of any good, is deserving of blame: the good,
however, which he has, is not to be undervalued by us because it is
possessed by him, but must be acquired by us also to the utmost of our
power. Let every man, then, freely strive for the prize of virtue, and let
there be no envy. For the unenvious nature increases the greatness of
states--he himself contends in the race, blasting the fair fame of no man;
but the envious, who thinks that he ought to get the better by defaming
others, is less energetic himself in the pursuit of true virtue, and
reduces his rivals to despair by his unjust slanders of them. And so he
makes the whole city to enter the arena untrained in the practice of
virtue, and diminishes her glory as far as in him lies. Now every man
should be valiant, but he should also be gentle. From the cruel, or hardly
curable, or altogether incurable acts of injustice done to him by others,
a man can only escape by fighting and defending himself and conquering,
and by never ceasing to punish them; and no man who is not of a noble
spirit is able to accomplish this. As to the actions of those who do evil,
but whose evil is curable, in the first place, let us remember that the
unjust man is not unjust of his own free will. For no man of his own free
will would choose to possess the greatest of evils, and least of all in
the most honourable part of himself. And the soul, as we said, is of a
truth deemed by all men the most honourable. In the soul, then, which is
the most honourable part of him, no one, if he could help, would admit, or
allow to continue the greatest of evils (compare Republic). The
unrighteous and vicious are always to be pitied in any case; and one can
afford to forgive as well as pity him who is curable, and refrain and calm
one's anger, not getting into a passion, like a woman, and nursing ill-
feeling. But upon him who is incapable of reformation and wholly evil, the
vials of our wrath should be poured out; wherefore I say that good men
ought, when occasion demands, to be both gentle and passionate.

Of all evils the greatest is one which in the souls of most men is innate,
and which a man is always excusing in himself and never correcting; I
mean, what is expressed in the saying that 'Every man by nature is and
ought to be his own friend.' Whereas the excessive love of self is in
reality the source to each man of all offences; for the lover is blinded
about the beloved, so that he judges wrongly of the just, the good, and
the honourable, and thinks that he ought always to prefer himself to the
truth. But he who would be a great man ought to regard, not himself or his
interests, but what is just, whether the just act be his own or that of
another. Through a similar error men are induced to fancy that their own
ignorance is wisdom, and thus we who may be truly said to know nothing,
think that we know all things; and because we will not let others act for
us in what we do not know, we are compelled to act amiss ourselves.
Wherefore let every man avoid excess of self-love, and condescend to
follow a better man than himself, not allowing any false shame to stand in
the way. There are also minor precepts which are often repeated, and are
quite as useful; a man should recollect them and remind himself of them.
For when a stream is flowing out, there should be water flowing in too;
and recollection flows in while wisdom is departing. Therefore I say that
a man should refrain from excess either of laughter or tears, and should
exhort his neighbour to do the same; he should veil his immoderate sorrow
or joy, and seek to behave with propriety, whether the genius of his good
fortune remains with him, or whether at the crisis of his fate, when he
seems to be mounting high and steep places, the Gods oppose him in some of
his enterprises. Still he may ever hope, in the case of good men, that
whatever afflictions are to befall them in the future God will lessen, and
that present evils He will change for the better; and as to the goods
which are the opposite of these evils, he will not doubt that they will be
added to them, and that they will be fortunate. Such should be men's
hopes, and such should be the exhortations with which they admonish one
another, never losing an opportunity, but on every occasion distinctly
reminding themselves and others of all these things, both in jest and

Enough has now been said of divine matters, both as touching the practices
which men ought to follow, and as to the sort of persons who they ought
severally to be. But of human things we have not as yet spoken, and we
must; for to men we are discoursing and not to Gods. Pleasures and pains
and desires are a part of human nature, and on them every mortal being
must of necessity hang and depend with the most eager interest. And
therefore we must praise the noblest life, not only as the fairest in
appearance, but as being one which, if a man will only taste, and not,
while still in his youth, desert for another, he will find to surpass also
in the very thing which we all of us desire,--I mean in having a greater
amount of pleasure and less of pain during the whole of life. And this
will be plain, if a man has a true taste of them, as will be quickly and
clearly seen. But what is a true taste? That we have to learn from the
argument--the point being what is according to nature, and what is not
according to nature. One life must be compared with another, the more
pleasurable with the more painful, after this manner:--We desire to have
pleasure, but we neither desire nor choose pain; and the neutral state we
are ready to take in exchange, not for pleasure but for pain; and we also
wish for less pain and greater pleasure, but less pleasure and greater
pain we do not wish for; and an equal balance of either we cannot venture
to assert that we should desire. And all these differ or do not differ
severally in number and magnitude and intensity and equality, and in the
opposites of these when regarded as objects of choice, in relation to
desire. And such being the necessary order of things, we wish for that
life in which there are many great and intense elements of pleasure and
pain, and in which the pleasures are in excess, and do not wish for that
in which the opposites exceed; nor, again, do we wish for that in which
the elements of either are small and few and feeble, and the pains exceed.
And when, as I said before, there is a balance of pleasure and pain in
life, this is to be regarded by us as the balanced life; while other lives
are preferred by us because they exceed in what we like, or are rejected
by us because they exceed in what we dislike. All the lives of men may be
regarded by us as bound up in these, and we must also consider what sort
of lives we by nature desire. And if we wish for any others, I say that we
desire them only through some ignorance and inexperience of the lives
which actually exist.

Now, what lives are they, and how many in which, having searched out and
beheld the objects of will and desire and their opposites, and making of
them a law, choosing, I say, the dear and the pleasant and the best and
noblest, a man may live in the happiest way possible? Let us say that the
temperate life is one kind of life, and the rational another, and the
courageous another, and the healthful another; and to these four let us
oppose four other lives--the foolish, the cowardly, the intemperate, the
diseased. He who knows the temperate life will describe it as in all
things gentle, having gentle pains and gentle pleasures, and placid
desires and loves not insane; whereas the intemperate life is impetuous in
all things, and has violent pains and pleasures, and vehement and stinging
desires, and loves utterly insane; and in the temperate life the pleasures
exceed the pains, but in the intemperate life the pains exceed the
pleasures in greatness and number and frequency. Hence one of the two
lives is naturally and necessarily more pleasant and the other more
painful, and he who would live pleasantly cannot possibly choose to live
intemperately. And if this is true, the inference clearly is that no man
is voluntarily intemperate; but that the whole multitude of men lack
temperance in their lives, either from ignorance, or from want of self-
control, or both. And the same holds of the diseased and healthy life;
they both have pleasures and pains, but in health the pleasure exceeds the
pain, and in sickness the pain exceeds the pleasure. Now our intention in
choosing the lives is not that the painful should exceed, but the life in
which pain is exceeded by pleasure we have determined to be the more
pleasant life. And we should say that the temperate life has the elements
both of pleasure and pain fewer and smaller and less frequent than the
intemperate, and the wise life than the foolish life, and the life of
courage than the life of cowardice; one of each pair exceeding in pleasure
and the other in pain, the courageous surpassing the cowardly, and the
wise exceeding the foolish. And so the one class of lives exceeds the
other class in pleasure; the temperate and courageous and wise and healthy
exceed the cowardly and foolish and intemperate and diseased lives; and
generally speaking, that which has any virtue, whether of body or soul, is
pleasanter than the vicious life, and far superior in beauty and rectitude
and excellence and reputation, and causes him who lives accordingly to be
infinitely happier than the opposite.

