Part 8 out of 11
causes of his fellow-citizens during the ensuing year in the best and
holiest manner. And when the election is completed, a scrutiny shall be
held in the presence of the electors themselves, and if any one be
rejected another shall be chosen in the same manner. Those who have
undergone the scrutiny shall judge the causes of those who have declined
the inferior courts, and shall give their vote openly. The councillors and
other magistrates who have elected them shall be required to be hearers
and spectators of the causes; and any one else may be present who pleases.
If one man charges another with having intentionally decided wrong, let
him go to the guardians of the law and lay his accusation before them, and
he who is found guilty in such a case shall pay damages to the injured
party equal to half the injury; but if he shall appear to deserve a
greater penalty, the judges shall determine what additional punishment he
shall suffer, and how much more he ought to pay to the public treasury,
and to the party who brought the suit.
In the judgment of offences against the state, the people ought to
participate, for when any one wrongs the state all are wronged, and may
reasonably complain if they are not allowed to share in the decision. Such
causes ought to originate with the people, and the ought also to have the
final decision of them, but the trial of them shall take place before
three of the highest magistrates, upon whom the plaintiff and the
defendant shall agree; and if they are not able to come to an agreement
themselves, the council shall choose one of the two proposed. And in
private suits, too, as far as is possible, all should have a share; for he
who has no share in the administration of justice, is apt to imagine that
he has no share in the state at all. And for this reason there shall be a
court of law in every tribe, and the judges shall be chosen by lot;--they
shall give their decisions at once, and shall be inaccessible to
entreaties. The final judgment shall rest with that court which, as we
maintain, has been established in the most incorruptible form of which
human things admit: this shall be the court established for those who are
unable to get rid of their suits either in the courts of neighbours or of
Thus much of the courts of law, which, as I was saying, cannot be
precisely defined either as being or not being offices; a superficial
sketch has been given of them, in which some things have been told and
others omitted. For the right place of an exact statement of the laws
respecting suits, under their several heads, will be at the end of the
body of legislation;--let us then expect them at the end. Hitherto our
legislation has been chiefly occupied with the appointment of offices.
Perfect unity and exactness, extending to the whole and every particular
of political administration, cannot be attained to the full, until the
discussion shall have a beginning, middle, and end, and is complete in
every part. At present we have reached the election of magistrates, and
this may be regarded as a sufficient termination of what preceded. And now
there need no longer be any delay or hesitation in beginning the work of
CLEINIAS: I like what you have said, Stranger; and I particularly like
your manner of tacking on the beginning of your new discourse to the end
of the former one.
ATHENIAN: Thus far, then, the old men's rational pastime has gone off
CLEINIAS: You mean, I suppose, their serious and noble pursuit?
ATHENIAN: Perhaps; but I should like to know whether you and I are agreed
about a certain thing.
CLEINIAS: About what thing?
ATHENIAN: You know the endless labour which painters expend upon their
pictures--they are always putting in or taking out colours, or whatever be
the term which artists employ; they seem as if they would never cease
touching up their works, which are always being made brighter and more
CLEINIAS: I know something of these matters from report, although I have
never had any great acquaintance with the art.
ATHENIAN: No matter; we may make use of the illustration notwithstanding:
--Suppose that some one had a mind to paint a figure in the most beautiful
manner, in the hope that his work instead of losing would always improve
as time went on--do you not see that being a mortal, unless he leaves some
one to succeed him who will correct the flaws which time may introduce,
and be able to add what is left imperfect through the defect of the
artist, and who will further brighten up and improve the picture, all his
great labour will last but a short time?
ATHENIAN: And is not the aim of the legislator similar? First, he desires
that his laws should be written down with all possible exactness; in the
second place, as time goes on and he has made an actual trial of his
decrees, will he not find omissions? Do you imagine that there ever was a
legislator so foolish as not to know that many things are necessarily
omitted, which some one coming after him must correct, if the constitution
and the order of government is not to deteriorate, but to improve in the
state which he has established?
CLEINIAS: Assuredly, that is the sort of thing which every one would
ATHENIAN: And if any one possesses any means of accomplishing this by word
or deed, or has any way great or small by which he can teach a person to
understand how he can maintain and amend the laws, he should finish what
he has to say, and not leave the work incomplete.
CLEINIAS: By all means.
ATHENIAN: And is not this what you and I have to do at the present moment?
CLEINIAS: What have we to do?
ATHENIAN: As we are about to legislate and have chosen our guardians of
the law, and are ourselves in the evening of life, and they as compared
with us are young men, we ought not only to legislate for them, but to
endeavour to make them not only guardians of the law but legislators
themselves, as far as this is possible.
CLEINIAS: Certainly; if we can.
ATHENIAN: At any rate, we must do our best.
CLEINIAS: Of course.
ATHENIAN: We will say to them--O friends and saviours of our laws, in
laying down any law, there are many particulars which we shall omit, and
this cannot be helped; at the same time, we will do our utmost to describe
what is important, and will give an outline which you shall fill up. And I
will explain on what principle you are to act. Megillus and Cleinias and I
have often spoken to one another touching these matters, and we are of
opinion that we have spoken well. And we hope that you will be of the same
mind with us, and become our disciples, and keep in view the things which
in our united opinion the legislator and guardian of the law ought to keep
in view. There was one main point about which we were agreed--that a man's
whole energies throughout life should be devoted to the acquisition of the
virtue proper to a man, whether this was to be gained by study, or habit,
or some mode of acquisition, or desire, or opinion, or knowledge--and this
applies equally to men and women, old and young--the aim of all should
always be such as I have described; anything which may be an impediment,
the good man ought to show that he utterly disregards. And if at last
necessity plainly compels him to be an outlaw from his native land, rather
than bow his neck to the yoke of slavery and be ruled by inferiors, and he
has to fly, an exile he must be and endure all such trials, rather than
accept another form of government, which is likely to make men worse.
These are our original principles; and do you now, fixing your eyes upon
the standard of what a man and a citizen ought or ought not to be, praise
and blame the laws--blame those which have not this power of making the
citizen better, but embrace those which have; and with gladness receive
and live in them; bidding a long farewell to other institutions which aim
at goods, as they are termed, of a different kind.
Let us proceed to another class of laws, beginning with their foundation
in religion. And we must first return to the number 5040--the entire
number had, and has, a great many convenient divisions, and the number of
the tribes which was a twelfth part of the whole, being correctly formed
by 21 x 20 (5040/(21 x 20), i.e., 5040/420 = 12), also has them. And not
only is the whole number divisible by twelve, but also the number of each
tribe is divisible by twelve. Now every portion should be regarded by us
as a sacred gift of Heaven, corresponding to the months and to the
revolution of the universe (compare Tim.). Every city has a guiding and
sacred principle given by nature, but in some the division or distribution
has been more right than in others, and has been more sacred and
fortunate. In our opinion, nothing can be more right than the selection of
the number 5040, which may be divided by all numbers from one to twelve
with the single exception of eleven, and that admits of a very easy
correction; for if, turning to the dividend (5040), we deduct two
families, the defect in the division is cured. And the truth of this may
be easily proved when we have leisure. But for the present, trusting to
the mere assertion of this principle, let us divide the state; and
assigning to each portion some God or son of a God, let us give them
altars and sacred rites, and at the altars let us hold assemblies for
sacrifice twice in the month--twelve assemblies for the tribes, and twelve
for the city, according to their divisions; the first in honour of the
Gods and divine things, and the second to promote friendship and 'better
acquaintance,' as the phrase is, and every sort of good fellowship with
one another. For people must be acquainted with those into whose families
and whom they marry and with those to whom they give in marriage; in such
matters, as far as possible, a man should deem it all important to avoid a
mistake, and with this serious purpose let games be instituted (compare
Republic) in which youths and maidens shall dance together, seeing one
another and being seen naked, at a proper age, and on a suitable occasion,
not transgressing the rules of modesty.
The directors of choruses will be the superintendents and regulators of
these games, and they, together with the guardians of the law, will
legislate in any matters which we have omitted; for, as we said, where
there are numerous and minute details, the legislator must leave out
something. And the annual officers who have experience, and know what is
wanted, must make arrangements and improvements year by year, until such
enactments and provisions are sufficiently determined. A ten years'
experience of sacrifices and dances, if extending to all particulars, will
be quite sufficient; and if the legislator be alive they shall communicate
with him, but if he be dead then the several officers shall refer the
omissions which come under their notice to the guardians of the law, and
correct them, until all is perfect; and from that time there shall be no
more change, and they shall establish and use the new laws with the others
which the legislator originally gave them, and of which they are never, if
they can help, to change aught; or, if some necessity overtakes them, the
magistrates must be called into counsel, and the whole people, and they
must go to all the oracles of the Gods; and if they are all agreed, in
that case they may make the change, but if they are not agreed, by no
manner of means, and any one who dissents shall prevail, as the law
Whenever any one over twenty-five years of age, having seen and been seen
by others, believes himself to have found a marriage connexion which is to
his mind, and suitable for the procreation of children, let him marry if
he be still under the age of five-and-thirty years; but let him first hear
how he ought to seek after what is suitable and appropriate (compare
Arist. Pol.). For, as Cleinias says, every law should have a suitable
CLEINIAS: You recollect at the right moment, Stranger, and do not miss the
opportunity which the argument affords of saying a word in season.
ATHENIAN: I thank you. We will say to him who is born of good parents--O
my son, you ought to make such a marriage as wise men would approve. Now
they would advise you neither to avoid a poor marriage, nor specially to
desire a rich one; but if other things are equal, always to honour
inferiors, and with them to form connexions;--this will be for the
benefit of the city and of the families which are united; for the equable
and symmetrical tends infinitely more to virtue than the unmixed. And he
who is conscious of being too headstrong, and carried away more than is
fitting in all his actions, ought to desire to become the relation of
orderly parents; and he who is of the opposite temper ought to seek the
opposite alliance. Let there be one word concerning all marriages:--Every
man shall follow, not after the marriage which is most pleasing to
himself, but after that which is most beneficial to the state. For somehow
every one is by nature prone to that which is likest to himself, and in
this way the whole city becomes unequal in property and in disposition;
and hence there arise in most states the very results which we least
desire to happen. Now, to add to the law an express provision, not only
that the rich man shall not marry into the rich family, nor the powerful
into the family of the powerful, but that the slower natures shall be
compelled to enter into marriage with the quicker, and the quicker with
the slower, may awaken anger as well as laughter in the minds of many; for
there is a difficulty in perceiving that the city ought to be well mingled
like a cup, in which the maddening wine is hot and fiery, but when
chastened by a soberer God, receives a fair associate and becomes an
excellent and temperate drink (compare Statesman). Yet in marriage no one
is able to see that the same result occurs. Wherefore also the law must
let alone such matters, but we should try to charm the spirits of men into
believing the equability of their children's disposition to be of more
importance than equality in excessive fortune when they marry; and him who
is too desirous of making a rich marriage we should endeavour to turn
aside by reproaches, not, however, by any compulsion of written law.
