Part 9 out of 11
amusing them is to distribute vessels, sometimes of gold, brass, silver,
and the like, intermixed with one another, sometimes of one metal only; as
I was saying they adapt to their amusement the numbers in common use, and
in this way make more intelligible to their pupils the arrangements and
movements of armies and expeditions, and in the management of a household
they make people more useful to themselves, and more wide awake; and again
in measurements of things which have length, and breadth, and depth, they
free us from that natural ignorance of all these things which is so
ludicrous and disgraceful.
CLEINIAS: What kind of ignorance do you mean?
ATHENIAN: O my dear Cleinias, I, like yourself, have late in life heard
with amazement of our ignorance in these matters; to me we appear to be
more like pigs than men, and I am quite ashamed, not only of myself, but
of all Hellenes.
CLEINIAS: About what? Say, Stranger, what you mean.
ATHENIAN: I will; or rather I will show you my meaning by a question, and
do you please to answer me: You know, I suppose, what length is?
ATHENIAN: And what breadth is?
CLEINIAS: To be sure.
ATHENIAN: And you know that these are two distinct things, and that there
is a third thing called depth?
CLEINIAS: Of course.
ATHENIAN: And do not all these seem to you to be commensurable with
ATHENIAN: That is to say, length is naturally commensurable with length,
and breadth with breadth, and depth in like manner with depth?
ATHENIAN: But if some things are commensurable and others wholly
incommensurable, and you think that all things are commensurable, what is
your position in regard to them?
CLEINIAS: Clearly, far from good.
ATHENIAN: Concerning length and breadth when compared with depth, or
breadth and length when compared with one another, are not all the
Hellenes agreed that these are commensurable with one another in some way?
CLEINIAS: Quite true.
ATHENIAN: But if they are absolutely incommensurable, and yet all of us
regard them as commensurable, have we not reason to be ashamed of our
compatriots; and might we not say to them: O ye best of Hellenes, is not
this one of the things of which we were saying that not to know them is
disgraceful, and of which to have a bare knowledge only is no great
ATHENIAN: And there are other things akin to these, in which there spring
up other errors of the same family.
CLEINIAS: What are they?
ATHENIAN: The natures of commensurable and incommensurable quantities in
their relation to one another. A man who is good for anything ought to be
able, when he thinks, to distinguish them; and different persons should
compete with one another in asking questions, which will be a far better
and more graceful way of passing their time than the old man's game of
CLEINIAS: I dare say; and these pastimes are not so very unlike a game of
ATHENIAN: And these, as I maintain, Cleinias, are the studies which our
youth ought to learn, for they are innocent and not difficult; the
learning of them will be an amusement, and they will benefit the state. If
any one is of another mind, let him say what he has to say.
ATHENIAN: Then if these studies are such as we maintain, we will include
them; if not, they shall be excluded.
CLEINIAS: Assuredly: but may we not now, Stranger, prescribe these studies
as necessary, and so fill up the lacunae of our laws?
ATHENIAN: They shall be regarded as pledges which may be hereafter
redeemed and removed from our state, if they do not please either us who
give them, or you who accept them.
CLEINIAS: A fair condition.
ATHENIAN: Next let us see whether we are or are not willing that the study
of astronomy shall be proposed for our youth.
ATHENIAN: Here occurs a strange phenomenon, which certainly cannot in any
point of view be tolerated.
CLEINIAS: To what are you referring?
ATHENIAN: Men say that we ought not to enquire into the supreme God and
the nature of the universe, nor busy ourselves in searching out the causes
of things, and that such enquiries are impious; whereas the very opposite
is the truth.
CLEINIAS: What do you mean?
ATHENIAN: Perhaps what I am saying may seem paradoxical, and at variance
with the usual language of age. But when any one has any good and true
notion which is for the advantage of the state and in every way acceptable
to God, he cannot abstain from expressing it.
CLEINIAS: Your words are reasonable enough; but shall we find any good or
true notion about the stars?
ATHENIAN: My good friends, at this hour all of us Hellenes tell lies, if I
may use such an expression, about those great Gods, the Sun and the Moon.
CLEINIAS: Lies of what nature?
ATHENIAN: We say that they and divers other stars do not keep the same
path, and we call them planets or wanderers.
CLEINIAS: Very true, Stranger; and in the course of my life I have often
myself seen the morning star and the evening star and divers others not
moving in their accustomed course, but wandering out of their path in all
manner of ways, and I have seen the sun and moon doing what we all know
that they do.
ATHENIAN: Just so, Megillus and Cleinias; and I maintain that our citizens
and our youth ought to learn about the nature of the Gods in heaven, so
far as to be able to offer sacrifices and pray to them in pious language,
and not to blaspheme about them.
CLEINIAS: There you are right, if such a knowledge be only attainable; and
if we are wrong in our mode of speaking now, and can be better instructed
and learn to use better language, then I quite agree with you that such a
degree of knowledge as will enable us to speak rightly should be acquired
by us. And now do you try to explain to us your whole meaning, and we, on
our part, will endeavour to understand you.
ATHENIAN: There is some difficulty in understanding my meaning, but not a
very great one, nor will any great length of time be required. And of this
I am myself a proof; for I did not know these things long ago, nor in the
days of my youth, and yet I can explain them to you in a brief space of
time; whereas if they had been difficult I could certainly never have
explained them all, old as I am, to old men like yourselves.
CLEINIAS: True; but what is this study which you describe as wonderful and
fitting for youth to learn, but of which we are ignorant? Try and explain
the nature of it to us as clearly as you can.
ATHENIAN: I will. For, O my good friends, that other doctrine about the
wandering of the sun and the moon and the other stars is not the truth,
but the very reverse of the truth. Each of them moves in the same path--
not in many paths, but in one only, which is circular, and the varieties
are only apparent. Nor are we right in supposing that the swiftest of them
is the slowest, nor conversely, that the slowest is the quickest. And if
what I say is true, only just imagine that we had a similar notion about
horses running at Olympia, or about men who ran in the long course, and
that we addressed the swiftest as the slowest and the slowest as the
swiftest, and sang the praises of the vanquished as though he were the
victor--in that case our praises would not be true, nor very agreeable to
the runners, though they be but men; and now, to commit the same error
about the Gods which would have been ludicrous and erroneous in the case
of men--is not that ludicrous and erroneous?