Enough of the preamble; and now the laws should follow; or, to speak more
correctly, an outline of them. As, then, in the case of a web or any other
tissue, the warp and the woof cannot be made of the same materials
(compare Statesman), but the warp is necessarily superior as being
stronger, and having a certain character of firmness, whereas the woof is
softer and has a proper degree of elasticity;--in a similar manner those
who are to hold great offices in states, should be distinguished truly in
each case from those who have been but slenderly proven by education. Let
us suppose that there are two parts in the constitution of a state--one
the creation of offices, the other the laws which are assigned to them to

But, before all this, comes the following consideration:--The shepherd or
herdsman, or breeder of horses or the like, when he has received his
animals will not begin to train them until he has first purified them in a
manner which befits a community of animals; he will divide the healthy and
unhealthy, and the good breed and the bad breed, and will send away the
unhealthy and badly bred to other herds, and tend the rest, reflecting
that his labours will be vain and have no effect, either on the souls or
bodies of those whom nature and ill nurture have corrupted, and that they
will involve in destruction the pure and healthy nature and being of every
other animal, if he should neglect to purify them. Now the case of other
animals is not so important--they are only worth introducing for the sake
of illustration; but what relates to man is of the highest importance; and
the legislator should make enquiries, and indicate what is proper for each
one in the way of purification and of any other procedure. Take, for
example, the purification of a city--there are many kinds of purification,
some easier and others more difficult; and some of them, and the best and
most difficult of them, the legislator, if he be also a despot, may be
able to effect; but the legislator, who, not being a despot, sets up a new
government and laws, even if he attempt the mildest of purgations, may
think himself happy if he can complete his work. The best kind of
purification is painful, like similar cures in medicine, involving
righteous punishment and inflicting death or exile in the last resort. For
in this way we commonly dispose of great sinners who are incurable, and
are the greatest injury of the whole state. But the milder form of
purification is as follows:--when men who have nothing, and are in want of
food, show a disposition to follow their leaders in an attack on the
property of the rich--these, who are the natural plague of the state, are
sent away by the legislator in a friendly spirit as far as he is able; and
this dismissal of them is euphemistically termed a colony. And every
legislator should contrive to do this at once. Our present case, however,
is peculiar. For there is no need to devise any colony or purifying
separation under the circumstances in which we are placed. But as, when
many streams flow together from many sources, whether springs or mountain
torrents, into a single lake, we ought to attend and take care that the
confluent waters should be perfectly clear, and in order to effect this,
should pump and draw off and divert impurities, so in every political
arrangement there may be trouble and danger. But, seeing that we are now
only discoursing and not acting, let our selection be supposed to be
completed, and the desired purity attained. Touching evil men, who want to
join and be citizens of our state, after we have tested them by every sort
of persuasion and for a sufficient time, we will prevent them from coming;
but the good we will to the utmost of our ability receive as friends with
open arms.

Another piece of good fortune must not be forgotten, which, as we were
saying, the Heraclid colony had, and which is also ours,--that we have
escaped division of land and the abolition of debts; for these are always
a source of dangerous contention, and a city which is driven by necessity
to legislate upon such matters can neither allow the old ways to continue,
nor yet venture to alter them. We must have recourse to prayers, so to
speak, and hope that a slight change may be cautiously effected in a
length of time. And such a change can be accomplished by those who have
abundance of land, and having also many debtors, are willing, in a kindly
spirit, to share with those who are in want, sometimes remitting and
sometimes giving, holding fast in a path of moderation, and deeming
poverty to be the increase of a man's desires and not the diminution of
his property. For this is the great beginning of salvation to a state, and
upon this lasting basis may be erected afterwards whatever political order
is suitable under the circumstances; but if the change be based upon an
unsound principle, the future administration of the country will be full
of difficulties. That is a danger which, as I am saying, is escaped by us,
and yet we had better say how, if we had not escaped, we might have
escaped; and we may venture now to assert that no other way of escape,
whether narrow or broad, can be devised but freedom from avarice and a
sense of justice--upon this rock our city shall be built; for there ought
to be no disputes among citizens about property. If there are quarrels of
long standing among them, no legislator of any degree of sense will
proceed a step in the arrangement of the state until they are settled. But
that they to whom God has given, as He has to us, to be the founders of a
new state as yet free from enmity--that they should create themselves
enmities by their mode of distributing lands and houses, would be
superhuman folly and wickedness.

How then can we rightly order the distribution of the land? In the first
place, the number of the citizens has to be determined, and also the
number and size of the divisions into which they will have to be formed;
and the land and the houses will then have to be apportioned by us as
fairly as we can. The number of citizens can only be estimated
satisfactorily in relation to the territory and the neighbouring states.
The territory must be sufficient to maintain a certain number of
inhabitants in a moderate way of life--more than this is not required; and
the number of citizens should be sufficient to defend themselves against
the injustice of their neighbours, and also to give them the power of
rendering efficient aid to their neighbours when they are wronged. After
having taken a survey of their's and their neighbours' territory, we will
determine the limits of them in fact as well as in theory. And now, let us
proceed to legislate with a view to perfecting the form and outline of our
state. The number of our citizens shall be 5040--this will be a convenient
number; and these shall be owners of the land and protectors of the
allotment. The houses and the land will be divided in the same way, so
that every man may correspond to a lot. Let the whole number be first
divided into two parts, and then into three; and the number is further
capable of being divided into four or five parts, or any number of parts
up to ten. Every legislator ought to know so much arithmetic as to be able
to tell what number is most likely to be useful to all cities; and we are
going to take that number which contains the greatest and most regular and
unbroken series of divisions. The whole of number has every possible
division, and the number 5040 can be divided by exactly fifty-nine
divisors, and ten of these proceed without interval from one to ten: this
will furnish numbers for war and peace, and for all contracts and
dealings, including taxes and divisions of the land. These properties of
number should be ascertained at leisure by those who are bound by law to
know them; for they are true, and should be proclaimed at the foundation
of the city, with a view to use. Whether the legislator is establishing a
new state or restoring an old and decayed one, in respect of Gods and
temples,--the temples which are to be built in each city, and the Gods or
demi-gods after whom they are to be called,--if he be a man of sense, he
will make no change in anything which the oracle of Delphi, or Dodona, or
the God Ammon, or any ancient tradition has sanctioned in whatever manner,
whether by apparitions or reputed inspiration of Heaven, in obedience to
which mankind have established sacrifices in connexion with mystic rites,
either originating on the spot, or derived from Tyrrhenia or Cyprus or
some other place, and on the strength of which traditions they have
consecrated oracles and images, and altars and temples, and portioned out
a sacred domain for each of them. The least part of all these ought not to
be disturbed by the legislator; but he should assign to the several
districts some God, or demi-god, or hero, and, in the distribution of the
soil, should give to these first their chosen domain and all things
fitting, that the inhabitants of the several districts may meet at fixed
times, and that they may readily supply their various wants, and entertain
one another with sacrifices, and become friends and acquaintances; for
there is no greater good in a state than that the citizens should be known
to one another. When not light but darkness and ignorance of each other's
characters prevails among them, no one will receive the honour of which he
is deserving, or the power or the justice to which he is fairly entitled:
wherefore, in every state, above all things, every man should take heed
that he have no deceit in him, but that he be always true and simple; and
that no deceitful person take any advantage of him.

The next move in our pastime of legislation, like the withdrawal of the
stone from the holy line in the game of draughts, being an unusual one,
will probably excite wonder when mentioned for the first time. And yet, if
a man will only reflect and weigh the matter with care, he will see that
our city is ordered in a manner which, if not the best, is the second
best. Perhaps also some one may not approve this form, because he thinks
that such a constitution is ill adapted to a legislator who has not
despotic power. The truth is, that there are three forms of government,
the best, the second and the third best, which we may just mention, and
then leave the selection to the ruler of the settlement. Following this
method in the present instance, let us speak of the states which are
respectively first, second, and third in excellence, and then we will
leave the choice to Cleinias now, or to any one else who may hereafter
have to make a similar choice among constitutions, and may desire to give
to his state some feature which is congenial to him and which he approves
in his own country.