Let this then be our exhortation concerning marriage, and let us remember
what was said before--that a man should cling to immortality, and leave
behind him children's children to be the servants of God in his place for
ever. All this and much more may be truly said by way of prelude about the
duty of marriage. But if a man will not listen, and remains unsocial and
alien among his fellow-citizens, and is still unmarried at thirty-five
years of age, let him pay a yearly fine;--he who of the highest class
shall pay a fine of a hundred drachmae, and he who is of the second class
a fine of seventy drachmae; the third class shall pay sixty drachmae, and
the fourth thirty drachmae, and let the money be sacred to Here; he who
does not pay the fine annually shall owe ten times the sum, which the
treasurer of the goddess shall exact; and if he fails in doing so, let him
be answerable and give an account of the money at his audit. He who
refuses to marry shall be thus punished in money, and also be deprived of
all honour which the younger show to the elder; let no young man
voluntarily obey him, and, if he attempt to punish any one, let every one
come to the rescue and defend the injured person, and he who is present
and does not come to the rescue, shall be pronounced by the law to be a
coward and a bad citizen. Of the marriage portion I have already spoken;
and again I say for the instruction of poor men that he who neither gives
nor receives a dowry on account of poverty, has a compensation; for the
citizens of our state are provided with the necessaries of life, and wives
will be less likely to be insolent, and husbands to be mean and
subservient to them on account of property. And he who obeys this law will
do a noble action; but he who will not obey, and gives or receives more
than fifty drachmae as the price of the marriage garments if he be of the
lowest, or more than a mina, or a mina-and-a-half, if he be of the third
or second classes, or two minae if he be of the highest class, shall owe
to the public treasury a similar sum, and that which is given or received
shall be sacred to Here and Zeus; and let the treasurers of these Gods
exact the money, as was said before about the unmarried--that the
treasurers of Here were to exact the money, or pay the fine themselves.
The betrothal by a father shall be valid in the first degree, that by a
grandfather in the second degree, and in the third degree, betrothal by
brothers who have the same father; but if there are none of these alive,
the betrothal by a mother shall be valid in like manner; in cases of
unexampled fatality, the next of kin and the guardians shall have
authority. What are to be the rites before marriages, or any other sacred
acts, relating either to future, present, or past marriages, shall be
referred to the interpreters; and he who follows their advice may be
satisfied. Touching the marriage festival, they shall assemble not more
than five male and five female friends of both families; and a like number
of members of the family of either sex, and no man shall spend more than
his means will allow; he who is of the richest class may spend a mina,--he
who is of the second, half a mina, and in the same proportion as the
census of each decreases: all men shall praise him who is obedient to the
law; but he who is disobedient shall be punished by the guardians of the
law as a man wanting in true taste, and uninstructed in the laws of bridal
song. Drunkenness is always improper, except at the festivals of the God
who gave wine; and peculiarly dangerous, when a man is engaged in the
business of marriage; at such a crisis of their lives a bride and
bridegroom ought to have all their wits about them--they ought to take
care that their offspring may be born of reasonable beings; for on what
day or night Heaven will give them increase, who can say? Moreover, they
ought not to begetting children when their bodies are dissipated by
intoxication, but their offspring should be compact and solid, quiet and
compounded properly; whereas the drunkard is all abroad in all his
actions, and beside himself both in body and soul. Wherefore, also, the
drunken man is bad and unsteady in sowing the seed of increase, and is
likely to beget offspring who will be unstable and untrustworthy, and
cannot be expected to walk straight either in body or mind. Hence during
the whole year and all his life long, and especially while he is begetting
children, he ought to take care and not intentionally do what is injurious
to health, or what involves insolence and wrong; for he cannot help
leaving the impression of himself on the souls and bodies of his
offspring, and he begets children in every way inferior. And especially on
the day and night of marriage should a man abstain from such things. For
the beginning, which is also a God dwelling in man, preserves all things,
if it meet with proper respect from each individual. He who marries is
further to consider, that one of the two houses in the lot is the nest and
nursery of his young, and there he is to marry and make a home for himself
and bring up his children, going away from his father and mother. For in
friendships there must be some degree of desire, in order to cement and
bind together diversities of character; but excessive intercourse not
having the desire which is created by time, insensibly dissolves
friendships from a feeling of satiety; wherefore a man and his wife shall
leave to his and her father and mother their own dwelling-places, and
themselves go as to a colony and dwell there, and visit and be visited by
their parents; and they shall beget and bring up children, handing on the
torch of life from one generation to another, and worshipping the Gods
according to law for ever.
In the next place, we have to consider what sort of property will be most
convenient. There is no difficulty either in understanding or acquiring
most kinds of property, but there is great difficulty in what relates to
slaves. And the reason is, that we speak about them in a way which is
right and which is not right; for what we say about our slaves is
consistent and also inconsistent with our practice about them.
MEGILLUS: I do not understand, Stranger, what you mean.
ATHENIAN: I am not surprised, Megillus, for the state of the Helots among
the Lacedaemonians is of all Hellenic forms of slavery the most
controverted and disputed about, some approving and some condemning it;
there is less dispute about the slavery which exists among the Heracleots,
who have subjugated the Mariandynians, and about the Thessalian Penestae.
Looking at these and the like examples, what ought we to do concerning
property in slaves? I made a remark, in passing, which naturally elicited
a question about my meaning from you. It was this:--We know that all would
agree that we should have the best and most attached slaves whom we can
get. For many a man has found his slaves better in every way than brethren
or sons, and many times they have saved the lives and property of their
masters and their whole house--such tales are well known.
MEGILLUS: To be sure.
ATHENIAN: But may we not also say that the soul of the slave is utterly
corrupt, and that no man of sense ought to trust them? And the wisest of
our poets, speaking of Zeus, says:
'Far-seeing Zeus takes away half the understanding of men whom the day of
Different persons have got these two different notions of slaves in their
minds--some of them utterly distrust their servants, and, as if they were
wild beasts, chastise them with goads and whips, and make their souls
three times, or rather many times, as slavish as they were before;--and
others do just the opposite.
CLEINIAS: Then what are we to do in our own country, Stranger, seeing that
there are such differences in the treatment of slaves by their owners?
ATHENIAN: Well, Cleinias, there can be no doubt that man is a troublesome
animal, and therefore he is not very manageable, nor likely to become so,
when you attempt to introduce the necessary division of slave, and
freeman, and master.
CLEINIAS: That is obvious.
ATHENIAN: He is a troublesome piece of goods, as has been often shown by
the frequent revolts of the Messenians, and the great mischiefs which
happen in states having many slaves who speak the same language, and the
numerous robberies and lawless life of the Italian banditti, as they are
called. A man who considers all this is fairly at a loss. Two remedies
alone remain to us,--not to have the slaves of the same country, nor if
possible, speaking the same language (compare Aris. Pol.); in this way
they will more easily be held in subjection: secondly, we should tend them
carefully, not only out of regard to them, but yet more out of respect to
ourselves. And the right treatment of slaves is to behave properly to
them, and to do to them, if possible, even more justice than to those who
are our equals; for he who naturally and genuinely reverences justice, and
hates injustice, is discovered in his dealings with any class of men to
whom he can easily be unjust. And he who in regard to the natures and
actions of his slaves is undefiled by impiety and injustice, will best sow
the seeds of virtue in them; and this may be truly said of every master,
and tyrant, and of every other having authority in relation to his
inferiors. Slaves ought to be punished as they deserve, and not admonished
as if they were freemen, which will only make them conceited. The language
used to a servant ought always to be that of a command (compare Arist.
Pol.), and we ought not to jest with them, whether they are males or
females--this is a foolish way which many people have of setting up their
slaves, and making the life of servitude more disagreeable both for them
and for their masters.
ATHENIAN: Now that each of the citizens is provided, as far as possible,
with a sufficient number of suitable slaves who can help him in what he
has to do, we may next proceed to describe their dwellings.
CLEINIAS: Very good.
ATHENIAN: The city being new and hitherto uninhabited, care ought to be
taken of all the buildings, and the manner of building each of them, and
also of the temples and walls. These, Cleinias, were matters which
properly came before the marriages;--but, as we are only talking, there
is no objection to changing the order. If, however, our plan of
legislation is ever to take effect, then the house shall precede the
marriage if God so will, and afterwards we will come to the regulations
about marriage; but at present we are only describing these matters in a
CLEINIAS: Quite true.
ATHENIAN: The temples are to be placed all round the agora, and the whole
city built on the heights in a circle (compare Arist. Pol.), for the sake
of defence and for the sake of purity. Near the temples are to be placed
buildings for the magistrates and the courts of law; in these plaintiff
and defendant will receive their due, and the places will be regarded as
most holy, partly because they have to do with holy things: and partly
because they are the dwelling-places of holy Gods: and in them will be
held the courts in which cases of homicide and other trials of capital
offences may fitly take place. As to the walls, Megillus, I agree with
Sparta in thinking that they should be allowed to sleep in the earth, and
that we should not attempt to disinter them (compare Arist. Pol.); there
is a poetical saying, which is finely expressed, that 'walls ought to be
of steel and iron, and not of earth;' besides, how ridiculous of us to be
sending out our young men annually into the country to dig and to trench,
and to keep off the enemy by fortifications, under the idea that they are
not to be allowed to set foot in our territory, and then, that we should
surround ourselves with a wall, which, in the first place, is by no means
conducive to the health of cities, and is also apt to produce a certain
effeminacy in the minds of the inhabitants, inviting men to run thither
instead of repelling their enemies, and leading them to imagine that their
safety is due not to their keeping guard day and night, but that when they
are protected by walls and gates, then they may sleep in safety; as if
they were not meant to labour, and did not know that true repose comes
from labour, and that disgraceful indolence and a careless temper of mind
is only the renewal of trouble. But if men must have walls, the private
houses ought to be so arranged from the first that the whole city may be
one wall, having all the houses capable of defence by reason of their
uniformity and equality towards the streets (compare Arist. Pol.). The
form of the city being that of a single dwelling will have an agreeable
aspect, and being easily guarded will be infinitely better for security.
Until the original building is completed, these should be the principal
objects of the inhabitants; and the wardens of the city should superintend
the work, and should impose a fine on him who is negligent; and in all
that relates to the city they should have a care of cleanliness, and not
allow a private person to encroach upon any public property either by
buildings or excavations. Further, they ought to take care that the rains
from heaven flow off easily, and of any other matters which may have to be
administered either within or without the city. The guardians of the law
shall pass any further enactments which their experience may show to be
necessary, and supply any other points in which the law may be deficient.
And now that these matters, and the buildings about the agora, and the
gymnasia, and places of instruction, and theatres, are all ready and
waiting for scholars and spectators, let us proceed to the subjects which
follow marriage in the order of legislation.
CLEINIAS: By all means.
ATHENIAN: Assuming that marriages exist already, Cleinias, the mode of
life during the year after marriage, before children are born, will follow
next in order. In what way bride and bridegroom ought to live in a city
which is to be superior to other cities, is a matter not at all easy for
us to determine. There have been many difficulties already, but this will
be the greatest of them, and the most disagreeable to the many. Still I
cannot but say what appears to me to be right and true, Cleinias.