CLEINIAS: Worse than ludicrous, I should say.
ATHENIAN: At all events, the Gods cannot like us to be spreading a false
report of them.
CLEINIAS: Most true, if such is the fact.
ATHENIAN: And if we can show that such is really the fact, then all these
matters ought to be learned so far as is necessary for the avoidance of
impiety; but if we cannot, they may be let alone, and let this be our
CLEINIAS: Very good.
ATHENIAN: Enough of laws relating to education and learning. But hunting
and similar pursuits in like manner claim our attention. For the
legislator appears to have a duty imposed upon him which goes beyond mere
legislation. There is something over and above law which lies in a region
between admonition and law, and has several times occurred to us in the
course of discussion; for example, in the education of very young children
there were things, as we maintain, which are not to be defined, and to
regard them as matters of positive law is a great absurdity. Now, our laws
and the whole constitution of our state having been thus delineated, the
praise of the virtuous citizen is not complete when he is described as the
person who serves the laws best and obeys them most, but the higher form
of praise is that which describes him as the good citizen who passes
through life undefiled and is obedient to the words of the legislator,
both when he is giving laws and when he assigns praise and blame. This is
the truest word that can be spoken in praise of a citizen; and the true
legislator ought not only to write his laws, but also to interweave with
them all such things as seem to him honourable and dishonourable. And the
perfect citizen ought to seek to strengthen these no less than the
principles of law which are sanctioned by punishments. I will adduce an
example which will clear up my meaning, and will be a sort of witness to
my words. Hunting is of wide extent, and has a name under which many
things are included, for there is a hunting of creatures in the water, and
of creatures in the air, and there is a great deal of hunting of land
animals of all kinds, and not of wild beasts only. The hunting after man
is also worthy of consideration; there is the hunting after him in war,
and there is often a hunting after him in the way of friendship, which is
praised and also blamed; and there is thieving, and the hunting which is
practised by robbers, and that of armies against armies. Now the
legislator, in laying down laws about hunting, can neither abstain from
noting these things, nor can he make threatening ordinances which will
assign rules and penalties about all of them. What is he to do? He will
have to praise and blame hunting with a view to the exercise and pursuits
of youth. And, on the other hand, the young man must listen obediently;
neither pleasure nor pain should hinder him, and he should regard as his
standard of action the praises and injunctions of the legislator rather
than the punishments which he imposes by law. This being premised, there
will follow next in order moderate praise and censure of hunting; the
praise being assigned to that kind which will make the souls of young men
better, and the censure to that which has the opposite effect. And now let
us address young men in the form of a prayer for their welfare: O friends,
we will say to them, may no desire or love of hunting in the sea, or of
angling or of catching the creatures in the waters, ever take possession
of you, either when you are awake or when you are asleep, by hook or with
weels, which latter is a very lazy contrivance; and let not any desire of
catching men and of piracy by sea enter into your souls and make you cruel
and lawless hunters. And as to the desire of thieving in town or country,
may it never enter into your most passing thoughts; nor let the insidious
fancy of catching birds, which is hardly worthy of freemen, come into the
head of any youth. There remains therefore for our athletes only the
hunting and catching of land animals, of which the one sort is called
hunting by night, in which the hunters sleep in turn and are lazy; this is
not to be commended any more than that which has intervals of rest, in
which the wild strength of beasts is subdued by nets and snares, and not
by the victory of a laborious spirit. Thus, only the best kind of hunting
is allowed at all--that of quadrupeds, which is carried on with horses and
dogs and men's own persons, and they get the victory over the animals by
running them down and striking them and hurling at them, those who have a
care of godlike manhood taking them with their own hands. The praise and
blame which is assigned to all these things has now been declared; and let
the law be as follows: Let no one hinder these who verily are sacred
hunters from following the chase wherever and whithersoever they will; but
the hunter by night, who trusts to his nets and gins, shall not be allowed
to hunt anywhere. The fowler in the mountains and waste places shall be
permitted, but on cultivated ground and on consecrated wilds he shall not
be permitted; and any one who meets him may stop him. As to the hunter in
waters, he may hunt anywhere except in harbours or sacred streams or
marshes or pools, provided only that he do not pollute the water with
poisonous juices. And now we may say that all our enactments about
education are complete.
CLEINIAS: Very good.
ATHENIAN: Next, with the help of the Delphian oracle, we have to institute
festivals and make laws about them, and to determine what sacrifices will
be for the good of the city, and to what Gods they shall be offered; but
when they shall be offered, and how often, may be partly regulated by us.
CLEINIAS: The number--yes.
ATHENIAN: Then we will first determine the number; and let the whole
number be 365--one for every day--so that one magistrate at least will
sacrifice daily to some God or demi-god on behalf of the city, and the
citizens, and their possessions. And the interpreters, and priests, and
priestesses, and prophets shall meet, and, in company with the guardians
of the law, ordain those things which the legislator of necessity omits;
and I may remark that they are the very persons who ought to take note of
what is omitted. The law will say that there are twelve feasts dedicated
to the twelve Gods, after whom the several tribes are named; and that to
each of them they shall sacrifice every month, and appoint choruses, and
musical and gymnastic contests, assigning them so as to suit the Gods and
seasons of the year. And they shall have festivals for women,
distinguishing those which ought to be separated from the men's festivals,
and those which ought not. Further, they shall not confuse the infernal
deities and their rites with the Gods who are termed heavenly and their
rites, but shall separate them, giving to Pluto his own in the twelfth
month, which is sacred to him, according to the law. To such a deity
warlike men should entertain no aversion, but they should honour him as
being always the best friend of man. For the connexion of soul and body is
no way better than the dissolution of them, as I am ready to maintain
quite seriously. Moreover, those who would regulate these matters rightly
should consider, that our city among existing cities has no fellow, either
in respect of leisure or command of the necessaries of life, and that like
an individual she ought to live happily. And those who would live happily
should in the first place do no wrong to one another, and ought not
themselves to be wronged by others; to attain the first is not difficult,
but there is great difficulty in acquiring the power of not being wronged.