The first and highest form of the state and of the government and of the
law is that in which there prevails most widely the ancient saying, that
'Friends have all things in common.' Whether there is anywhere now, or
will ever be, this communion of women and children and of property, in
which the private and individual is altogether banished from life, and
things which are by nature private, such as eyes and ears and hands, have
become common, and in some way see and hear and act in common, and all men
express praise and blame and feel joy and sorrow on the same occasions,
and whatever laws there are unite the city to the utmost (compare
Republic),--whether all this is possible or not, I say that no man, acting
upon any other principle, will ever constitute a state which will be truer
or better or more exalted in virtue. Whether such a state is governed by
Gods or sons of Gods, one, or more than one, happy are the men who, living
after this manner, dwell there; and therefore to this we are to look for
the pattern of the state, and to cling to this, and to seek with all our
might for one which is like this. The state which we have now in hand,
when created, will be nearest to immortality and the only one which takes
the second place; and after that, by the grace of God, we will complete
the third one. And we will begin by speaking of the nature and origin of
the second.

Let the citizens at once distribute their land and houses, and not till
the land in common, since a community of goods goes beyond their proposed
origin, and nurture, and education. But in making the distribution, let
the several possessors feel that their particular lots also belong to the
whole city; and seeing that the earth is their parent, let them tend her
more carefully than children do their mother. For she is a goddess and
their queen, and they are her mortal subjects. Such also are the feelings
which they ought to entertain to the Gods and demi-gods of the country.
And in order that the distribution may always remain, they ought to
consider further that the present number of families should be always
retained, and neither increased nor diminished. This may be secured for
the whole city in the following manner:--Let the possessor of a lot leave
the one of his children who is his best beloved, and one only, to be the
heir of his dwelling, and his successor in the duty of ministering to the
Gods, the state and the family, as well the living members of it as those
who are departed when he comes into the inheritance; but of his other
children, if he have more than one, he shall give the females in marriage
according to the law to be hereafter enacted, and the males he shall
distribute as sons to those citizens who have no children, and are
disposed to receive them; or if there should be none such, and particular
individuals have too many children, male or female, or too few, as in the
case of barrenness--in all these cases let the highest and most honourable
magistracy created by us judge and determine what is to be done with the
redundant or deficient, and devise a means that the number of 5040 houses
shall always remain the same. There are many ways of regulating numbers;
for they in whom generation is affluent may be made to refrain (compare
Arist. Pol.), and, on the other hand, special care may be taken to
increase the number of births by rewards and stigmas, or we may meet the
evil by the elder men giving advice and administering rebuke to the
younger--in this way the object may be attained. And if after all there be
very great difficulty about the equal preservation of the 5040 houses, and
there be an excess of citizens, owing to the too great love of those who
live together, and we are at our wits' end, there is still the old device
often mentioned by us of sending out a colony, which will part friends
with us, and be composed of suitable persons. If, on the other hand, there
come a wave bearing a deluge of disease, or a plague of war, and the
inhabitants become much fewer than the appointed number by reason of
bereavement, we ought not to introduce citizens of spurious birth and
education, if this can be avoided; but even God is said not to be able to
fight against necessity.

Wherefore let us suppose this 'high argument' of ours to address us in the
following terms:--Best of men, cease not to honour according to nature
similarity and equality and sameness and agreement, as regards number and
every good and noble quality. And, above all, observe the aforesaid number
5040 throughout life; in the second place, do not disparage the small and
modest proportions of the inheritances which you received in the
distribution, by buying and selling them to one another. For then neither
will the God who gave you the lot be your friend, nor will the legislator;
and indeed the law declares to the disobedient that these are the terms
upon which he may or may not take the lot. In the first place, the earth
as he is informed is sacred to the Gods; and in the next place, priests
and priestesses will offer up prayers over a first, and second, and even a
third sacrifice, that he who buys or sells the houses or lands which he
has received, may suffer the punishment which he deserves; and these their
prayers they shall write down in the temples, on tablets of cypress-wood,
for the instruction of posterity. Moreover they will set a watch over all
these things, that they may be observed;--the magistracy which has the
sharpest eyes shall keep watch that any infringement of these commands may
be discovered and punished as offences both against the law and the God.
How great is the benefit of such an ordinance to all those cities, which
obey and are administered accordingly, no bad man can ever know, as the
old proverb says; but only a man of experience and good habits. For in
such an order of things there will not be much opportunity for making
money; no man either ought, or indeed will be allowed, to exercise any
ignoble occupation, of which the vulgarity is a matter of reproach to a
freeman, and should never want to acquire riches by any such means.

Further, the law enjoins that no private man shall be allowed to possess
gold and silver, but only coin for daily use, which is almost necessary in
dealing with artisans, and for payment of hirelings, whether slaves or
immigrants, by all those persons who require the use of them. Wherefore
our citizens, as we say, should have a coin passing current among
themselves, but not accepted among the rest of mankind; with a view,
however, to expeditions and journeys to other lands,--for embassies, or
for any other occasion which may arise of sending out a herald, the state
must also possess a common Hellenic currency. If a private person is ever
obliged to go abroad, let him have the consent of the magistrates and go;
and if when he returns he has any foreign money remaining, let him give
the surplus back to the treasury, and receive a corresponding sum in the
local currency. And if he is discovered to appropriate it, let it be
confiscated, and let him who knows and does not inform be subject to curse
and dishonour equally him who brought the money, and also to a fine not
less in amount than the foreign money which has been brought back. In
marrying and giving in marriage, no one shall give or receive any dowry at
all; and no one shall deposit money with another whom he does not trust as
a friend, nor shall he lend money upon interest; and the borrower should
be under no obligation to repay either capital or interest. That these
principles are best, any one may see who compares them with the first
principle and intention of a state. The intention, as we affirm, of a
reasonable statesman, is not what the many declare to be the object of a
good legislator, namely, that the state for the true interests of which he
is advising should be as great and as rich as possible, and should possess
gold and silver, and have the greatest empire by sea and land;--this they
imagine to be the real object of legislation, at the same time adding,
inconsistently, that the true legislator desires to have the city the best
and happiest possible. But they do not see that some of these things are
possible, and some of them are impossible; and he who orders the state
will desire what is possible, and will not indulge in vain wishes or
attempts to accomplish that which is impossible. The citizen must indeed
be happy and good, and the legislator will seek to make him so; but very
rich and very good at the same time he cannot be, not, at least, in the
sense in which the many speak of riches. For they mean by 'the rich' the
few who have the most valuable possessions, although the owner of them may
quite well be a rogue. And if this is true, I can never assent to the
doctrine that the rich man will be happy--he must be good as well as rich.
And good in a high degree, and rich in a high degree at the same time, he
cannot be. Some one will ask, why not? And we shall answer--Because
acquisitions which come from sources which are just and unjust
indifferently, are more than double those which come from just sources
only; and the sums which are expended neither honourably nor
disgracefully, are only half as great as those which are expended
honourably and on honourable purposes. Thus, if the one acquires double
and spends half, the other who is in the opposite case and is a good man
cannot possibly be wealthier than he. The first--I am speaking of the
saver and not of the spender--is not always bad; he may indeed in some
cases be utterly bad, but, as I was saying, a good man he never is. For he
who receives money unjustly as well as justly, and spends neither nor
unjustly, will be a rich man if he be also thrifty. On the other hand, the
utterly bad is in general profligate, and therefore very poor; while he
who spends on noble objects, and acquires wealth by just means only, can
hardly be remarkable for riches, any more than he can be very poor. Our
statement, then, is true, that the very rich are not good, and, if they
are not good, they are not happy. But the intention of our laws was, that
the citizens should be as happy as may be, and as friendly as possible to
one another. And men who are always at law with one another, and amongst
whom there are many wrongs done, can never be friends to one another, but
only those among whom crimes and lawsuits are few and slight. Therefore we
say that gold and silver ought not to be allowed in the city, nor much of
the vulgar sort of trade which is carried on by lending money, or rearing
the meaner kinds of live stock; but only the produce of agriculture, and
only so much of this as will not compel us in pursuing it to neglect that
for the sake of which riches exist--I mean, soul and body, which without
gymnastics, and without education, will never be worth anything; and
therefore, as we have said not once but many times, the care of riches
should have the last place in our thoughts. For there are in all three
things about which every man has an interest; and the interest about
money, when rightly regarded, is the third and lowest of them: midway
comes the interest of the body; and, first of all, that of the soul; and
the state which we are describing will have been rightly constituted if it
ordains honours according to this scale. But if, in any of the laws which
have been ordained, health has been preferred to temperance, or wealth to
health and temperate habits, that law must clearly be wrong. Wherefore,
also, the legislator ought often to impress upon himself the question--
'What do I want?' and 'Do I attain my aim, or do I miss the mark?' In this
way, and in this way only, he may acquit himself and free others from the
work of legislation.