ATHENIAN: He who imagines that he can give laws for the public conduct of
states, while he leaves the private life of citizens wholly to take care
of itself; who thinks that individuals may pass the day as they please,
and that there is no necessity of order in all things; he, I say, who
gives up the control of their private lives, and supposes that they will
conform to law in their common and public life, is making a great mistake.
Why have I made this remark? Why, because I am going to enact that the
bridegrooms should live at the common tables, just as they did before
marriage. This was a singularity when first enacted by the legislator in
your parts of the world, Megillus and Cleinias, as I should suppose, on
the occasion of some war or other similar danger, which caused the passing
of the law, and which would be likely to occur in thinly-peopled places,
and in times of pressure. But when men had once tried and been accustomed
to a common table, experience showed that the institution greatly conduced
to security; and in some such manner the custom of having common tables
arose among you.
CLEINIAS: Likely enough.
ATHENIAN: I said that there may have been singularity and danger in
imposing such a custom at first, but that now there is not the same
difficulty. There is, however, another institution which is the natural
sequel to this, and would be excellent, if it existed anywhere, but at
present it does not. The institution of which I am about to speak is not
easily described or executed; and would be like the legislator 'combing
wool into the fire,' as people say, or performing any other impossible and
CLEINIAS: What is the cause, Stranger, of this extreme hesitation?
ATHENIAN: You shall hear without any fruitless loss of time. That which
has law and order in a state is the cause of every good, but that which is
disordered or ill-ordered is often the ruin of that which is well-ordered;
and at this point the argument is now waiting. For with you, Cleinias and
Megillus, the common tables of men are, as I said, a heaven-born and
admirable institution, but you are mistaken in leaving the women
unregulated by law. They have no similar institution of public tables in
the light of day, and just that part of the human race which is by nature
prone to secrecy and stealth on account of their weakness--I mean the
female sex--has been left without regulation by the legislator, which is a
great mistake. And, in consequence of this neglect, many things have grown
lax among you, which might have been far better, if they had been only
regulated by law; for the neglect of regulations about women may not only
be regarded as a neglect of half the entire matter (Arist. Pol.), but in
proportion as woman's nature is inferior to that of men in capacity for
virtue, in that degree the consequence of such neglect is more than twice
as important. The careful consideration of this matter, and the arranging
and ordering on a common principle of all our institutions relating both
to men and women, greatly conduces to the happiness of the state. But at
present, such is the unfortunate condition of mankind, that no man of
sense will even venture to speak of common tables in places and cities in
which they have never been established at all; and how can any one avoid
being utterly ridiculous, who attempts to compel women to show in public
how much they eat and drink? There is nothing at which the sex is more
likely to take offence. For women are accustomed to creep into dark
places, and when dragged out into the light they will exert their utmost
powers of resistance, and be far too much for the legislator. And
therefore, as I said before, in most places they will not endure to have
the truth spoken without raising a tremendous outcry, but in this state
perhaps they may. And if we may assume that our whole discussion about the
state has not been mere idle talk, I should like to prove to you, if you
will consent to listen, that this institution is good and proper; but if
you had rather not, I will refrain.
CLEINIAS: There is nothing which we should both of us like better,
Stranger, than to hear what you have to say.
ATHENIAN: Very good; and you must not be surprised if I go back a little,
for we have plenty of leisure, and there is nothing to prevent us from
considering in every point of view the subject of law.
ATHENIAN: Then let us return once more to what we were saying at first.
Every man should understand that the human race either had no beginning at
all, and will never have an end, but always will be and has been; or that
it began an immense while ago.
ATHENIAN: Well, and have there not been constitutions and destructions of
states, and all sorts of pursuits both orderly and disorderly, and diverse
desires of meats and drinks always, and in all the world, and all sorts of
changes of the seasons in which animals may be expected to have undergone
innumerable transformations of themselves?
CLEINIAS: No doubt.
ATHENIAN: And may we not suppose that vines appeared, which had previously
no existence, and also olives, and the gifts of Demeter and her daughter,
of which one Triptolemus was the minister, and that, before these existed,
animals took to devouring each other as they do still?
ATHENIAN: Again, the practice of men sacrificing one another still exists
among many nations; while, on the other hand, we hear of other human
beings who did not even venture to taste the flesh of a cow and had no
animal sacrifices, but only cakes and fruits dipped in honey, and similar
pure offerings, but no flesh of animals; from these they abstained under
the idea that they ought not to eat them, and might not stain the altars
of the Gods with blood. For in those days men are said to have lived a
sort of Orphic life, having the use of all lifeless things, but abstaining
from all living things.
CLEINIAS: Such has been the constant tradition, and is very likely true.
ATHENIAN: Some one might say to us, What is the drift of all this?
CLEINIAS: A very pertinent question, Stranger.
ATHENIAN: And therefore I will endeavour, Cleinias, if I can, to draw the
ATHENIAN: I see that among men all things depend upon three wants and
desires, of which the end is virtue, if they are rightly led by them, or
the opposite if wrongly. Now these are eating and drinking, which begin at
birth--every animal has a natural desire for them, and is violently
excited, and rebels against him who says that he must not satisfy all his
pleasures and appetites, and get rid of all the corresponding pains--and
the third and greatest and sharpest want and desire breaks out last, and
is the fire of sexual lust, which kindles in men every species of
wantonness and madness. And these three disorders we must endeavour to
master by the three great principles of fear and law and right reason;
turning them away from that which is called pleasantest to the best, using
the Muses and the Gods who preside over contests to extinguish their
increase and influx.
But to return:--After marriage let us speak of the birth of children, and
after their birth of their nurture and education. In the course of
discussion the several laws will be perfected, and we shall at last arrive
at the common tables. Whether such associations are to be confined to men,
or extended to women also, we shall see better when we approach and take a
nearer view of them; and we may then determine what previous institutions
are required and will have to precede them. As I said before, we shall see
them more in detail, and shall be better able to lay down the laws which
are proper or suited to them.
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: Let us keep in mind the words which have now been spoken; for
hereafter there may be need of them.
CLEINIAS: What do you bid us keep in mind?
ATHENIAN: That which we comprehended under the three words--first, eating,
secondly, drinking, thirdly, the excitement of love.
CLEINIAS: We shall be sure to remember, Stranger.
ATHENIAN: Very good. Then let us now proceed to marriage, and teach
persons in what way they shall beget children, threatening them, if they
disobey, with the terrors of the law.
CLEINIAS: What do you mean?
ATHENIAN: The bride and bridegroom should consider that they are to
produce for the state the best and fairest specimens of children which
they can. Now all men who are associated in any action always succeed when
they attend and give their mind to what they are doing, but when they do
not give their mind or have no mind, they fail; wherefore let the
bridegroom give his mind to the bride and to the begetting of children,
and the bride in like manner give her mind to the bridegroom, and
particularly at the time when their children are not yet born. And let the
women whom we have chosen be the overseers of such matters, and let them
in whatever number, large or small, and at whatever time the magistrates
may command, assemble every day in the temple of Eileithyia during a third
part of the day, and being there assembled, let them inform one another of
any one whom they see, whether man or woman, of those who are begetting
children, disregarding the ordinances given at the time when the nuptial
sacrifices and ceremonies were performed. Let the begetting of children
and the supervision of those who are begetting them continue ten years and
no longer, during the time when marriage is fruitful. But if any continue
without children up to this time, let them take counsel with their kindred
and with the women holding the office of overseer and be divorced for
their mutual benefit. If, however, any dispute arises about what is proper
and for the interest of either party, they shall choose ten of the
guardians of the law and abide by their permission and appointment. The
women who preside over these matters shall enter into the houses of the
young, and partly by admonitions and partly by threats make them give over
their folly and error: if they persist, let the women go and tell the
guardians of the law, and the guardians shall prevent them. But if they
too cannot prevent them, they shall bring the matter before the people;
and let them write up their names and make oath that they cannot reform
such and such an one; and let him who is thus written up, if he cannot in
a court of law convict those who have inscribed his name, be deprived of
the privileges of a citizen in the following respects:--let him not go to
weddings nor to the thanksgivings after the birth of children; and if he
go, let any one who pleases strike him with impunity; and let the same
regulations hold about women: let not a woman be allowed to appear abroad,
or receive honour, or go to nuptial and birthday festivals, if she in like
manner be written up as acting disorderly and cannot obtain a verdict. And
if, when they themselves have done begetting children according to the
law, a man or woman have connexion with another man or woman who are still
begetting children, let the same penalties be inflicted upon them as upon
those who are still having a family; and when the time for procreation has
passed let the man or woman who refrains in such matters be held in
esteem, and let those who do not refrain be held in the contrary of
esteem--that is to say, disesteem. Now, if the greater part of mankind
behave modestly, the enactments of law may be left to slumber; but, if
they are disorderly, the enactments having been passed, let them be
carried into execution. To every man the first year is the beginning of
life, and the time of birth ought to be written down in the temples of
their fathers as the beginning of existence to every child, whether boy or
girl. Let every phratria have inscribed on a whited wall the names of the
successive archons by whom the years are reckoned. And near to them let
the living members of the phratria be inscribed, and when they depart life
let them be erased. The limit of marriageable ages for a woman shall be
from sixteen to twenty years at the longest,--for a man, from thirty to
thirty-five years; and let a woman hold office at forty, and a man at
thirty years. Let a man go out to war from twenty to sixty years, and for
a woman, if there appear any need to make use of her in military service,
let the time of service be after she shall have brought forth children up
to fifty years of age; and let regard be had to what is possible and
suitable to each.
And now, assuming children of both sexes to have been born, it will be
proper for us to consider, in the next place, their nurture and education;
this cannot be left altogether unnoticed, and yet may be thought a subject
fitted rather for precept and admonition than for law. In private life
there are many little things, not always apparent, arising out of the
pleasures and pains and desires of individuals, which run counter to the
intention of the legislator, and make the characters of the citizens
various and dissimilar:--this is an evil in states; for by reason of their
smallness and frequent occurrence, there would be an unseemliness and want
of propriety in making them penal by law; and if made penal, they are the
destruction of the written law because mankind get the habit of frequently
transgressing the law in small matters. The result is that you cannot
legislate about them, and still less can you be silent. I speak somewhat
darkly, but I shall endeavour also to bring my wares into the light of
day, for I acknowledge that at present there is a want of clearness in
what I am saying.
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN. Am I not right in maintaining that a good education is that
which tends most to the improvement of mind and body?
ATHENIAN: And nothing can be plainer than that the fairest bodies are
those which grow up from infancy in the best and straightest manner?
ATHENIAN: And do we not further observe that the first shoot of every
living thing is by far the greatest and fullest? Many will even contend
that a man at twenty-five does not reach twice the height which he
attained at five.
ATHENIAN: Well, and is not rapid growth without proper and abundant
exercise the source endless evils in the body?
ATHENIAN: And the body should have the most exercise when it receives most
CLEINIAS: But, Stranger, are we to impose this great amount of exercise
upon newly-born infants?
ATHENIAN: Nay, rather on the bodies of infants still unborn.
CLEINIAS: What do you mean, my good sir? In the process of gestation?
ATHENIAN: Exactly. I am not at all surprised that you have never heard of
this very peculiar sort of gymnastic applied to such little creatures,
which, although strange, I will endeavour to explain to you.