No man can be perfectly secure against wrong, unless he has become
perfectly good; and cities are like individuals in this, for a city if
good has a life of peace, but if evil, a life of war within and without.
Wherefore the citizens ought to practise war--not in time of war, but
rather while they are at peace. And every city which has any sense, should
take the field at least for one day in every month, and for more if the
magistrates think fit, having no regard to winter cold or summer heat; and
they should go out en masse, including their wives and their children,
when the magistrates determine to lead forth the whole people, or in
separate portions when summoned by them; and they should always provide
that there should be games and sacrificial feasts, and they should have
tournaments, imitating in as lively a manner as they can real battles. And
they should distribute prizes of victory and valour to the competitors,
passing censures and encomiums on one another according to the characters
which they bear in the contests and in their whole life, honouring him who
seems to be the best, and blaming him who is the opposite. And let poets
celebrate the victors--not however every poet, but only one who in the
first place is not less than fifty years of age; nor should he be one who,
although he may have musical and poetical gifts, has never in his life
done any noble or illustrious action; but those who are themselves good
and also honourable in the state, creators of noble actions--let their
poems be sung, even though they be not very musical. And let the judgment
of them rest with the instructor of youth and the other guardians of the
laws, who shall give them this privilege, and they alone shall be free to
sing; but the rest of the world shall not have this liberty. Nor shall any
one dare to sing a song which has not been approved by the judgment of the
guardians of the laws, not even if his strain be sweeter than the songs of
Thamyras and Orpheus; but only such poems as have been judged sacred and
dedicated to the Gods, and such as are the works of good men, in which
praise or blame has been awarded and which have been deemed to fulfil
their design fairly.
The regulations about war, and about liberty of speech in poetry, ought to
apply equally to men and women. The legislator may be supposed to argue
the question in his own mind: Who are my citizens for whom I have set in
order the city? Are they not competitors in the greatest of all contests,
and have they not innumerable rivals? To be sure, will be the natural
reply. Well, but if we were training boxers, or pancratiasts, or any other
sort of athletes, would they never meet until the hour of contest arrived;
and should we do nothing to prepare ourselves previously by daily
practice? Surely, if we were boxers, we should have been learning to fight
for many days before, and exercising ourselves in imitating all those
blows and wards which we were intending to use in the hour of conflict;
and in order that we might come as near to reality as possible, instead of
cestuses we should put on boxing-gloves, that the blows and the wards
might be practised by us to the utmost of our power. And if there were a
lack of competitors, the ridicule of fools would not deter us from hanging
up a lifeless image and practising at that. Or if we had no adversary at
all, animate or inanimate, should we not venture in the dearth of
antagonists to spar by ourselves? In what other manner could we ever study
the art of self-defence?
CLEINIAS: The way which you mention, Stranger, would be the only way.
ATHENIAN: And shall the warriors of our city, who are destined when
occasion calls to enter the greatest of all contests, and to fight for
their lives, and their children, and their property, and the whole city,
be worse prepared than boxers? And will the legislator, because he is
afraid that their practising with one another may appear to some
ridiculous, abstain from commanding them to go out and fight; will he not
ordain that soldiers shall perform lesser exercises without arms every
day, making dancing and all gymnastic tend to this end; and also will he
not require that they shall practise some gymnastic exercises, greater as
well as lesser, as often as every month; and that they shall have contests
one with another in every part of the country, seizing upon posts and
lying in ambush, and imitating in every respect the reality of war;
fighting with boxing-gloves and hurling javelins, and using weapons
somewhat dangerous, and as nearly as possible like the true ones, in order
that the sport may not be altogether without fear, but may have terrors
and to a certain degree show the man who has and who has not courage; and
that the honour and dishonour which are assigned to them respectively, may
prepare the whole city for the true conflict of life? If any one dies in
these mimic contests, the homicide is involuntary, and we will make the
slayer, when he has been purified according to law, to be pure of blood,
considering that if a few men should die, others as good as they will be
born; but that if fear is dead, then the citizens will never find a test
of superior and inferior natures, which is a far greater evil to the state
than the loss of a few.
CLEINIAS: We are quite agreed, Stranger, that we should legislate about
such things, and that the whole state should practise them.
ATHENIAN: And what is the reason that dances and contests of this sort
hardly ever exist in states, at least not to any extent worth speaking of?
Is this due to the ignorance of mankind and their legislators?
ATHENIAN: Certainly not, sweet Cleinias; there are two causes, which are
quite enough to account for the deficiency.
CLEINIAS: What are they?
ATHENIAN: One cause is the love of wealth, which wholly absorbs men, and
never for a moment allows them to think of anything but their own private
possessions; on this the soul of every citizen hangs suspended, and can
attend to nothing but his daily gain; mankind are ready to learn any
branch of knowledge, and to follow any pursuit which tends to this end,
and they laugh at every other: that is one reason why a city will not be
in earnest about such contests or any other good and honourable pursuit.
But from an insatiable love of gold and silver, every man will stoop to
any art or contrivance, seemly or unseemly, in the hope of becoming rich;
and will make no objection to performing any action, holy, or unholy and
utterly base; if only like a beast he have the power of eating and
drinking all kinds of things, and procuring for himself in every sort of
way the gratification of his lusts.
ATHENIAN: Let this, then, be deemed one of the causes which prevent states
from pursuing in an efficient manner the art of war, or any other noble
aim, but makes the orderly and temperate part of mankind into merchants,
and captains of ships, and servants, and converts the valiant sort into
thieves and burglars, and robbers of temples, and violent, tyrannical
persons; many of whom are not without ability, but they are unfortunate.
CLEINIAS: What do you mean?