Let the allottee then hold his lot upon the conditions which we have

It would be well that every man should come to the colony having all
things equal; but seeing that this is not possible, and one man will have
greater possessions than another, for many reasons and in particular in
order to preserve equality in special crises of the state, qualifications
of property must be unequal, in order that offices and contributions and
distributions may be proportioned to the value of each person's wealth,
and not solely to the virtue of his ancestors or himself, nor yet to the
strength and beauty of his person, but also to the measure of his wealth
or poverty; and so by a law of inequality, which will be in proportion to
his wealth, he will receive honours and offices as equally as possible,
and there will be no quarrels and disputes. To which end there should be
four different standards appointed according to the amount of property:
there should be a first and a second and a third and a fourth class, in
which the citizens will be placed, and they will be called by these or
similar names: they may continue in the same rank, or pass into another in
any individual case, on becoming richer from being poorer, or poorer from
being richer. The form of law which I should propose as the natural sequel
would be as follows:--In a state which is desirous of being saved from the
greatest of all plagues--not faction, but rather distraction;--there
should exist among the citizens neither extreme poverty, nor, again,
excess of wealth, for both are productive of both these evils. Now the
legislator should determine what is to be the limit of poverty or wealth.
Let the limit of poverty be the value of the lot; this ought to be
preserved, and no ruler, nor any one else who aspires after a reputation
for virtue, will allow the lot to be impaired in any case. This the
legislator gives as a measure, and he will permit a man to acquire double
or triple, or as much as four times the amount of this (compare Arist.
Pol.). But if a person have yet greater riches, whether he has found them,
or they have been given to him, or he has made them in business, or has
acquired by any stroke of fortune that which is in excess of the measure,
if he give back the surplus to the state, and to the Gods who are the
patrons of the state, he shall suffer no penalty or loss of reputation;
but if he disobeys this our law, any one who likes may inform against him
and receive half the value of the excess, and the delinquent shall pay a
sum equal to the excess out of his own property, and the other half of the
excess shall belong to the Gods. And let every possession of every man,
with the exception of the lot, be publicly registered before the
magistrates whom the law appoints, so that all suits about money may be
easy and quite simple.

The next thing to be noted is, that the city should be placed as nearly as
possible in the centre of the country; we should choose a place which
possesses what is suitable for a city, and this may easily be imagined and
described. Then we will divide the city into twelve portions, first
founding temples to Hestia, to Zeus and to Athene, in a spot which we will
call the Acropolis, and surround with a circular wall, making the division
of the entire city and country radiate from this point. The twelve
portions shall be equalized by the provision that those which are of good
land shall be smaller, while those of inferior quality shall be larger.
The number of the lots shall be 5040, and each of them shall be divided
into two, and every allotment shall be composed of two such sections; one
of land near the city, the other of land which is at a distance (compare
Arist. Pol.). This arrangement shall be carried out in the following
manner: The section which is near the city shall be added to that which is
on the borders, and form one lot, and the portion which is next nearest
shall be added to the portion which is next farthest; and so of the rest.
Moreover, in the two sections of the lots the same principle of
equalization of the soil ought to be maintained; the badness and goodness
shall be compensated by more and less. And the legislator shall divide the
citizens into twelve parts, and arrange the rest of their property, as far
as possible, so as to form twelve equal parts; and there shall be a
registration of all. After this they shall assign twelve lots to twelve
Gods, and call them by their names, and dedicate to each God their several
portions, and call the tribes after them. And they shall distribute the
twelve divisions of the city in the same way in which they divided the
country; and every man shall have two habitations, one in the centre of
the country, and the other at the extremity. Enough of the manner of

Now we ought by all means to consider that there can never be such a happy
concurrence of circumstances as we have described; neither can all things
coincide as they are wanted. Men who will not take offence at such a mode
of living together, and will endure all their life long to have their
property fixed at a moderate limit, and to beget children in accordance
with our ordinances, and will allow themselves to be deprived of gold and
other things which the legislator, as is evident from these enactments,
will certainly forbid them; and will endure, further, the situation of the
land with the city in the middle and dwellings round about;--all this is
as if the legislator were telling his dreams, or making a city and
citizens of wax. There is truth in these objections, and therefore every
one should take to heart what I am going to say. Once more, then, the
legislator shall appear and address us:--'O my friends,' he will say to
us, 'do not suppose me ignorant that there is a certain degree of truth in
your words; but I am of opinion that, in matters which are not present but
future, he who exhibits a pattern of that at which he aims, should in
nothing fall short of the fairest and truest; and that if he finds any
part of this work impossible of execution he should avoid and not execute
it, but he should contrive to carry out that which is nearest and most
akin to it; you must allow the legislator to perfect his design, and when
it is perfected, you should join with him in considering what part of his
legislation is expedient and what will arouse opposition; for surely the
artist who is to be deemed worthy of any regard at all, ought always to
make his work self-consistent.'

Having determined that there is to be a distribution into twelve parts,
let us now see in what way this may be accomplished. There is no
difficulty in perceiving that the twelve parts admit of the greatest
number of divisions of that which they include, or in seeing the other
numbers which are consequent upon them, and are produced out of them up to
5040; wherefore the law ought to order phratries and demes and villages,
and also military ranks and movements, as well as coins and measures, dry
and liquid, and weights, so as to be commensurable and agreeable to one
another. Nor should we fear the appearance of minuteness, if the law
commands that all the vessels which a man possesses should have a common
measure, when we consider generally that the divisions and variations of
numbers have a use in respect of all the variations of which they are
susceptible, both in themselves and as measures of height and depth, and
in all sounds, and in motions, as well those which proceed in a straight
direction, upwards or downwards, as in those which go round and round. The
legislator is to consider all these things and to bid the citizens, as far
as possible, not to lose sight of numerical order; for no single
instrument of youthful education has such mighty power, both as regards
domestic economy and politics, and in the arts, as the study of
arithmetic. Above all, arithmetic stirs up him who is by nature sleepy and
dull, and makes him quick to learn, retentive, shrewd, and aided by art
divine he makes progress quite beyond his natural powers (compare
Republic). All such things, if only the legislator, by other laws and
institutions, can banish meanness and covetousness from the souls of men,
so that they can use them properly and to their own good, will be
excellent and suitable instruments of education. But if he cannot, he will
unintentionally create in them, instead of wisdom, the habit of craft,
which evil tendency may be observed in the Egyptians and Phoenicians, and
many other races, through the general vulgarity of their pursuits and
acquisitions, whether some unworthy legislator of theirs has been the
cause, or some impediment of chance or nature. For we must not fail to
observe, O Megillus and Cleinias, that there is a difference in places,
and that some beget better men and others worse; and we must legislate
accordingly. Some places are subject to strange and fatal influences by
reason of diverse winds and violent heats, some by reason of waters; or,
again, from the character of the food given by the earth, which not only
affects the bodies of men for good or evil, but produces similar results
in their souls. And in all such qualities those spots excel in which there
is a divine inspiration, and in which the demigods have their appointed
lots, and are propitious, not adverse, to the settlers in them. To all
these matters the legislator, if he have any sense in him, will attend as
far as man can, and frame his laws accordingly. And this is what you,
Cleinias, must do, and to matters of this kind you must turn your mind
since you are going to colonize a new country.