CLEINIAS: By all means.
ATHENIAN: The practice is more easy for us to understand than for you, by
reason of certain amusements which are carried to excess by us at Athens.
Not only boys, but often older persons, are in the habit of keeping quails
and cocks (compare Republic), which they train to fight one another. And
they are far from thinking that the contests in which they stir them up to
fight with one another are sufficient exercise; for, in addition to this,
they carry them about tucked beneath their armpits, holding the smaller
birds in their hands, the larger under their arms, and go for a walk of a
great many miles for the sake of health, that is to say, not their own
health, but the health of the birds; whereby they prove to any intelligent
person, that all bodies are benefited by shakings and movements, when they
are moved without weariness, whether the motion proceeds from themselves,
or is caused by a swing, or at sea, or on horseback, or by other bodies in
whatever way moving, and that thus gaining the mastery over food and
drink, they are able to impart beauty and health and strength. But
admitting all this, what follows? Shall we make a ridiculous law that the
pregnant woman shall walk about and fashion the embryo within as we
fashion wax before it hardens, and after birth swathe the infant for two
years? Suppose that we compel nurses, under penalty of a legal fine, to be
always carrying the children somewhere or other, either to the temples, or
into the country, or to their relations' houses, until they are well able
to stand, and to take care that their limbs are not distorted by leaning
on them when they are too young (compare Arist. Pol.),--they should
continue to carry them until the infant has completed its third year; the
nurses should be strong, and there should be more than one of them. Shall
these be our rules, and shall we impose a penalty for the neglect of them?
No, no; the penalty of which we were speaking will fall upon our own heads
more than enough.
CLEINIAS: What penalty?
ATHENIAN: Ridicule, and the difficulty of getting the feminine and
servant-like dispositions of the nurses to comply.
CLEINIAS: Then why was there any need to speak of the matter at all?
ATHENIAN: The reason is, that masters and freemen in states, when they
hear of it, are very likely to arrive at a true conviction that without
due regulation of private life in cities, stability in the laying down of
laws is hardly to be expected (compare Republic); and he who makes this
reflection may himself adopt the laws just now mentioned, and, adopting
them, may order his house and state well and be happy.
CLEINIAS: Likely enough.
ATHENIAN: And therefore let us proceed with our legislation until we have
determined the exercises which are suited to the souls of young children,
in the same manner in which we have begun to go through the rules relating
to their bodies.
CLEINIAS: By all means.
ATHENIAN: Let us assume, then, as a first principle in relation both to
the body and soul of very young creatures, that nursing and moving about
by day and night is good for them all, and that the younger they are, the
more they will need it (compare Arist. Pol.); infants should live, if that
were possible, as if they were always rocking at sea. This is the lesson
which we may gather from the experience of nurses, and likewise from the
use of the remedy of motion in the rites of the Corybantes; for when
mothers want their restless children to go to sleep they do not employ
rest, but, on the contrary, motion--rocking them in their arms; nor do
they give them silence, but they sing to them and lap them in sweet
strains; and the Bacchic women are cured of their frenzy in the same
manner by the use of the dance and of music.
CLEINIAS: Well, Stranger, and what is the reason of this?
ATHENIAN: The reason is obvious.
ATHENIAN: The affection both of the Bacchantes and of the children is an
emotion of fear, which springs out of an evil habit of the soul. And when
some one applies external agitation to affections of this sort, the motion
coming from without gets the better of the terrible and violent internal
one, and produces a peace and calm in the soul, and quiets the restless
palpitation of the heart, which is a thing much to be desired, sending the
children to sleep, and making the Bacchantes, although they remain awake,
to dance to the pipe with the help of the Gods to whom they offer
acceptable sacrifices, and producing in them a sound mind, which takes the
place of their frenzy. And, to express what I mean in a word, there is a
good deal to be said in favour of this treatment.
ATHENIAN: But if fear has such a power we ought to infer from these facts,
that every soul which from youth upward has been familiar with fears, will
be made more liable to fear (compare Republic), and every one will allow
that this is the way to form a habit of cowardice and not of courage.
CLEINIAS: No doubt.
ATHENIAN: And, on the other hand, the habit of overcoming, from our youth
upwards, the fears and terrors which beset us, may be said to be an
exercise of courage.
ATHENIAN: And we may say that the use of exercise and motion in the
earliest years of life greatly contributes to create a part of virtue in
CLEINIAS: Quite true.
ATHENIAN: Further, a cheerful temper, or the reverse, may be regarded as
having much to do with high spirit on the one hand, or with cowardice on
CLEINIAS: To be sure.
ATHENIAN: Then now we must endeavour to show how and to what extent we
may, if we please, without difficulty implant either character in the
ATHENIAN: There is a common opinion, that luxury makes the disposition of
youth discontented and irascible and vehemently excited by trifles; that
on the other hand excessive and savage servitude makes men mean and
abject, and haters of their kind, and therefore makes them undesirable
CLEINIAS: But how must the state educate those who do not as yet
understand the language of the country, and are therefore incapable of
appreciating any sort of instruction?
ATHENIAN: I will tell you how:--Every animal that is born is wont to utter
some cry, and this is especially the case with man, and he is also
affected with the inclination to weep more than any other animal.
CLEINIAS: Quite true.
ATHENIAN: Do not nurses, when they want to know what an infant desires,
judge by these signs?--when anything is brought to the infant and he is
silent, then he is supposed to be pleased, but, when he weeps and cries
out, then he is not pleased. For tears and cries are the inauspicious
signs by which children show what they love and hate. Now the time which
is thus spent is no less than three years, and is a very considerable
portion of life to be passed ill or well.
ATHENIAN: Does not the discontented and ungracious nature appear to you to
be full of lamentations and sorrows more than a good man ought to be?
ATHENIAN: Well, but if during these three years every possible care were
taken that our nursling should have as little of sorrow and fear, and in
general of pain as was possible, might we not expect in early childhood to
make his soul more gentle and cheerful? (Compare Arist. Pol.)
CLEINIAS: To be sure, Stranger--more especially if we could procure him a
variety of pleasures.
ATHENIAN: There I can no longer agree, Cleinias: you amaze me. To bring
him up in such a way would be his utter ruin; for the beginning is always
the most critical part of education. Let us see whether I am right.
ATHENIAN: The point about which you and I differ is of great importance,
and I hope that you, Megillus, will help to decide between us. For I
maintain that the true life should neither seek for pleasures, nor, on the
other hand, entirely avoid pains, but should embrace the middle state
(compare Republic), which I just spoke of as gentle and benign, and is a
state which we by some divine presage and inspiration rightly ascribe to
God. Now, I say, he among men, too, who would be divine ought to pursue
after this mean habit--he should not rush headlong into pleasures, for he
will not be free from pains; nor should we allow any one, young or old,
male or female, to be thus given any more than ourselves, and least of all
the newly-born infant, for in infancy more than at any other time the
character is engrained by habit. Nay, more, if I were not afraid of
appearing to be ridiculous, I would say that a woman during her year of
pregnancy should of all women be most carefully tended, and kept from
violent or excessive pleasures and pains, and should at that time
cultivate gentleness and benevolence and kindness.
CLEINIAS: You need not ask Megillus, Stranger, which of us has most truly
spoken; for I myself agree that all men ought to avoid the life of
unmingled pain or pleasure, and pursue always a middle course. And having
spoken well, may I add that you have been well answered?
ATHENIAN: Very good, Cleinias; and now let us all three consider a further
CLEINIAS: What is it?
ATHENIAN: That all the matters which we are now describing are commonly
called by the general name of unwritten customs, and what are termed the
laws of our ancestors are all of similar nature. And the reflection which
lately arose in our minds, that we can neither call these things laws, nor
yet leave them unmentioned, is justified; for they are the bonds of the
whole state, and come in between the written laws which are or are
hereafter to be laid down; they are just ancestral customs of great
antiquity, which, if they are rightly ordered and made habitual, shield
and preserve the previously existing written law; but if they depart from
right and fall into disorder, then they are like the props of builders
which slip away out of their place and cause a universal ruin--one part
drags another down, and the fair super-structure falls because the old
foundations are undermined. Reflecting upon this, Cleinias, you ought to
bind together the new state in every possible way, omitting nothing,
whether great or small, of what are called laws or manners or pursuits,
for by these means a city is bound together, and all these things are only
lasting when they depend upon one another; and, therefore, we must not
wonder if we find that many apparently trifling customs or usages come
pouring in and lengthening out our laws.
CLEINIAS: Very true: we are disposed to agree with you.
ATHENIAN: Up to the age of three years, whether of boy or girl, if a
person strictly carries out our previous regulations and makes them a
principal aim, he will do much for the advantage of the young creatures.
But at three, four, five, and even six years the childish nature will
require sports; now is the time to get rid of self-will in him, punishing
him, but not so as to disgrace him. We were saying about slaves, that we
ought neither to add insult to punishment so as to anger them, nor yet to
leave them unpunished lest they become self-willed; and a like rule is to
be observed in the case of the free-born. Children at that age have
certain natural modes of amusement which they find out for themselves when
they meet. And all the children who are between the ages of three and six
ought to meet at the temples of the villages, the several families of a
village uniting on one spot. The nurses are to see that the children
behave properly and orderly--they themselves and all their companies are
to be under the control of twelve matrons, one for each company, who are
annually selected to inspect them from the women previously mentioned
[i.e. the women who have authority over marriage], whom the guardians of
the law appoint. These matrons shall be chosen by the women who have
authority over marriage, one out of each tribe; all are to be of the same
age; and let each of them, as soon as she is appointed, hold office and go
to the temples every day, punishing all offenders, male or female, who are
slaves or strangers, by the help of some of the public slaves; but if any
citizen disputes the punishment, let her bring him before the wardens of
the city; or, if there be no dispute, let her punish him herself. After
the age of six years the time has arrived for the separation of the sexes
--let boys live with boys, and girls in like manner with girls. Now they
must begin to learn--the boys going to teachers of horsemanship and the
use of the bow, the javelin, and sling, and the girls too, if they do not
object, at any rate until they know how to manage these weapons, and
especially how to handle heavy arms; for I may note, that the practice
which now prevails is almost universally misunderstood.
CLEINIAS: In what respect?