ATHENIAN: Must not they be truly unfortunate whose souls are compelled to
pass through life always hungering?
CLEINIAS: Then that is one cause, Stranger; but you spoke of another.
ATHENIAN: Thank you for reminding me.
CLEINIAS: The insatiable lifelong love of wealth, as you were saying, is
one cause which absorbs mankind, and prevents them from rightly practising
the arts of war: Granted; and now tell me, what is the other?
ATHENIAN: Do you imagine that I delay because I am in a perplexity?
CLEINIAS: No; but we think that you are too severe upon the money-loving
temper, of which you seem in the present discussion to have a peculiar
ATHENIAN: That is a very fair rebuke, Cleinias; and I will now proceed to
the second cause.
ATHENIAN: I say that governments are a cause--democracy, oligarchy,
tyranny, concerning which I have often spoken in the previous discourse;
or rather governments they are not, for none of them exercises a voluntary
rule over voluntary subjects; but they may be truly called states of
discord, in which while the government is voluntary, the subjects always
obey against their will, and have to be coerced; and the ruler fears the
subject, and will not, if he can help, allow him to become either noble,
or rich, or strong, or valiant, or warlike at all. These two are the chief
causes of almost all evils, and of the evils of which I have been speaking
they are notably the causes. But our state has escaped both of them; for
her citizens have the greatest leisure, and they are not subject to one
another, and will, I think, be made by these laws the reverse of lovers of
money. Such a constitution may be reasonably supposed to be the only one
existing which will accept the education which we have described, and the
martial pastimes which have been perfected according to our idea.
ATHENIAN: Then next we must remember, about all gymnastic contests, that
only the warlike sort of them are to be practised and to have prizes of
victory; and those which are not military are to be given up. The military
sort had better be completely described and established by law; and first,
let us speak of running and swiftness.
CLEINIAS: Very good.
ATHENIAN: Certainly the most military of all qualities is general activity
of body, whether of foot or hand. For escaping or for capturing an enemy,
quickness of foot is required; but hand-to-hand conflict and combat need
vigour and strength.
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: Neither of them can attain their greatest efficiency without
CLEINIAS: How can they?
ATHENIAN: Then our herald, in accordance with the prevailing practice,
will first summon the runner--he will appear armed, for to an unarmed
competitor we will not give a prize. And he shall enter first who is to
run the single course bearing arms; next, he who is to run the double
course; third, he who is to run the horse-course; and fourthly, he who is
to run the long course; the fifth whom we start, shall be the first sent
forth in heavy armour, and shall run a course of sixty stadia to some
temple of Ares--and we will send forth another, whom we will style the
more heavily armed, to run over smoother ground. There remains the archer;
and he shall run in the full equipments of an archer a distance of 100
stadia over mountains, and across every sort of country, to a temple of
Apollo and Artemis; this shall be the order of the contest, and we will
wait for them until they return, and will give a prize to the conqueror in
CLEINIAS: Very good.
ATHENIAN: Let us suppose that there are three kinds of contests--one of
boys, another of beardless youths, and a third of men. For the youths we
will fix the length of the contest at two-thirds, and for the boys at half
of the entire course, whether they contend as archers or as heavy-armed.
Touching the women, let the girls who are not grown up compete naked in
the stadium and the double course, and the horse-course and the long
course, and let them run on the race-ground itself; those who are thirteen
years of age and upwards until their marriage shall continue to share in
contests if they are not more than twenty, and shall be compelled to run
up to eighteen; and they shall descend into the arena in suitable dresses.
Let these be the regulations about contests in running both for men and
Respecting contests of strength, instead of wrestling and similar contests
of the heavier sort, we will institute conflicts in armour of one against
one, and two against two, and so on up to ten against ten. As to what a
man ought not to suffer or do, and to what extent, in order to gain the
victory--as in wrestling, the masters of the art have laid down what is
fair and what is not fair, so in fighting in armour--we ought to call in
skilful persons, who shall judge for us and be our assessors in the work
of legislation; they shall say who deserves to be victor in combats of
this sort, and what he is not to do or have done to him, and in like
manner what rule determines who is defeated; and let these ordinances
apply to women until they are married as well as to men. The pancration
shall have a counterpart in a combat of the light-armed; they shall
contend with bows and with light shields and with javelins and in the
throwing of stones by slings and by hand: and laws shall be made about it,
and rewards and prizes given to him who best fulfils the ordinances of the
Next in order we shall have to legislate about the horse contests. Now we
do not need many horses, for they cannot be of much use in a country like
Crete, and hence we naturally do not take great pains about the rearing of
them or about horse races. There is no one who keeps a chariot among us,
and any rivalry in such matters would be altogether out of place; there
would be no sense nor any shadow of sense in instituting contests which
are not after the manner of our country. And therefore we give our prizes
for single horses--for colts who have not yet cast their teeth, and for
those who are intermediate, and for the full-grown horses themselves; and
thus our equestrian games will accord with the nature of the country. Let
them have conflict and rivalry in these matters in accordance with the
law, and let the colonels and generals of horse decide together about all
courses and about the armed competitors in them. But we have nothing to
say to the unarmed either in gymnastic exercises or in these contests. On
the other hand, the Cretan bowman or javelin-man who fights in armour on
horseback is useful, and therefore we may as well place a competition of
this sort among our amusements. Women are not to be forced to compete by
laws and ordinances; but if from previous training they have acquired the
habit and are strong enough and like to take part, let them do so, girls
as well as boys, and no blame to them.