CLEINIAS: Your words, Athenian Stranger, are excellent, and I will do as
you say.


ATHENIAN: And now having made an end of the preliminaries we will proceed
to the appointment of magistracies.

CLEINIAS: Very good.

ATHENIAN: In the ordering of a state there are two parts: first, the
number of the magistracies, and the mode of establishing them; and,
secondly, when they have been established, laws again will have to be
provided for each of them, suitable in nature and number. But before
electing the magistrates let us stop a little and say a word in season
about the election of them.

CLEINIAS: What have you got to say?

ATHENIAN: This is what I have to say;--every one can see, that although
the work of legislation is a most important matter, yet if a well-ordered
city superadd to good laws unsuitable offices, not only will there be no
use in having the good laws,--not only will they be ridiculous and
useless, but the greatest political injury and evil will accrue from them.

CLEINIAS: Of course.

ATHENIAN: Then now, my friend, let us observe what will happen in the
constitution of out intended state. In the first place, you will
acknowledge that those who are duly appointed to magisterial power, and
their families, should severally have given satisfactory proof of what
they are, from youth upward until the time of election; in the next place,
those who are to elect should have been trained in habits of law, and be
well educated, that they may have a right judgment, and may be able to
select or reject men whom they approve or disapprove, as they are worthy
of either. But how can we imagine that those who are brought together for
the first time, and are strangers to one another, and also uneducated,
will avoid making mistakes in the choice of magistrates?

CLEINIAS: Impossible.

ATHENIAN: The matter is serious, and excuses will not serve the turn. I
will tell you, then, what you and I will have to do, since you, as you
tell me, with nine others, have offered to settle the new state on behalf
of the people of Crete, and I am to help you by the invention of the
present romance. I certainly should not like to leave the tale wandering
all over the world without a head;--a headless monster is such a hideous

CLEINIAS: Excellent, Stranger.

ATHENIAN: Yes; and I will be as good as my word.

CLEINIAS: Let us by all means do as you propose.

ATHENIAN: That we will, by the grace of God, if old age will only permit

CLEINIAS: But God will be gracious.

ATHENIAN: Yes; and under his guidance let us consider a further point.

CLEINIAS: What is it?

ATHENIAN: Let us remember what a courageously mad and daring creation this
our city is.

CLEINIAS: What had you in your mind when you said that?

ATHENIAN: I had in my mind the free and easy manner in which we are
ordaining that the inexperienced colonists shall receive our laws. Now a
man need not be very wise, Cleinias, in order to see that no one can
easily receive laws at their first imposition. But if we could anyhow wait
until those who have been imbued with them from childhood, and have been
nurtured in them, and become habituated to them, take their part in the
public elections of the state; I say, if this could be accomplished, and
rightly accomplished by any way or contrivance--then, I think that there
would be very little danger, at the end of the time, of a state thus
trained not being permanent.

CLEINIAS: A reasonable supposition.

ATHENIAN: Then let us consider if we can find any way out of the
difficulty; for I maintain, Cleinias, that the Cnosians, above all the
other Cretans, should not be satisfied with barely discharging their duty
to the colony, but they ought to take the utmost pains to establish the
offices which are first created by them in the best and surest manner.
Above all, this applies to the selection of the guardians of the law, who
must be chosen first of all, and with the greatest care; the others are of
less importance.

CLEINIAS: What method can we devise of electing them?

ATHENIAN: This will be the method:--Sons of the Cretans, I shall say to
them, inasmuch as the Cnosians have precedence over the other states, they
should, in common with those who join this settlement, choose a body of
thirty-seven in all, nineteen of them being taken from the settlers, and
the remainder from the citizens of Cnosus. Of these latter the Cnosians
shall make a present to your colony, and you yourself shall be one of the
eighteen, and shall become a citizen of the new state; and if you and they
cannot be persuaded to go, the Cnosians may fairly use a little violence
in order to make you.

CLEINIAS: But why, Stranger, do not you and Megillus take a part in our
new city?

ATHENIAN: O, Cleinias, Athens is proud, and Sparta too; and they are both
a long way off. But you and likewise the other colonists are conveniently
situated as you describe. I have been speaking of the way in which the new
citizens may be best managed under present circumstances; but in after-
ages, if the city continues to exist, let the election be on this wise.
All who are horse or foot soldiers, or have seen military service at the
proper ages when they were severally fitted for it (compare Arist. Pol.),
shall share in the election of magistrates; and the election shall be held
in whatever temple the state deems most venerable, and every one shall
carry his vote to the altar of the God, writing down on a tablet the name
of the person for whom he votes, and his father's name, and his tribe, and
ward; and at the side he shall write his own name in like manner. Any one
who pleases may take away any tablet which he does not think properly
filled up, and exhibit it in the Agora for a period of not less than
thirty days. The tablets which are judged to be first, to the number of
300, shall be shown by the magistrates to the whole city, and the citizens
shall in like manner select from these the candidates whom they prefer;
and this second selection, to the number of 100, shall be again exhibited
to the citizens; in the third, let any one who pleases select whom he
pleases out of the 100, walking through the parts of victims, and let them
choose for magistrates and proclaim the seven-and-thirty who have the
greatest number of votes. But who, Cleinias and Megillus, will order for
us in the colony all this matter of the magistrates, and the scrutinies of
them? If we reflect, we shall see that cities which are in process of
construction like ours must have some such persons, who cannot possibly be
elected before there are any magistrates; and yet they must be elected in
some way, and they are not to be inferior men, but the best possible. For
as the proverb says, 'a good beginning is half the business'; and 'to have
begun well' is praised by all, and in my opinion is a great deal more than
half the business, and has never been praised by any one enough.

CLEINIAS: That is very true.

ATHENIAN: Then let us recognize the difficulty, and make clear to our own
minds how the beginning is to be accomplished. There is only one proposal
which I have to offer, and that is one which, under our circumstances, is
both necessary and expedient.

CLEINIAS: What is it?

ATHENIAN: I maintain that this colony of ours has a father and mother, who
are no other than the colonizing state. Well I know that many colonies
have been, and will be, at enmity with their parents. But in early days
the child, as in a family, loves and is beloved; even if there come a time
later when the tie is broken, still, while he is in want of education, he
naturally loves his parents and is beloved by them, and flies to his
relatives for protection, and finds in them his only natural allies in
time of need; and this parental feeling already exists in the Cnosians, as
is shown by their care of the new city; and there is a similar feeling on
the part of the young city towards Cnosus. And I repeat what I was saying
--for there is no harm in repeating a good thing--that the Cnosians should
take a common interest in all these matters, and choose, as far as they
can, the eldest and best of the colonists, to the number of not less than
a hundred; and let there be another hundred of the Cnosians themselves.
These, I say, on their arrival, should have a joint care that the
magistrates should be appointed according to law, and that when they are
appointed they should undergo a scrutiny. When this has been effected, the
Cnosians shall return home, and the new city do the best she can for her
own preservation and happiness. I would have the seven-and-thirty now, and
in all future time, chosen to fulfil the following duties:--Let them, in
the first place, be the guardians of the law; and, secondly, of the
registers in which each one registers before the magistrate the amount of
his property, excepting four minae which are allowed to citizens of the
first class, three allowed to the second, two to the third, and a single
mina to the fourth. And if any one, despising the laws for the sake of
gain, be found to possess anything more which has not been registered, let
all that he has in excess be confiscated, and let him be liable to a suit
which shall be the reverse of honourable or fortunate. And let any one who
will, indict him on the charge of loving base gains, and proceed against
him before the guardians of the law. And if he be cast, let him lose his
share of the public possessions, and when there is any public
distribution, let him have nothing but his original lot; and let him be
written down a condemned man as long as he lives, in some place in which
any one who pleases can read about his offences. The guardian of the law
shall not hold office longer than twenty years, and shall not be less than
fifty years of age when he is elected; or if he is elected when he is
sixty years of age, he shall hold office for ten years only; and upon the
same principle, he must not imagine that he will be permitted to hold such
an important office as that of guardian of the laws after he is seventy
years of age, if he live so long.