ATHENIAN: In that the right and left hand are supposed to be by nature
differently suited for our various uses of them; whereas no difference is
found in the use of the feet and the lower limbs; but in the use of the
hands we are, as it were, maimed by the folly of nurses and mothers; for
although our several limbs are by nature balanced, we create a difference
in them by bad habit. In some cases this is of no consequence, as, for
example, when we hold the lyre in the left hand, and the plectrum in the
right, but it is downright folly to make the same distinction in other
cases. The custom of the Scythians proves our error; for they not only
hold the bow from them with the left hand and draw the arrow to them with
their right, but use either hand for both purposes. And there are many
similar examples in charioteering and other things, from which we may
learn that those who make the left side weaker than the right act contrary
to nature. In the case of the plectrum, which is of horn only, and similar
instruments, as I was saying, it is of no consequence, but makes a great
difference, and may be of very great importance to the warrior who has to
use iron weapons, bows and javelins, and the like; above all, when in
heavy armour, he has to fight against heavy armour. And there is a very
great difference between one who has learnt and one who has not, and
between one who has been trained in gymnastic exercises and one who has
not been. For as he who is perfectly skilled in the Pancratium or boxing
or wrestling, is not unable to fight from his left side, and does not limp
and draggle in confusion when his opponent makes him change his position,
so in heavy-armed fighting, and in all other things, if I am not mistaken,
the like holds--he who has these double powers of attack and defence ought
not in any case to leave them either unused or untrained, if he can help;
and if a person had the nature of Geryon or Briareus he ought to be able
with his hundred hands to throw a hundred darts. Now, the magistrates,
male and female, should see to all these things, the women superintending
the nursing and amusements of the children, and the men superintending
their education, that all of them, boys and girls alike, may be sound hand
and foot, and may not, if they can help, spoil the gifts of nature by bad
Education has two branches--one of gymnastic, which is concerned with the
body, and the other of music, which is designed for the improvement of the
soul. And gymnastic has also two branches--dancing and wrestling; and one
sort of dancing imitates musical recitation, and aims at preserving
dignity and freedom, the other aims at producing health, agility, and
beauty in the limbs and parts of the body, giving the proper flexion and
extension to each of them, a harmonious motion being diffused everywhere,
and forming a suitable accompaniment to the dance. As regards wrestling,
the tricks which Antaeus and Cercyon devised in their systems out of a
vain spirit of competition, or the tricks of boxing which Epeius or Amycus
invented, are useless and unsuitable for war, and do not deserve to have
much said about them; but the art of wrestling erect and keeping free the
neck and hands and sides, working with energy and constancy, with a
composed strength, for the sake of health--these are always useful, and
are not to be neglected, but to be enjoined alike on masters and scholars,
when we reach that part of legislation; and we will desire the one to give
their instructions freely, and the others to receive them thankfully. Nor,
again, must we omit suitable imitations of war in our choruses; here in
Crete you have the armed dances of the Curetes, and the Lacedaemonians
have those of the Dioscuri. And our virgin lady, delighting in the
amusement of the dance, thought it not fit to amuse herself with empty
hands; she must be clothed in a complete suit of armour, and in this
attire go through the dance; and youths and maidens should in every
respect imitate her, esteeming highly the favour of the Goddess, both with
a view to the necessities of war, and to festive occasions: it will be
right also for the boys, until such time as they go out to war, to make
processions and supplications to all the Gods in goodly array, armed and
on horseback, in dances and marches, fast or slow, offering up prayers to
the Gods and to the sons of Gods; and also engaging in contests and
preludes of contests, if at all, with these objects. For these sorts of
exercises, and no others, are useful both in peace and war, and are
beneficial alike to states and to private houses. But other labours and
sports and exercises of the body are unworthy of freemen, O Megillus and
I have now completely described the kind of gymnastic which I said at
first ought to be described; if you know of any better, will you
communicate your thoughts?
CLEINIAS: It is not easy, Stranger, to put aside these principles of
gymnastic and wrestling and to enunciate better ones.
ATHENIAN: Now we must say what has yet to be said about the gifts of the
Muses and of Apollo: before, we fancied that we had said all, and that
gymnastic alone remained; but now we see clearly what points have been
omitted, and should be first proclaimed; of these, then, let us proceed to
CLEINIAS: By all means.
ATHENIAN: Let me tell you once more--although you have heard me say the
same before--that caution must be always exercised, both by the speaker
and by the hearer, about anything that is very singular and unusual. For
my tale is one which many a man would be afraid to tell, and yet I have a
confidence which makes me go on.
CLEINIAS: What have you to say, Stranger?
ATHENIAN: I say that in states generally no one has observed that the
plays of childhood have a great deal to do with the permanence or want of
permanence in legislation. For when plays are ordered with a view to
children having the same plays, and amusing themselves after the same
manner, and finding delight in the same playthings, the more solemn
institutions of the state are allowed to remain undisturbed. Whereas if
sports are disturbed, and innovations are made in them, and they
constantly change, and the young never speak of their having the same
likings, or the same established notions of good and bad taste, either in
the bearing of their bodies or in their dress, but he who devises
something new and out of the way in figures and colours and the like is
held in special honour, we may truly say that no greater evil can happen
in a state; for he who changes the sports is secretly changing the manners
of the young, and making the old to be dishonoured among them and the new
to be honoured. And I affirm that there is nothing which is a greater
injury to all states than saying or thinking thus. Will you hear me tell
how great I deem the evil to be?
CLEINIAS: You mean the evil of blaming antiquity in states?
CLEINIAS: If you are speaking of that, you will find in us hearers who are
disposed to receive what you say not unfavourably but most favourably.
ATHENIAN: I should expect so.
ATHENIAN: Well, then, let us give all the greater heed to one another's
words. The argument affirms that any change whatever except from evil is
the most dangerous of all things; this is true in the case of the seasons
and of the winds, in the management of our bodies and the habits of our
minds--true of all things except, as I said before, of the bad. He who
looks at the constitution of individuals accustomed to eat any sort of
meat, or drink any drink, or to do any work which they can get, may see
that they are at first disordered by them, but afterwards, as time goes
on, their bodies grow adapted to them, and they learn to know and like
variety, and have good health and enjoyment of life; and if ever
afterwards they are confined again to a superior diet, at first they are
troubled with disorders, and with difficulty become habituated to their
new food. A similar principle we may imagine to hold good about the minds
of men and the natures of their souls. For when they have been brought up
in certain laws, which by some Divine Providence have remained unchanged
during long ages, so that no one has any memory or tradition of their ever
having been otherwise than they are, then every one is afraid and ashamed
to change that which is established. The legislator must somehow find a
way of implanting this reverence for antiquity, and I would propose the
following way: People are apt to fancy, as I was saying before, that when
the plays of children are altered they are merely plays, not seeing that
the most serious and detrimental consequences arise out of the change; and
they readily comply with the child's wishes instead of deterring him, not
considering that these children who make innovations in their games, when
they grow up to be men, will be different from the last generation of
children, and, being different, will desire a different sort of life, and
under the influence of this desire will want other institutions and laws;
and no one of them reflects that there will follow what I just now called
the greatest of evils to states. Changes in bodily fashions are no such
serious evils, but frequent changes in the praise and censure of manners
are the greatest of evils, and require the utmost prevision.
CLEINIAS: To be sure.
ATHENIAN: And now do we still hold to our former assertion, that rhythms
and music in general are imitations of good and evil characters in men?
What say you?
CLEINIAS: That is the only doctrine which we can admit.
ATHENIAN: Must we not, then, try in every possible way to prevent our
youth from even desiring to imitate new modes either in dance or song? nor
must any one be allowed to offer them varieties of pleasures.
CLEINIAS: Most true.
ATHENIAN: Can any of us imagine a better mode of effecting this object
than that of the Egyptians?
CLEINIAS: What is their method?
ATHENIAN: To consecrate every sort of dance or melody. First we should
ordain festivals--calculating for the year what they ought to be, and at
what time, and in honour of what Gods, sons of Gods, and heroes they ought
to be celebrated; and, in the next place, what hymns ought to be sung at
the several sacrifices, and with what dances the particular festival is to
be honoured. This has to be arranged at first by certain persons, and,
when arranged, the whole assembly of the citizens are to offer sacrifices
and libations to the Fates and all the other Gods, and to consecrate the
several odes to Gods and heroes: and if any one offers any other hymns or
dances to any one of the Gods, the priests and priestesses, acting in
concert with the guardians of the law, shall, with the sanction of
religion and the law, exclude him, and he who is excluded, if he do not
submit, shall be liable all his life long to have a suit of impiety
brought against him by any one who likes.
CLEINIAS: Very good.
ATHENIAN: In the consideration of this subject, let us remember what is
due to ourselves.
CLEINIAS: To what are you referring?
ATHENIAN: I mean that any young man, and much more any old one, when he
sees or hears anything strange or unaccustomed, does not at once run to
embrace the paradox, but he stands considering, like a person who is at a
place where three paths meet, and does not very well know his way--he may
be alone or he may be walking with others, and he will say to himself and
them, 'Which is the way?' and will not move forward until he is satisfied
that he is going right. And this is what we must do in the present
instance: A strange discussion on the subject of law has arisen, which
requires the utmost consideration, and we should not at our age be too
ready to speak about such great matters, or be confident that we can say
anything certain all in a moment.
CLEINIAS: Most true.
ATHENIAN: Then we will allow time for reflection, and decide when we have
given the subject sufficient consideration. But that we may not be
hindered from completing the natural arrangement of our laws, let us
proceed to the conclusion of them in due order; for very possibly, if God
will, the exposition of them, when completed, may throw light on our
CLEINIAS: Excellent, Stranger; let us do as you propose.
ATHENIAN: Let us then affirm the paradox that strains of music are our
laws (nomoi), and this latter being the name which the ancients gave to
lyric songs, they probably would not have very much objected to our
proposed application of the word. Some one, either asleep or awake, must
have had a dreamy suspicion of their nature. And let our decree be as
follows: No one in singing or dancing shall offend against public and
consecrated models, and the general fashion among the youth, any more than
he would offend against any other law. And he who observes this law shall
be blameless; but he who is disobedient, as I was saying, shall be
punished by the guardians of the laws, and by the priests and priestesses.
Suppose that we imagine this to be our law.
CLEINIAS: Very good.
ATHENIAN: Can any one who makes such laws escape ridicule? Let us see. I
think that our only safety will be in first framing certain models for
composers. One of these models shall be as follows: If when a sacrifice is
going on, and the victims are being burnt according to law--if, I say, any
one who may be a son or brother, standing by another at the altar and over
the victims, horribly blasphemes, will not his words inspire despondency
and evil omens and forebodings in the mind of his father and of his other
CLEINIAS: Of course.
ATHENIAN: And this is just what takes place in almost all our cities. A
magistrate offers a public sacrifice, and there come in not one but many
choruses, who take up a position a little way from the altar, and from
time to time pour forth all sorts of horrible blasphemies on the sacred
rites, exciting the souls of the audience with words and rhythms and
melodies most sorrowful to hear; and he who at the moment when the city is
offering sacrifice makes the citizens weep most, carries away the palm of
victory. Now, ought we not to forbid such strains as these? And if ever
our citizens must hear such lamentations, then on some unblest and
inauspicious day let there be choruses of foreign and hired minstrels,
like those hirelings who accompany the departed at funerals with barbarous
Carian chants. That is the sort of thing which will be appropriate if we
have such strains at all; and let the apparel of the singers be, not
circlets and ornaments of gold, but the reverse. Enough of all this. I
will simply ask once more whether we shall lay down as one of our
principles of song--
ATHENIAN: That we should avoid every word of evil omen; let that kind of
song which is of good omen be heard everywhere and always in our state. I
need hardly ask again, but shall assume that you agree with me.
CLEINIAS: By all means; that law is approved by the suffrages of us all.
ATHENIAN: But what shall be our next musical law or type? Ought not
prayers to be offered up to the Gods when we sacrifice?
ATHENIAN: And our third law, if I am not mistaken, will be to the effect
that our poets, understanding prayers to be requests which we make to the
Gods, will take especial heed that they do not by mistake ask for evil
instead of good. To make such a prayer would surely be too ridiculous.