Thus the competition in gymnastic and the mode of learning it have been
described; and we have spoken also of the toils of the contest, and of
daily exercises under the superintendence of masters. Likewise, what
relates to music has been, for the most part, completed. But as to
rhapsodes and the like, and the contests of choruses which are to perform
at feasts, all this shall be arranged when the months and days and years
have been appointed for Gods and demi-gods, whether every third year, or
again every fifth year, or in whatever way or manner the Gods may put into
men's minds the distribution and order of them. At the same time, we may
expect that the musical contests will be celebrated in their turn by the
command of the judges and the director of education and the guardians of
the law meeting together for this purpose, and themselves becoming
legislators of the times and nature and conditions of the choral contests
and of dancing in general. What they ought severally to be in language and
song, and in the admixture of harmony with rhythm and the dance, has been
often declared by the original legislator; and his successors ought to
follow him, making the games and sacrifices duly to correspond at fitting
times, and appointing public festivals. It is not difficult to determine
how these and the like matters may have a regular order; nor, again, will
the alteration of them do any great good or harm to the state. There is,
however, another matter of great importance and difficulty, concerning
which God should legislate, if there were any possibility of obtaining
from Him an ordinance about it. But seeing that divine aid is not to be
had, there appears to be a need of some bold man who specially honours
plainness of speech, and will say outright what he thinks best for the
city and citizens--ordaining what is good and convenient for the whole
state amid the corruptions of human souls, opposing the mightiest lusts,
and having no man his helper but himself standing alone and following
CLEINIAS: What is this, Stranger, that you are saying? For we do not as
yet understand your meaning.
ATHENIAN: Very likely; I will endeavour to explain myself more clearly.
When I came to the subject of education, I beheld young men and maidens
holding friendly intercourse with one another. And there naturally arose
in my mind a sort of apprehension--I could not help thinking how one is to
deal with a city in which youths and maidens are well nurtured, and have
nothing to do, and are not undergoing the excessive and servile toils
which extinguish wantonness, and whose only cares during their whole life
are sacrifices and festivals and dances. How, in such a state as this,
will they abstain from desires which thrust many a man and woman into
perdition; and from which reason, assuming the functions of law, commands
them to abstain? The ordinances already made may possibly get the better
of most of these desires; the prohibition of excessive wealth is a very
considerable gain in the direction of temperance, and the whole education
of our youth imposes a law of moderation on them; moreover, the eye of the
rulers is required always to watch over the young, and never to lose sight
of them; and these provisions do, as far as human means can effect
anything, exercise a regulating influence upon the desires in general. But
how can we take precautions against the unnatural loves of either sex,
from which innumerable evils have come upon individuals and cities? How
shall we devise a remedy and way of escape out of so great a danger?
Truly, Cleinias, here is a difficulty. In many ways Crete and Lacedaemon
furnish a great help to those who make peculiar laws; but in the matter of
love, as we are alone, I must confess that they are quite against us. For
if any one following nature should lay down the law which existed before
the days of Laius, and denounce these lusts as contrary to nature,
adducing the animals as a proof that such unions were monstrous, he might
prove his point, but he would be wholly at variance with the custom of
your states. Further, they are repugnant to a principle which we say that
a legislator should always observe; for we are always enquiring which of
our enactments tends to virtue and which not. And suppose we grant that
these loves are accounted by law to the honourable, or at least not
disgraceful, in what degree will they contribute to virtue? Will such
passions implant in the soul of him who is seduced the habit of courage,
or in the soul of the seducer the principle of temperance? Who will ever
believe this? or rather, who will not blame the effeminacy of him who
yields to pleasures and is unable to hold out against them? Will not all
men censure as womanly him who imitates the woman? And who would ever
think of establishing such a practice by law? certainly no one who had in
his mind the image of true law. How can we prove that what I am saying is
true? He who would rightly consider these matters must see the nature of
friendship and desire, and of these so-called loves, for they are of two
kinds, and out of the two arises a third kind, having the same name; and
this similarity of name causes all the difficulty and obscurity.
CLEINIAS: How is that?
ATHENIAN: Dear is the like in virtue to the like, and the equal to the
equal; dear also, though unlike, is he who has abundance to him who is in
want. And when either of these friendships becomes excessive, we term the
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: The friendship which arises from contraries is horrible and
coarse, and has often no tie of communion; but that which arises from
likeness is gentle, and has a tie of communion which lasts through life.
As to the mixed sort which is made up of them both, there is, first of
all, a difficulty in determining what he who is possessed by this third
love desires; moreover, he is drawn different ways, and is in doubt
between the two principles; the one exhorting him to enjoy the beauty of
youth, and the other forbidding him. For the one is a lover of the body,
and hungers after beauty, like ripe fruit, and would fain satisfy himself
without any regard to the character of the beloved; the other holds the
desire of the body to be a secondary matter, and looking rather than
loving and with his soul desiring the soul of the other in a becoming
manner, regards the satisfaction of the bodily love as wantonness; he
reverences and respects temperance and courage and magnanimity and wisdom,
and wishes to live chastely with the chaste object of his affection. Now
the sort of love which is made up of the other two is that which we have
described as the third. Seeing then that there are these three sorts of
love, ought the law to prohibit and forbid them all to exist among us? Is
it not rather clear that we should wish to have in the state the love
which is of virtue and which desires the beloved youth to be the best
possible; and the other two, if possible, we should hinder? What do you
say, friend Megillus?
MEGILLUS: I think, Stranger, that you are perfectly right in what you have
been now saying.
Athenian: I knew well, my friend, that I should obtain your assent, which
I accept, and therefore have no need to analyze your custom any further.
Cleinias shall be prevailed upon to give me his assent at some other time.
Enough of this; and now let us proceed to the laws.
MEGILLUS: Very good.
ATHENIAN: Upon reflection I see a way of imposing the law, which, in one
respect, is easy, but, in another, is of the utmost difficulty.
MEGILLUS: What do you mean?
ATHENIAN: We are all aware that most men, in spite of their lawless
natures, are very strictly and precisely restrained from intercourse with
the fair, and this is not at all against their will, but entirely with
MEGILLUS: When do you mean?
ATHENIAN: When any one has a brother or sister who is fair; and about a
son or daughter the same unwritten law holds, and is a most perfect
safeguard, so that no open or secret connexion ever takes place between
them. Nor does the thought of such a thing ever enter at all into the
minds of most of them.
MEGILLUS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: Does not a little word extinguish all pleasures of that sort?
MEGILLUS: What word?