These are the three first ordinances about the guardians of the law; as
the work of legislation progresses, each law in turn will assign to them
their further duties. And now we may proceed in order to speak of the
election of other officers; for generals have to be elected, and these
again must have their ministers, commanders, and colonels of horse, and
commanders of brigades of foot, who would be more rightly called by their
popular name of brigadiers. The guardians of the law shall propose as
generals men who are natives of the city, and a selection from the
candidates proposed shall be made by those who are or have been of the age
for military service. And if one who is not proposed is thought by
somebody to be better than one who is, let him name whom he prefers in the
place of whom, and make oath that he is better, and propose him; and
whichever of them is approved by vote shall be admitted to the final
selection; and the three who have the greatest number of votes shall be
appointed generals, and superintendents of military affairs, after
previously undergoing a scrutiny, like the guardians of the law. And let
the generals thus elected propose twelve brigadiers, one for each tribe;
and there shall be a right of counter-proposal as in the case of the
generals, and the voting and decision shall take place in the same way.
Until the prytanes and council are elected, the guardians of the law shall
convene the assembly in some holy spot which is suitable to the purpose,
placing the hoplites by themselves, and the cavalry by themselves, and in
a third division all the rest of the army. All are to vote for the
generals (and for the colonels of horse), but the brigadiers are to be
voted for only by those who carry shields (i.e. the hoplites). Let the
body of cavalry choose phylarchs for the generals; but captains of light
troops, or archers, or any other division of the army, shall be appointed
by the generals for themselves. There only remains the appointment of
officers of cavalry: these shall be proposed by the same persons who
proposed the generals, and the election and the counter-proposal of other
candidates shall be arranged in the same way as in the case of the
generals, and let the cavalry vote and the infantry look on at the
election; the two who have the greatest number of votes shall be the
leaders of all the horse. Disputes about the voting may be raised once or
twice; but if the dispute be raised a third time, the officers who preside
at the several elections shall decide.

The council shall consist of 30 x 12 members--360 will be a convenient
number for sub-division. If we divide the whole number into four parts of
ninety each, we get ninety counsellors for each class. First, all the
citizens shall select candidates from the first class; they shall be
compelled to vote, and, if they do not, shall be duly fined. When the
candidates have been selected, some one shall mark them down; this shall
be the business of the first day. And on the following day, candidates
shall be selected from the second class in the same manner and under the
same conditions as on the previous day; and on the third day a selection
shall be made from the third class, at which every one may, if he likes
vote, and the three first classes shall be compelled to vote; but the
fourth and lowest class shall be under no compulsion, and any member of
this class who does not vote shall not be punished. On the fourth day
candidates shall be selected from the fourth and smallest class; they
shall be selected by all, but he who is of the fourth class shall suffer
no penalty, nor he who is of the third, if he be not willing to vote; but
he who is of the first or second class, if he does not vote shall be
punished;--he who is of the second class shall pay a fine of triple the
amount which was exacted at first, and he who is of the first class
quadruple. On the fifth day the rulers shall bring out the names noted
down, for all the citizens to see, and every man shall choose out of them,
under pain, if he do not, of suffering the first penalty; and when they
have chosen 180 out of each of the classes, they shall choose one-half of
them by lot, who shall undergo a scrutiny:--These are to form the council
for the year.

The mode of election which has been described is in a mean between
monarchy and democracy, and such a mean the state ought always to observe;
for servants and masters never can be friends, nor good and bad, merely
because they are declared to have equal privileges. For to unequals equals
become unequal, if they are not harmonised by measure; and both by reason
of equality, and by reason of inequality, cities are filled with
seditions. The old saying, that 'equality makes friendship,' is happy and
also true; but there is obscurity and confusion as to what sort of
equality is meant. For there are two equalities which are called by the
same name, but are in reality in many ways almost the opposite of one
another; one of them may be introduced without difficulty, by any state or
any legislator in the distribution of honours: this is the rule of
measure, weight, and number, which regulates and apportions them. But
there is another equality, of a better and higher kind, which is not so
easily recognized. This is the judgment of Zeus; among men it avails but
little; that little, however, is the source of the greatest good to
individuals and states. For it gives to the greater more, and to the
inferior less and in proportion to the nature of each; and, above all,
greater honour always to the greater virtue, and to the less less; and to
either in proportion to their respective measure of virtue and education.
And this is justice, and is ever the true principle of states, at which we
ought to aim, and according to this rule order the new city which is now
being founded, and any other city which may be hereafter founded. To this
the legislator should look,--not to the interests of tyrants one or more,
or to the power of the people, but to justice always; which, as I was
saying, is the distribution of natural equality among unequals in each
case. But there are times at which every state is compelled to use the
words, 'just,' 'equal,' in a secondary sense, in the hope of escaping in
some degree from factions. For equity and indulgence are infractions of
the perfect and strict rule of justice. And this is the reason why we are
obliged to use the equality of the lot, in order to avoid the discontent
of the people; and so we invoke God and fortune in our prayers, and beg
that they themselves will direct the lot with a view to supreme justice.
And therefore, although we are compelled to use both equalities, we should
use that into which the element of chance enters as seldom as possible.

Thus, O my friends, and for the reasons given, should a state act which
would endure and be saved. But as a ship sailing on the sea has to be
watched night and day, in like manner a city also is sailing on a sea of
politics, and is liable to all sorts of insidious assaults; and therefore
from morning to night, and from night to morning, rulers must join hands
with rulers, and watchers with watchers, receiving and giving up their
trust in a perpetual succession. Now a multitude can never fulfil a duty
of this sort with anything like energy. Moreover, the greater number of
the senators will have to be left during the greater part of the year to
order their concerns at their own homes. They will therefore have to be
arranged in twelve portions, answering to the twelve months, and furnish
guardians of the state, each portion for a single month. Their business is
to be at hand and receive any foreigner or citizen who comes to them,
whether to give information, or to put one of those questions, to which,
when asked by other cities, a city should give an answer, and to which, if
she ask them herself, she should receive an answer; or again, when there
is a likelihood of internal commotions, which are always liable to happen
in some form or other, they will, if they can, prevent their occurring; or
if they have already occurred, will lose no time in making them known to
the city, and healing the evil. Wherefore, also, this which is the
presiding body of the state ought always to have the control of their
assemblies, and of the dissolutions of them, ordinary as well as
extraordinary. All this is to be ordered by the twelfth part of the
council, which is always to keep watch together with the other officers of
the state during one portion of the year, and to rest during the remaining
eleven portions.

Thus will the city be fairly ordered. And now, who is to have the
superintendence of the country, and what shall be the arrangement? Seeing
that the whole city and the entire country have been both of them divided
into twelve portions, ought there not to be appointed superintendents of
the streets of the city, and of the houses, and buildings, and harbours,
and the agora, and fountains, and sacred domains, and temples, and the

CLEINIAS: To be sure there ought.