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: Were we not a little while ago quite convinced that no silver or
golden Plutus should dwell in our state?
CLEINIAS: To be sure.
ATHENIAN: And what has it been the object of our argument to show? Did we
not imply that the poets are not always quite capable of knowing what is
good or evil? And if one of them utters a mistaken prayer in song or
words, he will make our citizens pray for the opposite of what is good in
matters of the highest import; than which, as I was saying, there can be
few greater mistakes. Shall we then propose as one of our laws and models
relating to the Muses--
CLEINIAS: What? will you explain the law more precisely?
ATHENIAN: Shall we make a law that the poet shall compose nothing contrary
to the ideas of the lawful, or just, or beautiful, or good, which are
allowed in the state? nor shall he be permitted to communicate his
compositions to any private individuals, until he shall have shown them to
the appointed judges and the guardians of the law, and they are satisfied
with them. As to the persons whom we appoint to be our legislators about
music and as to the director of education, these have been already
indicated. Once more then, as I have asked more than once, shall this be
our third law, and type, and model--What do you say?
CLEINIAS: Let it be so, by all means.
ATHENIAN: Then it will be proper to have hymns and praises of the Gods,
intermingled with prayers; and after the Gods prayers and praises should
be offered in like manner to demigods and heroes, suitable to their
ATHENIAN: In the next place there will be no objection to a law, that
citizens who are departed and have done good and energetic deeds, either
with their souls or with their bodies, and have been obedient to the laws,
should receive eulogies; this will be very fitting.
CLEINIAS: Quite true.
ATHENIAN: But to honour with hymns and panegyrics those who are still
alive is not safe; a man should run his course, and make a fair ending,
and then we will praise him; and let praise be given equally to women as
well as men who have been distinguished in virtue. The order of songs and
dances shall be as follows: There are many ancient musical compositions
and dances which are excellent, and from these the newly-founded city may
freely select what is proper and suitable; and they shall choose judges of
not less than fifty years of age, who shall make the selection, and any of
the old poems which they deem sufficient they shall include; any that are
deficient or altogether unsuitable, they shall either utterly throw aside,
or examine and amend, taking into their counsel poets and musicians, and
making use of their poetical genius; but explaining to them the wishes of
the legislator in order that they may regulate dancing, music, and all
choral strains, according to the mind of the judges; and not allowing them
to indulge, except in some few matters, their individual pleasures and
fancies. Now the irregular strain of music is always made ten thousand
times better by attaining to law and order, and rejecting the honeyed
Muse--not however that we mean wholly to exclude pleasure, which is the
characteristic of all music. And if a man be brought up from childhood to
the age of discretion and maturity in the use of the orderly and severe
music, when he hears the opposite he detests it, and calls it illiberal;
but if trained in the sweet and vulgar music, he deems the severer kind
cold and displeasing. So that, as I was saying before, while he who hears
them gains no more pleasure from the one than from the other, the one has
the advantage of making those who are trained in it better men, whereas
the other makes them worse.
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: Again, we must distinguish and determine on some general
principle what songs are suitable to women, and what to men, and must
assign to them their proper melodies and rhythms. It is shocking for a
whole harmony to be inharmonical, or for a rhythm to be unrhythmical, and
this will happen when the melody is inappropriate to them. And therefore
the legislator must assign to these also their forms. Now both sexes have
melodies and rhythms which of necessity belong to them; and those of women
are clearly enough indicated by their natural difference. The grand, and
that which tends to courage, may be fairly called manly; but that which
inclines to moderation and temperance, may be declared both in law and in
ordinary speech to be the more womanly quality. This, then, will be the
general order of them.
Let us now speak of the manner of teaching and imparting them, and the
persons to whom, and the time when, they are severally to be imparted. As
the shipwright first lays down the lines of the keel, and thus, as it
were, draws the ship in outline, so do I seek to distinguish the patterns
of life, and lay down their keels according to the nature of different
men's souls; seeking truly to consider by what means, and in what ways, we
may go through the voyage of life best. Now human affairs are hardly worth
considering in earnest, and yet we must be in earnest about them--a sad
necessity constrains us. And having got thus far, there will be a fitness
in our completing the matter, if we can only find some suitable method of
doing so. But what do I mean? Some one may ask this very question, and
quite rightly, too.
ATHENIAN: I say that about serious matters a man should be serious, and
about a matter which is not serious he should not be serious; and that God
is the natural and worthy object of our most serious and blessed
endeavours, for man, as I said before, is made to be the plaything of God,
and this, truly considered, is the best of him; wherefore also every man
and woman should walk seriously, and pass life in the noblest of pastimes,
and be of another mind from what they are at present.
CLEINIAS: In what respect?
ATHENIAN: At present they think that their serious pursuits should be for
the sake of their sports, for they deem war a serious pursuit, which must
be managed well for the sake of peace; but the truth is, that there
neither is, nor has been, nor ever will be, either amusement or
instruction in any degree worth speaking of in war, which is nevertheless
deemed by us to be the most serious of our pursuits. And therefore, as we
say, every one of us should live the life of peace as long and as well as
he can. And what is the right way of living? Are we to live in sports
always? If so, in what kind of sports? We ought to live sacrificing, and
singing, and dancing, and then a man will be able to propitiate the Gods,
and to defend himself against his enemies and conquer them in battle. The
type of song or dance by which he will propitiate them has been described,
and the paths along which he is to proceed have been cut for him. He will
go forward in the spirit of the poet:
'Telemachus, some things thou wilt thyself find in thy heart, but other
things God will suggest; for I deem that thou wast not born or brought up
without the will of the Gods.'
And this ought to be the view of our alumni; they ought to think that what
has been said is enough for them, and that any other things their Genius
and God will suggest to them--he will tell them to whom, and when, and to
what Gods severally they are to sacrifice and perform dances, and how they
may propitiate the deities, and live according to the appointment of
nature; being for the most part puppets, but having some little share of
MEGILLUS: You have a low opinion of mankind, Stranger.
ATHENIAN: Nay, Megillus, be not amazed, but forgive me: I was comparing
them with the Gods; and under that feeling I spoke. Let us grant, if you
wish, that the human race is not to be despised, but is worthy of some
Next follow the buildings for gymnasia and schools open to all; these are
to be in three places in the midst of the city; and outside the city and
in the surrounding country, also in three places, there shall be schools
for horse exercise, and large grounds arranged with a view to archery and
the throwing of missiles, at which young men may learn and practise. Of
these mention has already been made; and if the mention be not
sufficiently explicit, let us speak further of them and embody them in
laws. In these several schools let there be dwellings for teachers, who
shall be brought from foreign parts by pay, and let them teach those who
attend the schools the art of war and the art of music, and the children
shall come not only if their parents please, but if they do not please;
there shall be compulsory education, as the saying is, of all and sundry,
as far as this is possible; and the pupils shall be regarded as belonging
to the state rather than to their parents. My law would apply to females
as well as males; they shall both go through the same exercises. I assert
without fear of contradiction that gymnastic and horsemanship are as
suitable to women as to men. Of the truth of this I am persuaded from
ancient tradition, and at the present day there are said to be countless
myriads of women in the neighbourhood of the Black Sea, called
Sauromatides, who not only ride on horseback like men, but have enjoined
upon them the use of bows and other weapons equally with the men. And I
further affirm, that if these things are possible, nothing can be more
absurd than the practice which prevails in our own country, of men and
women not following the same pursuits with all their strength and with one
mind, for thus the state, instead of being a whole, is reduced to a half,
but has the same imposts to pay and the same toils to undergo; and what
can be a greater mistake for any legislator to make than this?
CLEINIAS: Very true; yet much of what has been asserted by us, Stranger,
is contrary to the custom of states; still, in saying that the discourse
should be allowed to proceed, and that when the discussion is completed,
we should choose what seems best, you spoke very properly, and I now feel
compunction for what I have said. Tell me, then, what you would next wish
ATHENIAN: I should wish to say, Cleinias, as I said before, that if the
possibility of these things were not sufficiently proven in fact, then
there might be an objection to the argument, but the fact being as I have
said, he who rejects the law must find some other ground of objection;
and, failing this, our exhortation will still hold good, nor will any one
deny that women ought to share as far as possible in education and in
other ways with men. For consider; if women do not share in their whole
life with men, then they must have some other order of life.
ATHENIAN: And what arrangement of life to be found anywhere is preferable
to this community which we are now assigning to them? Shall we prefer that
which is adopted by the Thracians and many other races who use their women
to till the ground and to be shepherds of their herds and flocks, and to
minister to them like slaves? Or shall we do as we and people in our part
of the world do--getting together, as the phrase is, all our goods and
chattels into one dwelling, we entrust them to our women, who are the
stewards of them, and who also preside over the shuttles and the whole art
of spinning? Or shall we take a middle course, as in Lacedaemon, Megillus-
-letting the girls share in gymnastic and music, while the grown-up women,
no longer employed in spinning wool, are hard at work weaving the web of
life, which will be no cheap or mean employment, and in the duty of
serving and taking care of the household and bringing up the children, in
which they will observe a sort of mean, not participating in the toils of
war; and if there were any necessity that they should fight for their city
and families, unlike the Amazons, they would be unable to take part in
archery or any other skilled use of missiles, nor could they, after the
example of the Goddess, carry shield or spear, or stand up nobly for their
country when it was being destroyed, and strike terror into their enemies,
if only because they were seen in regular order? Living as they do, they
would never dare at all to imitate the Sauromatides, who, when compared
with ordinary women, would appear to be like men. Let him who will, praise
your legislators, but I must say what I think. The legislator ought to be
whole and perfect, and not half a man only; he ought not to let the female
sex live softly and waste money and have no order of life, while he takes
the utmost care of the male sex, and leaves half of life only blest with
happiness, when he might have made the whole state happy.
MEGILLUS: What shall we do, Cleinias? Shall we allow a stranger to run
down Sparta in this fashion?
CLEINIAS: Yes; for as we have given him liberty of speech we must let him
go on until we have perfected the work of legislation.
MEGILLUS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: Then now I may proceed?
CLEINIAS: By all means.