ATHENIAN: The declaration that they are unholy, hated of God, and most
infamous; and is not the reason of this that no one has ever said the
opposite, but every one from his earliest childhood has heard men speaking
in the same manner about them always and everywhere, whether in comedy or
in the graver language of tragedy? When the poet introduces on the stage a
Thyestes or an Oedipus, or a Macareus having secret intercourse with his
sister, he represents him, when found out, ready to kill himself as the
penalty of his sin.
MEGILLUS: You are very right in saying that tradition, if no breath of
opposition ever assails it, has a marvellous power.
ATHENIAN: Am I not also right in saying that the legislator who wants to
master any of the passions which master man may easily know how to subdue
them? He will consecrate the tradition of their evil character among all,
slaves and freemen, women and children, throughout the city: that will be
the surest foundation of the law which he can make.
MEGILLUS: Yes; but will he ever succeed in making all mankind use the same
language about them?
ATHENIAN: A good objection; but was I not just now saying that I had a way
to make men use natural love and abstain from unnatural, not intentionally
destroying the seeds of human increase, or sowing them in stony places, in
which they will take no root; and that I would command them to abstain too
from any female field of increase in which that which is sown is not
likely to grow? Now if a law to this effect could only be made perpetual,
and gain an authority such as already prevents intercourse of parents and
children--such a law, extending to other sensual desires, and conquering
them, would be the source of ten thousand blessings. For, in the first
place, moderation is the appointment of nature, and deters men from all
frenzy and madness of love, and from all adulteries and immoderate use of
meats and drinks, and makes them good friends to their own wives. And
innumerable other benefits would result if such a law could only be
enforced. I can imagine some lusty youth who is standing by, and who, on
hearing this enactment, declares in scurrilous terms that we are making
foolish and impossible laws, and fills the world with his outcry. And
therefore I said that I knew a way of enacting and perpetuating such a
law, which was very easy in one respect, but in another most difficult.
There is no difficulty in seeing that such a law is possible, and in what
way; for, as I was saying, the ordinance once consecrated would master the
soul of every man, and terrify him into obedience. But matters have now
come to such a pass that even then the desired result seems as if it could
not be attained, just as the continuance of an entire state in the
practice of common meals is also deemed impossible. And although this
latter is partly disproven by the fact of their existence among you, still
even in your cities the common meals of women would be regarded as
unnatural and impossible. I was thinking of the rebelliousness of the
human heart when I said that the permanent establishment of these things
is very difficult.
MEGILLUS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: Shall I try and find some sort of persuasive argument which will
prove to you that such enactments are possible, and not beyond human
CLEINIAS: By all means.
ATHENIAN: Is a man more likely to abstain from the pleasures of love and
to do what he is bidden about them, when his body is in a good condition,
or when he is in an ill condition, and out of training?
CLEINIAS: He will be far more temperate when he is in training.
ATHENIAN: And have we not heard of Iccus of Tarentum, who, with a view to
the Olympic and other contests, in his zeal for his art, and also because
he was of a manly and temperate disposition, never had any connexion with
a woman or a youth during the whole time of his training? And the same is
said of Crison and Astylus and Diopompus and many others; and yet,
Cleinias, they were far worse educated in their minds than your and my
citizens, and in their bodies far more lusty.
CLEINIAS: No doubt this fact has been often affirmed positively by the
ancients of these athletes.
ATHENIAN: And had they the courage to abstain from what is ordinarily
deemed a pleasure for the sake of a victory in wrestling, running, and the
like; and shall our young men be incapable of a similar endurance for the
sake of a much nobler victory, which is the noblest of all, as from their
youth upwards we will tell them, charming them, as we hope, into the
belief of this by tales and sayings and songs?
CLEINIAS: Of what victory are you speaking?
ATHENIAN: Of the victory over pleasure, which if they win, they will live
happily; or if they are conquered, the reverse of happily. And, further,
may we not suppose that the fear of impiety will enable them to master
that which other inferior people have mastered?
CLEINIAS: I dare say.
ATHENIAN: And since we have reached this point in our legislation, and
have fallen into a difficulty by reason of the vices of mankind, I affirm
that our ordinance should simply run in the following terms: Our citizens
ought not to fall below the nature of birds and beasts in general, who are
born in great multitudes, and yet remain until the age for procreation
virgin and unmarried, but when they have reached the proper time of life
are coupled, male and female, and lovingly pair together, and live the
rest of their lives in holiness and innocence, abiding firmly in their
original compact: surely, we will say to them, you should be better than
the animals. But if they are corrupted by the other Hellenes and the
common practice of barbarians, and they see with their eyes and hear with
their ears of the so-called free love everywhere prevailing among them,
and they themselves are not able to get the better of the temptation, the
guardians of the law, exercising the functions of lawgivers, shall devise
a second law against them.
CLEINIAS: And what law would you advise them to pass if this one failed?
ATHENIAN: Clearly, Cleinias, the one which would naturally follow.
CLEINIAS: What is that?
ATHENIAN: Our citizens should not allow pleasures to strengthen with
indulgence, but should by toil divert the aliment and exuberance of them
into other parts of the body; and this will happen if no immodesty be
allowed in the practice of love. Then they will be ashamed of frequent
intercourse, and they will find pleasure, if seldom enjoyed, to be a less
imperious mistress. They should not be found out doing anything of the
sort. Concealment shall be honourable, and sanctioned by custom and made
law by unwritten prescription; on the other hand, to be detected shall be
esteemed dishonourable, but not, to abstain wholly. In this way there will
be a second legal standard of honourable and dishonourable, involving a
second notion of right. Three principles will comprehend all those corrupt
natures whom we call inferior to themselves, and who form but one class,
and will compel them not to transgress.
CLEINIAS: What are they?