ATHENIAN: Let us assume, then, that there ought to be servants of the
temples, and priests and priestesses. There must also be superintendents
of roads and buildings, who will have a care of men, that they may do no
harm, and also of beasts, both within the enclosure and in the suburbs.
Three kinds of officers will thus have to be appointed, in order that the
city may be suitably provided according to her needs. Those who have the
care of the city shall be called wardens of the city; and those who have
the care of the agora shall be called wardens of the agora; and those who
have the care of the temples shall be called priests. Those who hold
hereditary offices as priests or priestesses, shall not be disturbed; but
if there be few or none such, as is probable at the foundation of a new
city, priests and priestesses shall be appointed to be servants of the
Gods who have no servants. Some of our officers shall be elected, and
others appointed by lot, those who are of the people and those who are not
of the people mingling in a friendly manner in every place and city, that
the state may be as far as possible of one mind. The officers of the
temples shall be appointed by lot; in this way their election will be
committed to God, that He may do what is agreeable to Him. And he who
obtains a lot shall undergo a scrutiny, first, as to whether he is sound
of body and of legitimate birth; and in the second place, in order to show
that he is of a perfectly pure family, not stained with homicide or any
similar impiety in his own person, and also that his father and mother
have led a similar unstained life. Now the laws about all divine things
should be brought from Delphi, and interpreters appointed, under whose
direction they should be used. The tenure of the priesthood should always
be for a year and no longer; and he who will duly execute the sacred
office, according to the laws of religion, must be not less than sixty
years of age--the laws shall be the same about priestesses. As for the
interpreters, they shall be appointed thus:--Let the twelve tribes be
distributed into groups of four, and let each group select four, one out
of each tribe within the group, three times; and let the three who have
the greatest number of votes (out of the twelve appointed by each group),
after undergoing a scrutiny, nine in all, be sent to Delphi, in order that
the God may return one out of each triad; their age shall be the same as
that of the priests, and the scrutiny of them shall be conducted in the
same manner; let them be interpreters for life, and when any one dies let
the four tribes select another from the tribe of the deceased. Moreover,
besides priests and interpreters, there must be treasurers, who will take
charge of the property of the several temples, and of the sacred domains,
and shall have authority over the produce and the letting of them; and
three of them shall be chosen from the highest classes for the greater
temples, and two for the lesser, and one for the least of all; the manner
of their election and the scrutiny of them shall be the same as that of
the generals. This shall be the order of the temples.

Let everything have a guard as far as possible. Let the defence of the
city be commited to the generals, and taxiarchs, and hipparchs, and
phylarchs, and prytanes, and the wardens of the city, and of the agora,
when the election of them has been completed. The defence of the country
shall be provided for as follows:--The entire land has been already
distributed into twelve as nearly as possible equal parts, and let the
tribe allotted to a division provide annually for it five wardens of the
country and commanders of the watch; and let each body of five have the
power of selecting twelve others out of the youth of their own tribe,--
these shall be not less than twenty-five years of age, and not more than
thirty. And let there be allotted to them severally every month the
various districts, in order that they may all acquire knowledge and
experience of the whole country. The term of service for commanders and
for watchers shall continue during two years. After having had their
stations allotted to them, they will go from place to place in regular
order, making their round from left to right as their commanders direct
them; (when I speak of going to the right, I mean that they are to go to
the east). And at the commencement of the second year, in order that as
many as possible of the guards may not only get a knowledge of the country
at any one season of the year, but may also have experience of the manner
in which different places are affected at different seasons of the year,
their then commanders shall lead them again towards the left, from place
to place in succession, until they have completed the second year. In the
third year other wardens of the country shall be chosen and commanders of
the watch, five for each division, who are to be the superintendents of
the bands of twelve. While on service at each station, their attention
shall be directed to the following points:--In the first place, they shall
see that the country is well protected against enemies; they shall trench
and dig wherever this is required, and, as far as they can, they shall by
fortifications keep off the evil-disposed, in order to prevent them from
doing any harm to the country or the property; they shall use the beasts
of burden and the labourers whom they find on the spot: these will be
their instruments whom they will superintend, taking them, as far as
possible, at the times when they are not engaged in their regular
business. They shall make every part of the country inaccessible to
enemies, and as accessible as possible to friends (compare Arist. Pol.);
there shall be ways for man and beasts of burden and for cattle, and they
shall take care to have them always as smooth as they can; and shall
provide against the rains doing harm instead of good to the land, when
they come down from the mountains into the hollow dells; and shall keep in
the overflow by the help of works and ditches, in order that the valleys,
receiving and drinking up the rain from heaven, and providing fountains
and streams in the fields and regions which lie underneath, may furnish
even to the dry places plenty of good water. The fountains of water,
whether of rivers or of springs, shall be ornamented with plantations and
buildings for beauty; and let them bring together the streams in
subterraneous channels, and make all things plenteous; and if there be a
sacred grove or dedicated precinct in the neighbourhood, they shall
conduct the water to the actual temples of the Gods, and so beautify them
at all seasons of the year. Everywhere in such places the youth shall make
gymnasia for themselves, and warm baths for the aged, placing by them
abundance of dry wood, for the benefit of those labouring under disease--
there the weary frame of the rustic, worn with toil, will receive a kindly
welcome, far better than he would at the hands of a not over-wise doctor.

The building of these and the like works will be useful and ornamental;
they will provide a pleasing amusement, but they will be a serious
employment too; for the sixty wardens will have to guard their several
divisions, not only with a view to enemies, but also with an eye to
professing friends. When a quarrel arises among neighbours or citizens,
and any one whether slave or freeman wrongs another, let the five wardens
decide small matters on their own authority; but where the charge against
another relates to greater matters, the seventeen composed of the fives
and twelves, shall determine any charges which one man brings against
another, not involving more than three minae. Every judge and magistrate
shall be liable to give an account of his conduct in office, except those
who, like kings, have the final decision. Moreover, as regards the
aforesaid wardens of the country, if they do any wrong to those of whom
they have the care, whether by imposing upon them unequal tasks, or by
taking the produce of the soil or implements of husbandry without their
consent; also if they receive anything in the way of a bribe, or decide
suits unjustly, or if they yield to the influences of flattery, let them
be publicly dishonoured; and in regard to any other wrong which they do to
the inhabitants of the country, if the question be of a mina, let them
submit to the decision of the villagers in the neighbourhood; but in suits
of greater amount, or in case of lesser, if they refuse to submit,
trusting that their monthly removal into another part of the country will
enable them to escape--in such cases the injured party may bring his suit
in the common court, and if he obtain a verdict he may exact from the
defendant, who refused to submit, a double penalty.

The wardens and the overseers of the country, while on their two years'
service, shall have common meals at their several stations, and shall all
live together; and he who is absent from the common meal, or sleeps out,
if only for one day or night, unless by order of his commanders, or by
reason of absolute necessity, if the five denounce him and inscribe his
name in the agora as not having kept his guard, let him be deemed to have
betrayed the city, as far as lay in his power, and let him be disgraced
and beaten with impunity by any one who meets him and is willing to punish
him. If any of the commanders is guilty of such an irregularity, the whole
company of sixty shall see to it, and he who is cognisant of the offence,
and does not bring the offender to trial, shall be amenable to the same
laws as the younger offender himself, and shall pay a heavier fine, and be
incapable of ever commanding the young. The guardians of the law are to be
careful inspectors of these matters, and shall either prevent or punish
offenders. Every man should remember the universal rule, that he who is
not a good servant will not be a good master; a man should pride himself
more upon serving well than upon commanding well: first upon serving the
laws, which is also the service of the Gods; in the second place, upon
having served ancient and honourable men in the days of his youth.
Furthermore, during the two years in which any one is a warden of the
country, his daily food ought to be of a simple and humble kind. When the
twelve have been chosen, let them and the five meet together, and
determine that they will be their own servants, and, like servants, will
not have other slaves and servants for their own use, neither will they
use those of the villagers and husbandmen for their private advantage, but
for the public service only; and in general they should make up their
minds to live independently by themselves, servants of each other and of
themselves. Further, at all seasons of the year, summer and winter alike,
let them be under arms and survey minutely the whole country; thus they
will at once keep guard, and at the same time acquire a perfect knowledge
of every locality. There can be no more important kind of information than
the exact knowledge of a man's own country; and for this as well as for
more general reasons of pleasure and advantage, hunting with dogs and
other kinds of sports should be pursued by the young. The service to whom
this is committed may be called the secret police or wardens of the
country; the name does not much signify, but every one who has the safety
of the state at heart will use his utmost diligence in this service.