ATHENIAN: What will be the manner of life among men who may be supposed to
have their food and clothing provided for them in moderation, and who have
entrusted the practice of the arts to others, and whose husbandry
committed to slaves paying a part of the produce, brings them a return
sufficient for men living temperately; who, moreover, have common tables
in which the men are placed apart, and near them are the common tables of
their families, of their daughters and mothers, which day by day, the
officers, male and female, are to inspect--they shall see to the behaviour
of the company, and so dismiss them; after which the presiding magistrate
and his attendants shall honour with libations those Gods to whom that day
and night are dedicated, and then go home? To men whose lives are thus
ordered, is there no work remaining to be done which is necessary and
fitting, but shall each one of them live fattening like a beast? Such a
life is neither just nor honourable, nor can he who lives it fail of
meeting his due; and the due reward of the idle fatted beast is that he
should be torn in pieces by some other valiant beast whose fatness is worn
down by brave deeds and toil. These regulations, if we duly consider them,
will never be exactly carried into execution under present circumstances,
nor as long as women and children and houses and all other things are the
private property of individuals; but if we can attain the second-best form
of polity, we shall be very well off. And to men living under this second
polity there remains a work to be accomplished which is far from being
small or insignificant, but is the greatest of all works, and ordained by
the appointment of righteous law. For the life which may be truly said to
be concerned with the virtue of body and soul is twice, or more than
twice, as full of toil and trouble as the pursuit after Pythian and
Olympic victories, which debars a man from every employment of life. For
there ought to be no bye-work interfering with the greater work of
providing the necessary exercise and nourishment for the body, and
instruction and education for the soul. Night and day are not long enough
for the accomplishment of their perfection and consummation; and therefore
to this end all freemen ought to arrange the way in which they will spend
their time during the whole course of the day, from morning till evening
and from evening till the morning of the next sunrise. There may seem to
be some impropriety in the legislator determining minutely the numberless
details of the management of the house, including such particulars as the
duty of wakefulness in those who are to be perpetual watchmen of the whole
city; for that any citizen should continue during the whole of any night
in sleep, instead of being seen by all his servants, always the first to
awake and get up--this, whether the regulation is to be called a law or
only a practice, should be deemed base and unworthy of a freeman; also
that the mistress of the house should be awakened by her hand-maidens
instead of herself first awakening them, is what the slaves, male and
female, and the serving-boys, and, if that were possible, everybody and
everything in the house should regard as base. If they rise early, they
may all of them do much of their public and of their household business,
as magistrates in the city, and masters and mistresses in their private
houses, before the sun is up. Much sleep is not required by nature, either
for our souls or bodies, or for the actions which they perform. For no one
who is asleep is good for anything, any more than if he were dead; but he
of us who has the most regard for life and reason keeps awake as long as
he can, reserving only so much time for sleep as is expedient for health;
and much sleep is not required, if the habit of moderation be once rightly
formed. Magistrates in states who keep awake at night are terrible to the
bad, whether enemies or citizens, and are honoured and reverenced by the
just and temperate, and are useful to themselves and to the whole state.
A night which is passed in such a manner, in addition to all the above-
mentioned advantages, infuses a sort of courage into the minds of the
citizens. When the day breaks, the time has arrived for youth to go to
their schoolmasters. Now neither sheep nor any other animals can live
without a shepherd, nor can children be left without tutors, or slaves
without masters. And of all animals the boy is the most unmanageable,
inasmuch as he has the fountain of reason in him not yet regulated; he is
the most insidious, sharp-witted, and insubordinate of animals. Wherefore
he must be bound with many bridles; in the first place, when he gets away
from mothers and nurses, he must be under the management of tutors on
account of his childishness and foolishness; then, again, being a freeman,
he must be controlled by teachers, no matter what they teach, and by
studies; but he is also a slave, and in that regard any freeman who comes
in his way may punish him and his tutor and his instructor, if any of them
does anything wrong; and he who comes across him and does not inflict upon
him the punishment which he deserves, shall incur the greatest disgrace;
and let the guardian of the law, who is the director of education, see to
him who coming in the way of the offences which we have mentioned, does
not chastise them when he ought, or chastises them in a way which he ought
not; let him keep a sharp look-out, and take especial care of the training
of our children, directing their natures, and always turning them to good
according to the law.
But how can our law sufficiently train the director of education himself;
for as yet all has been imperfect, and nothing has been said either clear
or satisfactory? Now, as far as possible, the law ought to leave nothing
to him, but to explain everything, that he may be an interpreter and tutor
to others. About dances and music and choral strains, I have already
spoken both as to the character of the selection of them, and the manner
in which they are to be amended and consecrated. But we have not as yet
spoken, O illustrious guardian of education, of the manner in which your
pupils are to use those strains which are written in prose, although you
have been informed what martial strains they are to learn and practise;
what relates in the first place to the learning of letters, and secondly,
to the lyre, and also to calculation, which, as we were saying, is needful
for them all to learn, and any other things which are required with a view
to war and the management of house and city, and, looking to the same
object, what is useful in the revolutions of the heavenly bodies--the
stars and sun and moon, and the various regulations about these matters
which are necessary for the whole state--I am speaking of the arrangements
of days in periods of months, and of months in years, which are to be
observed, in order that seasons and sacrifices and festivals may have
their regular and natural order, and keep the city alive and awake, the
Gods receiving the honours due to them, and men having a better
understanding about them: all these things, O my friend, have not yet been
sufficiently declared to you by the legislator. Attend, then, to what I am
now going to say: We were telling you, in the first place, that you were
not sufficiently informed about letters, and the objection was to this
effect--that you were never told whether he who was meant to be a
respectable citizen should apply himself in detail to that sort of
learning, or not apply himself at all; and the same remark holds good of
the study of the lyre. But now we say that he ought to attend to them. A
fair time for a boy of ten years old to spend in letters is three years;
the age of thirteen is the proper time for him to begin to handle the
lyre, and he may continue at this for another three years, neither more
nor less, and whether his father or himself like or dislike the study, he
is not to be allowed to spend more or less time in learning music than the
law allows. And let him who disobeys the law be deprived of those youthful
honours of which we shall hereafter speak. Hear, however, first of all,
what the young ought to learn in the early years of life, and what their
instructors ought to teach them. They ought to be occupied with their
letters until they are able to read and write; but the acquisition of
perfect beauty or quickness in writing, if nature has not stimulated them
to acquire these accomplishments in the given number of years, they should
let alone. And as to the learning of compositions committed to writing
which are not set to the lyre, whether metrical or without rhythmical
divisions, compositions in prose, as they are termed, having no rhythm or
harmony--seeing how dangerous are the writings handed down to us by many
writers of this class--what will you do with them, O most excellent
guardians of the law? or how can the lawgiver rightly direct you about
them? I believe that he will be in great difficulty.
CLEINIAS: What troubles you, Stranger? and why are you so perplexed in
ATHENIAN: You naturally ask, Cleinias, and to you and Megillus, who are my
partners in the work of legislation, I must state the more difficult as
well as the easier parts of the task.
CLEINIAS: To what do you refer in this instance?
ATHENIAN: I will tell you. There is a difficulty in opposing many myriads
CLEINIAS: Well, and have we not already opposed the popular voice in many
ATHENIAN: That is quite true; and you mean to imply that the road which we
are taking may be disagreeable to some but is agreeable to as many others,
or if not to as many, at any rate to persons not inferior to the others,
and in company with them you bid me, at whatever risk, to proceed along
the path of legislation which has opened out of our present discourse, and
to be of good cheer, and not to faint.
ATHENIAN: And I do not faint; I say, indeed, that we have a great many
poets writing in hexameter, trimeter, and all sorts of measures--some who
are serious, others who aim only at raising a laugh--and all mankind
declare that the youth who are rightly educated should be brought up in
them and saturated with them; some insist that they should be constantly
hearing them read aloud, and always learning them, so as to get by heart
entire poets; while others select choice passages and long speeches, and
make compendiums of them, saying that these ought to be committed to
memory, if a man is to be made good and wise by experience and learning of
many things. And you want me now to tell them plainly in what they are
right and in what they are wrong.
CLEINIAS: Yes, I do.
ATHENIAN: But how can I in one word rightly comprehend all of them? I am
of opinion, and, if I am not mistaken, there is a general agreement, that
every one of these poets has said many things well and many things the
reverse of well; and if this be true, then I do affirm that much learning
is dangerous to youth.
CLEINIAS: How would you advise the guardian of the law to act?
ATHENIAN: In what respect?
CLEINIAS: I mean to what pattern should he look as his guide in permitting
the young to learn some things and forbidding them to learn others. Do not
shrink from answering.
ATHENIAN: My good Cleinias, I rather think that I am fortunate.
CLEINIAS: How so?
ATHENIAN: I think that I am not wholly in want of a pattern, for when I
consider the words which we have spoken from early dawn until now, and
which, as I believe, have been inspired by Heaven, they appear to me to be
quite like a poem. When I reflected upon all these words of ours, I
naturally felt pleasure, for of all the discourses which I have ever
learnt or heard, either in poetry or prose, this seemed to me to be the
justest, and most suitable for young men to hear; I cannot imagine any
better pattern than this which the guardian of the law who is also the
director of education can have. He cannot do better than advise the
teachers to teach the young these words and any which are of a like
nature, if he should happen to find them, either in poetry or prose, or if
he come across unwritten discourses akin to ours, he should certainly
preserve them, and commit them to writing. And, first of all, he shall
constrain the teachers themselves to learn and approve them, and any of
them who will not, shall not be employed by him, but those whom he finds
agreeing in his judgment, he shall make use of and shall commit to them
the instruction and education of youth. And here and on this wise let my
fanciful tale about letters and teachers of letters come to an end.
CLEINIAS: I do not think, Stranger, that we have wandered out of the
proposed limits of the argument; but whether we are right or not in our
whole conception, I cannot be very certain.
ATHENIAN: The truth, Cleinias, may be expected to become clearer when, as
we have often said, we arrive at the end of the whole discussion about
ATHENIAN: And now that we have done with the teacher of letters, the
teacher of the lyre has to receive orders from us.
ATHENIAN: I think that we have only to recollect our previous discussions,
and we shall be able to give suitable regulations touching all this part
of instruction and education to the teachers of the lyre.
CLEINIAS: To what do you refer?
ATHENIAN: We were saying, if I remember rightly, that the sixty years old
choristers of Dionysus were to be specially quick in their perceptions of
rhythm and musical composition, that they might be able to distinguish
good and bad imitation, that is to say, the imitation of the good or bad
soul when under the influence of passion, rejecting the one and displaying
the other in hymns and songs, charming the souls of youth, and inviting
them to follow and attain virtue by the way of imitation.
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: And with this view the teacher and the learner ought to use the
sounds of the lyre, because its notes are pure, the player who teaches and
his pupil rendering note for note in unison; but complexity, and variation
of notes, when the strings give one sound and the poet or composer of the
melody gives another--also when they make concords and harmonies in which
lesser and greater intervals, slow and quick, or high and low notes, are
combined--or, again, when they make complex variations of rhythms, which
they adapt to the notes of the lyre--all that sort of thing is not suited
to those who have to acquire speedy and useful knowledge of music in three
years; for opposite principles are confusing, and create a difficulty in
learning, and our young men should learn quickly, and their mere necessary
acquirements are not few or trifling, as will be shown in due course. Let
the director of education attend to the principles concerning music which
we are laying down. As to the songs and words themselves which the masters
of choruses are to teach and the character of them, they have been already
described by us, and are the same which, when consecrated and adapted to
the different festivals, we said were to benefit cities by affording them
an innocent amusement.
CLEINIAS: That, again, is true.
ATHENIAN: Then let him who has been elected a director of music receive
these rules from us as containing the very truth; and may he prosper in
his office! Let us now proceed to lay down other rules in addition to the
preceding about dancing and gymnastic exercise in general. Having said
what remained to be said about the teaching of music, let us speak in like
manner about gymnastic. For boys and girls ought to learn to dance and
practise gymnastic exercises--ought they not?
ATHENIAN: Then the boys ought to have dancing masters, and the girls
dancing mistresses to exercise them.