ATHENIAN: The principle of piety, the love of honour, and the desire of
beauty, not in the body but in the soul. These are, perhaps, romantic
aspirations; but they are the noblest of aspirations, if they could only
be realised in all states, and, God willing, in the matter of love we may
be able to enforce one of two things--either that no one shall venture to
touch any person of the freeborn or noble class except his wedded wife, or
sow the unconsecrated and bastard seed among harlots, or in barren and
unnatural lusts; or at least we may abolish altogether the connection of
men with men; and as to women, if any man has to do with any but those who
come into his house duly married by sacred rites, whether they be bought
or acquired in any other way, and he offends publicly in the face of all
mankind, we shall be right in enacting that he be deprived of civic
honours and privileges, and be deemed to be, as he truly is, a stranger.
Let this law, then, whether it is one, or ought rather to be called two,
be laid down respecting love in general, and the intercourse of the sexes
which arises out of the desires, whether rightly or wrongly indulged.
MEGILLUS: I, for my part, Stranger, would gladly receive this law.
Cleinias shall speak for himself, and tell you what is his opinion.
CLEINIAS: I will, Megillus, when an opportunity offers; at present, I
think that we had better allow the Stranger to proceed with his laws.
MEGILLUS: Very good.
ATHENIAN: We had got about as far as the establishment of the common
tables, which in most places would be difficult, but in Crete no one would
think of introducing any other custom. There might arise a question about
the manner of them--whether they shall be such as they are here in Crete,
or such as they are in Lacedaemon--or is there a third kind which may be
better than either of them? The answer to this question might be easily
discovered, but the discovery would do no great good, for at present they
are very well ordered.
Leaving the common tables, we may therefore proceed to the means of
providing food. Now, in cities the means of life are gained in many ways
and from divers sources, and in general from two sources, whereas our city
has only one. For most of the Hellenes obtain their food from sea and
land, but our citizens from land only. And this makes the task of the
legislator less difficult--half as many laws will be enough, and much less
than half; and they will be of a kind better suited to free men. For he
has nothing to do with laws about shipowners and merchants and retailers
and inn-keepers and tax collectors and mines and moneylending and compound
interest and innumerable other things--bidding good-bye to these, he gives
laws to husbandmen and shepherds and bee-keepers, and to the guardians and
superintendents of their implements; and he has already legislated for
greater matters, as for example, respecting marriage and the procreation
and nurture of children, and for education, and the establishment of
offices--and now he must direct his laws to those who provide food and
labour in preparing it.
Let us first of all, then, have a class of laws which shall be called the
laws of husbandmen. And let the first of them be the law of Zeus, the God
of boundaries. Let no one shift the boundary line either of a fellow-
citizen who is a neighbour, or, if he dwells at the extremity of the land,
of any stranger who is conterminous with him, considering that this is
truly 'to move the immovable,' and every one should be more willing to
move the largest rock which is not a landmark, than the least stone which
is the sworn mark of friendship and hatred between neighbours; for Zeus,
the god of kindred, is the witness of the citizen, and Zeus, the god of
strangers, of the stranger, and when aroused, terrible are the wars which
they stir up. He who obeys the law will never know the fatal consequences
of disobedience, but he who despises the law shall be liable to a double
penalty, the first coming from the Gods, and the second from the law. For
let no one wilfully remove the boundaries of his neighbour's land, and if
any one does, let him who will inform the landowners, and let them bring
him into court, and if he be convicted of re-dividing the land by stealth
or by force, let the court determine what he ought to suffer or pay. In
the next place, many small injuries done by neighbours to one another,
through their multiplication, may cause a weight of enmity, and make
neighbourhood a very disagreeable and bitter thing. Wherefore a man ought
to be very careful of committing any offence against his neighbour, and
especially of encroaching on his neighbour's land; for any man may easily
do harm, but not every man can do good to another. He who encroaches on
his neighbour's land, and transgresses his boundaries, shall make good the
damage, and, to cure him of his impudence and also of his meanness, he
shall pay a double penalty to the injured party. Of these and the like
matters the wardens of the country shall take cognizance, and be the
judges of them and assessors of the damage; in the more important cases,
as has been already said, the whole number of them belonging to any one of
the twelve divisions shall decide, and in the lesser cases the commanders:
or, again, if any one pastures his cattle on his neighbour's land, they
shall see the injury, and adjudge the penalty. And if any one, by decoying
the bees, gets possession of another's swarms, and draws them to himself
by making noises, he shall pay the damage; or if any one sets fire to his
own wood and takes no care of his neighbour's property, he shall be fined
at the discretion of the magistrates. And if in planting he does not leave
a fair distance between his own and his neighbour's land, he shall be
punished, in accordance with the enactments of many lawgivers, which we
may use, not deeming it necessary that the great legislator of our state
should determine all the trifles which might be decided by any body; for
example, husbandmen have had of old excellent laws about waters, and there
is no reason why we should propose to divert their course: He who likes
may draw water from the fountain-head of the common stream on to his own
land, if he do not cut off the spring which clearly belongs to some other
owner; and he may take the water in any direction which he pleases, except
through a house or temple or sepulchre, but he must be careful to do no
harm beyond the channel. And if there be in any place a natural dryness of
the earth, which keeps in the rain from heaven, and causes a deficiency in
the supply of water, let him dig down on his own land as far as the clay,
and if at this depth he finds no water, let him obtain water from his
neighbours, as much as is required for his servants' drinking, and if his
neighbours, too, are limited in their supply, let him have a fixed
measure, which shall be determined by the wardens of the country. This he
shall receive each day, and on these terms have a share of his neighbours'
water. If there be heavy rain, and one of those on the lower ground
injures some tiller of the upper ground, or some one who has a common
wall, by refusing to give them an outlet for water; or, again, if some one
living on the higher ground recklessly lets off the water on his lower
neighbour, and they cannot come to terms with one another, let him who
will call in a warden of the city, if he be in the city, or if he be in
the country, a warden of the country, and let him obtain a decision
determining what each of them is to do. And he who will not abide by the
decision shall suffer for his malignant and morose temper, and pay a fine
to the injured party, equivalent to double the value of the injury,
because he was unwilling to submit to the magistrates.