After the wardens of the country, we have to speak of the election of
wardens of the agora and of the city. The wardens of the country were
sixty in number, and the wardens of the city will be three, and will
divide the twelve parts of the city into three; like the former, they
shall have care of the ways, and of the different high roads which lead
out of the country into the city, and of the buildings, that they may be
all made according to law;--also of the waters, which the guardians of
the supply preserve and convey to them, care being taken that they may
reach the fountains pure and abundant, and be both an ornament and a
benefit to the city. These also should be men of influence, and at leisure
to take care of the public interest. Let every man propose as warden of
the city any one whom he likes out of the highest class, and when the vote
has been given on them, and the number is reduced to the six who have the
greatest number of votes, let the electing officers choose by lot three
out of the six, and when they have undergone a scrutiny let them hold
office according to the laws laid down for them. Next, let the wardens of
the agora be elected in like manner, out of the first and second class,
five in number: ten are to be first elected, and out of the ten five are
to be chosen by lot, as in the election of the wardens of the city:--these
when they have undergone a scrutiny are to be declared magistrates. Every
one shall vote for every one, and he who will not vote, if he be informed
against before the magistrates, shall be fined fifty drachmae, and shall
also be deemed a bad citizen. Let any one who likes go to the assembly and
to the general council; it shall be compulsory to go on citizens of the
first and second class, and they shall pay a fine of ten drachmae if they
be found not answering to their names at the assembly. But the third and
fourth class shall be under no compulsion, and shall be let off without a
fine, unless the magistrates have commanded all to be present, in
consequence of some urgent necessity. The wardens of the agora shall
observe the order appointed by law for the agora, and shall have the
charge of the temples and fountains which are in the agora; and they shall
see that no one injures anything, and punish him who does, with stripes
and bonds, if he be a slave or stranger; but if he be a citizen who
misbehaves in this way, they shall have the power themselves of inflicting
a fine upon him to the amount of a hundred drachmae, or with the consent
of the wardens of the city up to double that amount. And let the wardens
of the city have a similar power of imposing punishments and fines in
their own department; and let them impose fines by their own department;
and let them impose fines by their own authority, up to a mina, or up to
two minae with the consent of the wardens of the agora.

In the next place, it will be proper to appoint directors of music and
gymnastic, two kinds of each--of the one kind the business will be
education, of the other, the superintendence of contests. In speaking of
education, the law means to speak of those who have the care of order and
instruction in gymnasia and schools, and of the going to school, and of
school buildings for boys and girls; and in speaking of contests, the law
refers to the judges of gymnastics and of music; these again are divided
into two classes, the one having to do with music, the other with
gymnastics; and the same who judge of the gymnastic contests of men, shall
judge of horses; but in music there shall be one set of judges of solo
singing, and of imitation--I mean of rhapsodists, players on the harp, the
flute and the like, and another who shall judge of choral song. First of
all, we must choose directors for the choruses of boys, and men, and
maidens, whom they shall follow in the amusement of the dance, and for our
other musical arrangements;--one director will be enough for the
choruses, and he should be not less than forty years of age. One director
will also be enough to introduce the solo singers, and to give judgment on
the competitors, and he ought not to be less than thirty years of age. The
director and manager of the choruses shall be elected after the following
manner:--Let any persons who commonly take an interest in such matters go
to the meeting, and be fined if they do not go (the guardians of the law
shall judge of their fault), but those who have no interest shall not be
compelled. The elector shall propose as director some one who understands
music, and he in the scrutiny may be challenged on the one part by those
who say he has no skill, and defended on the other hand by those who say
that he has. Ten are to be elected by vote, and he of the ten who is
chosen by lot shall undergo a scrutiny, and lead the choruses for a year
according to law. And in like manner the competitor who wins the lot shall
be leader of the solo and concert music for that year; and he who is thus
elected shall deliver the award to the judges. In the next place, we have
to choose judges in the contests of horses and of men; these shall be
selected from the third and also from the second class of citizens, and
three first classes shall be compelled to go to the election, but the
lowest may stay away with impunity; and let there be three elected by lot
out of the twenty who have been chosen previously, and they must also have
the vote and approval of the examiners. But if any one is rejected in the
scrutiny at any ballot or decision, others shall be chosen in the same
manner, and undergo a similar scrutiny.

There remains the minister of the education of youth, male and female; he
too will rule according to law; one such minister will be sufficient, and
he must be fifty years old, and have children lawfully begotten, both boys
and girls by preference, at any rate, one or the other. He who is elected,
and he who is the elector, should consider that of all the great offices
of state this is the greatest; for the first shoot of any plant, if it
makes a good start towards the attainment of its natural excellence, has
the greatest effect on its maturity; and this is not only true of plants,
but of animals wild and tame, and also of men. Man, as we say, is a tame
or civilized animal; nevertheless, he requires proper instruction and a
fortunate nature, and then of all animals he becomes the most divine and
most civilized (Arist. Pol.); but if he be insufficiently or ill educated
he is the most savage of earthly creatures. Wherefore the legislator ought
not to allow the education of children to become a secondary or accidental
matter. In the first place, he who would be rightly provident about them,
should begin by taking care that he is elected, who of all the citizens is
in every way best; him the legislator shall do his utmost to appoint
guardian and superintendent. To this end all the magistrates, with the
exception of the council and prytanes, shall go to the temple of Apollo,
and elect by ballot him of the guardians of the law whom they severally
think will be the best superintendent of education. And he who has the
greatest number of votes, after he has undergone a scrutiny at the hands
of all the magistrates who have been his electors, with the exception of
the guardians of the law,--shall hold office for five years; and in the
sixth year let another be chosen in like manner to fill his office.

If any one dies while he is holding a public office, and more than thirty
days before his term of office expires, let those whose business it is
elect another to the office in the same manner as before. And if any one
who is entrusted with orphans dies, let the relations both on the father's
and mother's side, who are residing at home, including cousins, appoint
another guardian within ten days, or be fined a drachma a day for neglect
to do so.

A city which has no regular courts of law ceases to be a city; and again,
if a judge is silent and says no more in preliminary proceedings than the
litigants, as is the case in arbitrations, he will never be able to decide
justly; wherefore a multitude of judges will not easily judge well, nor a
few if they are bad. The point in dispute between the parties should be
made clear; and time, and deliberation, and repeated examination, greatly
tend to clear up doubts. For this reason, he who goes to law with another,
should go first of all to his neighbours and friends who know best the
questions at issue. And if he be unable to obtain from them a satisfactory
decision, let him have recourse to another court; and if the two courts
cannot settle the matter, let a third put an end to the suit.

Now the establishment of courts of justice may be regarded as a choice of
magistrates, for every magistrate must also be a judge of some things; and
the judge, though he be not a magistrate, yet in certain respects is a
very important magistrate on the day on which he is determining a suit.
Regarding then the judges also as magistrates, let us say who are fit to
be judges, and of what they are to be judges, and how many of them are to
judge in each suit. Let that be the supreme tribunal which the litigants
appoint in common for themselves, choosing certain persons by agreement.
And let there be two other tribunals: one for private causes, when a
citizen accuses another of wronging him and wishes to get a decision; the
other for public causes, in which some citizen is of opinion that the
public has been wronged by an individual, and is willing to vindicate the
common interests. And we must not forget to mention how the judges are to
be qualified, and who they are to be. In the first place, let there be a
tribunal open to all private persons who are trying causes one against
another for the third time, and let this be composed as follows:--All the
officers of state, as well annual as those holding office for a longer
period, when the new year is about to commence, in the month following
after the summer solstice, on the last day but one of the year, shall meet
in some temple, and calling God to witness, shall dedicate one judge from
every magistracy to be their first-fruits, choosing in each office him who
seems to them to be the best, and whom they deem likely to decide the

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