CLEINIAS: Very good.
ATHENIAN: Then once more let us summon him who has the chief concern in
the business, the superintendent of youth [i.e. the director of
education]; he will have plenty to do, if he is to have the charge of
music and gymnastic.
CLEINIAS: But how will an old man be able to attend to such great charges?
ATHENIAN: O my friend, there will be no difficulty, for the law has
already given and will give him permission to select as his assistants in
this charge any citizens, male or female, whom he desires; and he will
know whom he ought to choose, and will be anxious not to make a mistake,
from a due sense of responsibility, and from a consciousness of the
importance of his office, and also because he will consider that if young
men have been and are well brought up, then all things go swimmingly, but
if not, it is not meet to say, nor do we say, what will follow, lest the
regarders of omens should take alarm about our infant state. Many things
have been said by us about dancing and about gymnastic movements in
general; for we include under gymnastics all military exercises, such as
archery, and all hurling of weapons, and the use of the light shield, and
all fighting with heavy arms, and military evolutions, and movements of
armies, and encampings, and all that relates to horsemanship. Of all these
things there ought to be public teachers, receiving pay from the state,
and their pupils should be the men and boys in the state, and also the
girls and women, who are to know all these things. While they are yet
girls they should have practised dancing in arms and the whole art of
fighting--when grown-up women, they should apply themselves to evolutions
and tactics, and the mode of grounding and taking up arms; if for no other
reason, yet in case the whole military force should have to leave the city
and carry on operations of war outside, that those who will have to guard
the young and the rest of the city may be equal to the task; and, on the
other hand, when enemies, whether barbarian or Hellenic, come from without
with mighty force and make a violent assault upon them, and thus compel
them to fight for the possession of the city, which is far from being an
impossibility, great would be the disgrace to the state, if the women had
been so miserably trained that they could not fight for their young, as
birds will, against any creature however strong, and die or undergo any
danger, but must instantly rush to the temples and crowd at the altars and
shrines, and bring upon human nature the reproach, that of all animals man
is the most cowardly!
CLEINIAS: Such a want of education, Stranger, is certainly an unseemly
thing to happen in a state, as well as a great misfortune.
ATHENIAN: Suppose that we carry our law to the extent of saying that women
ought not to neglect military matters, but that all citizens, male and
female alike, shall attend to them?
CLEINIAS: I quite agree.
ATHENIAN: Of wrestling we have spoken in part, but of what I should call
the most important part we have not spoken, and cannot easily speak
without showing at the same time by gesture as well as in word what we
mean; when word and action combine, and not till then, we shall explain
clearly what has been said, pointing out that of all movements wrestling
is most akin to the military art, and is to be pursued for the sake of
this, and not this for the sake of wrestling.
CLEINIAS: Excellent. ATHENIAN: Enough of wrestling; we will now proceed to
speak of other movements of the body. Such motion may be in general called
dancing, and is of two kinds: one of nobler figures, imitating the
honourable, the other of the more ignoble figures, imitating the mean; and
of both these there are two further subdivisions. Of the serious, one kind
is of those engaged in war and vehement action, and is the exercise of a
noble person and a manly heart; the other exhibits a temperate soul in the
enjoyment of prosperity and modest pleasures, and may be truly called and
is the dance of peace. The warrior dance is different from the peaceful
one, and may be rightly termed Pyrrhic; this imitates the modes of
avoiding blows and missiles by dropping or giving way, or springing aside,
or rising up or falling down; also the opposite postures which are those
of action, as, for example, the imitation of archery and the hurling of
javelins, and of all sorts of blows. And when the imitation is of brave
bodies and souls, and the action is direct and muscular, giving for the
most part a straight movement to the limbs of the body--that, I say, is
the true sort; but the opposite is not right. In the dance of peace what
we have to consider is whether a man bears himself naturally and
gracefully, and after the manner of men who duly conform to the law. But
before proceeding I must distinguish the dancing about which there is any
doubt, from that about which there is no doubt. Which is the doubtful
kind, and how are the two to be distinguished? There are dances of the
Bacchic sort, both those in which, as they say, they imitate drunken men,
and which are named after the Nymphs, and Pan, and Silenuses, and Satyrs;
and also those in which purifications are made or mysteries celebrated--
all this sort of dancing cannot be rightly defined as having either a
peaceful or a warlike character, or indeed as having any meaning whatever,
and may, I think, be most truly described as distinct from the warlike
dance, and distinct from the peaceful, and not suited for a city at all.
There let it lie; and so leaving it to lie, we will proceed to the dances
of war and peace, for with these we are undoubtedly concerned. Now the
unwarlike muse, which honours in dance the Gods and the sons of the Gods,
is entirely associated with the consciousness of prosperity; this class
may be subdivided into two lesser classes, of which one is expressive of
an escape from some labour or danger into good, and has greater pleasures,
the other expressive of preservation and increase of former good, in which
the pleasure is less exciting--in all these cases, every man when the
pleasure is greater, moves his body more, and less when the pleasure is
less; and, again, if he be more orderly and has learned courage from
discipline he moves less, but if he be a coward, and has no training or
self-control, he makes greater and more violent movements, and in general
when he is speaking or singing he is not altogether able to keep his body
still; and so out of the imitation of words in gestures the whole art of
dancing has arisen. And in these various kinds of imitation one man moves
in an orderly, another in a disorderly manner; and as the ancients may be
observed to have given many names which are according to nature and
deserving of praise, so there is an excellent one which they have given to
the dances of men who in their times of prosperity are moderate in their
pleasures--the giver of names, whoever he was, assigned to them a very
true, and poetical, and rational name, when he called them Emmeleiai, or
dances of order, thus establishing two kinds of dances of the nobler sort,
the dance of war which he called the Pyrrhic, and the dance of peace which
he called Emmeleia, or the dance of order; giving to each their
appropriate and becoming name. These things the legislator should indicate
in general outline, and the guardian of the law should enquire into them
and search them out, combining dancing with music, and assigning to the
several sacrificial feasts that which is suitable to them; and when he has
consecrated all of them in due order, he shall for the future change
nothing, whether of dance or song. Thenceforward the city and the citizens
shall continue to have the same pleasures, themselves being as far as
possible alike, and shall live well and happily.
I have described the dances which are appropriate to noble bodies and
generous souls. But it is necessary also to consider and know uncomely
persons and thoughts, and those which are intended to produce laughter in
comedy, and have a comic character in respect of style, song, and dance,
and of the imitations which these afford. For serious things cannot be
understood without laughable things, nor opposites at all without
opposites, if a man is really to have intelligence of either; but he
cannot carry out both in action, if he is to have any degree of virtue.
And for this very reason he should learn them both, in order that he may
not in ignorance do or say anything which is ridiculous and out of place--
he should command slaves and hired strangers to imitate such things, but
he should never take any serious interest in them himself, nor should any
freeman or freewoman be discovered taking pains to learn them; and there
should always be some element of novelty in the imitation. Let these then
be laid down, both in law and in our discourse, as the regulations of
laughable amusements which are generally called comedy. And, if any of the
serious poets, as they are termed, who write tragedy, come to us and say--
'O strangers, may we go to your city and country or may we not, and shall
we bring with us our poetry--what is your will about these matters?'--how
shall we answer the divine men? I think that our answer should be as
follows: Best of strangers, we will say to them, we also according to our
ability are tragic poets, and our tragedy is the best and noblest; for our
whole state is an imitation of the best and noblest life, which we affirm
to be indeed the very truth of tragedy. You are poets and we are poets,
both makers of the same strains, rivals and antagonists in the noblest of
dramas, which true law can alone perfect, as our hope is. Do not then
suppose that we shall all in a moment allow you to erect your stage in the
agora, or introduce the fair voices of your actors, speaking above our
own, and permit you to harangue our women and children, and the common
people, about our institutions, in language other than our own, and very
often the opposite of our own. For a state would be mad which gave you
this licence, until the magistrates had determined whether your poetry
might be recited, and was fit for publication or not. Wherefore, O ye sons
and scions of the softer Muses, first of all show your songs to the
magistrates, and let them compare them with our own, and if they are the
same or better we will give you a chorus; but if not, then, my friends, we
cannot. Let these, then, be the customs ordained by law about all dances
and the teaching of them, and let matters relating to slaves be separated
from those relating to masters, if you do not object.
CLEINIAS: We can have no hesitation in assenting when you put the matter
ATHENIAN: There still remain three studies suitable for freemen.
Arithmetic is one of them; the measurement of length, surface, and depth
is the second; and the third has to do with the revolutions of the stars
in relation to one another. Not every one has need to toil through all
these things in a strictly scientific manner, but only a few, and who they
are to be we will hereafter indicate at the end, which will be the proper
place; not to know what is necessary for mankind in general, and what is
the truth, is disgraceful to every one: and yet to enter into these
matters minutely is neither easy, nor at all possible for every one; but
there is something in them which is necessary and cannot be set aside, and
probably he who made the proverb about God originally had this in view
when he said, that 'not even God himself can fight against necessity;'
he meant, if I am not mistaken, divine necessity; for as to the human
necessities of which the many speak, when they talk in this manner,
nothing can be more ridiculous than such an application of the words.
CLEINIAS: And what necessities of knowledge are there, Stranger, which are
divine and not human?
ATHENIAN: I conceive them to be those of which he who has no use nor any
knowledge at all cannot be a God, or demi-god, or hero to mankind, or able
to take any serious thought or charge of them. And very unlike a divine
man would he be, who is unable to count one, two, three, or to distinguish
odd and even numbers, or is unable to count at all, or reckon night and
day, and who is totally unacquainted with the revolution of the sun and
moon, and the other stars. There would be great folly in supposing that
all these are not necessary parts of knowledge to him who intends to know
anything about the highest kinds of knowledge; but which these are, and
how many there are of them, and when they are to be learned, and what is
to be learned together and what apart, and the whole correlation of them,
must be rightly apprehended first; and these leading the way we may
proceed to the other parts of knowledge. For so necessity grounded in
nature constrains us, against which we say that no God contends, or ever
CLEINIAS: I think, Stranger, that what you have now said is very true and
agreeable to nature.
ATHENIAN: Yes, Cleinias, that is so. But it is difficult for the
legislator to begin with these studies; at a more convenient time we will
make regulations for them.
CLEINIAS: You seem, Stranger, to be afraid of our habitual ignorance of
the subject: there is no reason why that should prevent you from speaking
ATHENIAN: I certainly am afraid of the difficulties to which you allude,
but I am still more afraid of those who apply themselves to this sort of
knowledge, and apply themselves badly. For entire ignorance is not so
terrible or extreme an evil, and is far from being the greatest of all;
too much cleverness and too much learning, accompanied with an ill
bringing up, are far more fatal.
ATHENIAN: All freemen I conceive, should learn as much of these branches
of knowledge as every child in Egypt is taught when he learns the
alphabet. In that country arithmetical games have been invented for the
use of mere children, which they learn as a pleasure and amusement. They
have to distribute apples and garlands, using the same number sometimes
for a larger and sometimes for a lesser number of persons; and they
arrange pugilists and wrestlers as they pair together by lot or remain
over, and show how their turns come in natural order. Another mode of