Now the participation of fruits shall be ordered on this wise. The goddess
of Autumn has two gracious gifts: one the joy of Dionysus which is not
treasured up; the other, which nature intends to be stored. Let this be
the law, then, concerning the fruits of autumn: He who tastes the common
or storing fruits of autumn, whether grapes or figs, before the season of
vintage which coincides with Arcturus, either on his own land or on that
of others--let him pay fifty drachmae, which shall be sacred to Dionysus,
if he pluck them from his own land; and if from his neighbour's land, a
mina, and if from any others', two-thirds of a mina. And he who would
gather the 'choice' grapes or the 'choice' figs, as they are now termed,
if he take them off his own land, let him pluck them how and when he
likes; but if he take them from the ground of others without their leave,
let him in that case be always punished in accordance with the law which
ordains that he should not move what he has not laid down. And if a slave
touches any fruit of this sort, without the consent of the owner of the
land, he shall be beaten with as many blows as there are grapes on the
bunch, or figs on the fig-tree. Let a metic purchase the 'choice' autumnal
fruit, and then, if he pleases, he may gather it; but if a stranger is
passing along the road, and desires to eat, let him take of the 'choice'
grape for himself and a single follower without payment, as a tribute of
hospitality. The law however forbids strangers from sharing in the sort
which is not used for eating; and if any one, whether he be master or
slave, takes of them in ignorance, let the slave be beaten, and the
freeman dismissed with admonitions, and instructed to take of the other
autumnal fruits which are unfit for making raisins and wine, or for laying
by as dried figs. As to pears, and apples, and pomegranates, and similar
fruits, there shall be no disgrace in taking them secretly; but he who is
caught, if he be of less than thirty years of age, shall be struck and
beaten off, but not wounded; and no freeman shall have any right of
satisfaction for such blows. Of these fruits the stranger may partake,
just as he may of the fruits of autumn. And if an elder, who is more than
thirty years of age, eat of them on the spot, let him, like the stranger,
be allowed to partake of all such fruits, but he must carry away nothing.
If, however, he will not obey the law, let him run the risk of failing in
the competition of virtue, in case any one takes notice of his actions
before the judges at the time.
Water is the greatest element of nutrition in gardens, but is easily
polluted. You cannot poison the soil, or the sun, or the air, which are
the other elements of nutrition in plants, or divert them, or steal them;
but all these things may very likely happen in regard to water, which must
therefore be protected by law. And let this be the law: If any one
intentionally pollutes the water of another, whether the water of a
spring, or collected in reservoirs, either by poisonous substances, or by
digging, or by theft, let the injured party bring the cause before the
wardens of the city, and claim in writing the value of the loss; if the
accused be found guilty of injuring the water by deleterious substances,
let him not only pay damages, but purify the stream or the cistern which
contains the water, in such manner as the laws of the interpreters order
the purification to be made by the offender in each case.
With respect to the gathering in of the fruits of the soil, let a man, if
he pleases, carry his own fruits through any place in which he either does
no harm to any one, or himself gains three times as much as his neighbour
loses. Now of these things the magistrates should be cognizant, as of all
other things in which a man intentionally does injury to another or to the
property of another, by fraud or force, in the use which he makes of his
own property. All these matters a man should lay before the magistrates,
and receive damages, supposing the injury to be not more than three minae;
or if he have a charge against another which involves a larger amount, let
him bring his suit into the public courts and have the evil-doer punished.
But if any of the magistrates appear to adjudge the penalties which he
imposes in an unjust spirit, let him be liable to pay double to the
injured party. Any one may bring the offences of magistrates, in any
particular case, before the public courts. There are innumerable little
matters relating to the modes of punishment, and applications for suits,
and summonses and the witnesses to summonses--for example, whether two
witnesses should be required for a summons, or how many--and all such
details, which cannot be omitted in legislation, but are beneath the
wisdom of an aged legislator. These lesser matters, as they indeed are in
comparison with the greater ones, let a younger generation regulate by
law, after the patterns which have preceded, and according to their own
experience of the usefulness and necessity of such laws; and when they are
duly regulated let there be no alteration, but let the citizens live in
the observance of them.
Now of artisans, let the regulations be as follows: In the first place,
let no citizen or servant of a citizen be occupied in handicraft arts; for
he who is to secure and preserve the public order of the state, has an art
which requires much study and many kinds of knowledge, and does not admit
of being made a secondary occupation; and hardly any human being is
capable of pursuing two professions or two arts rightly, or of practising
one art himself, and superintending some one else who is practising
another. Let this, then, be our first principle in the state: No one who
is a smith shall also be a carpenter, and if he be a carpenter, he shall
not superintend the smith's art rather than his own, under the pretext
that in superintending many servants who are working for him, he is likely
to superintend them better, because more revenue will accrue to him from
them than from his own art; but let every man in the state have one art,
and get his living by that. Let the wardens of the city labour to maintain
this law, and if any citizen incline to any other art rather than the
study of virtue, let them punish him with disgrace and infamy, until they
bring him back into his own right course; and if any stranger profess two
arts, let them chastise him with bonds and money penalties, and expulsion
from the state, until they compel him to be one only and not many.
But as touching payments for hire, and contracts of work, or in case any
one does wrong to any of the citizens, or they do wrong to any other, up
to fifty drachmae, let the wardens of the city decide the case; but if a
greater amount be involved, then let the public courts decide according to
law. Let no one pay any duty either on the importation or exportation of
goods; and as to frankincense and similar perfumes, used in the service of
the Gods, which come from abroad, and purple and other dyes which are not
produced in the country, or the materials of any art which have to be
imported, and which are not necessary--no one should import them; nor,
again, should any one export anything which is wanted in the country. Of
all these things let there be inspectors and superintendents, taken from
the guardians of the law; and they shall be the twelve next in order to
the five seniors. Concerning arms, and all implements which are required
for military purposes, if there be need of introducing any art, or plant,
or metal, or chains of any kind, or animals for use in war, let the
commanders of the horse and the generals have authority over their
importation and exportation; the city shall send them out and also receive
them, and the guardians of the law shall make fit and proper laws about
them. But let there be no retail trade for the sake of moneymaking, either
in these or any other articles, in the city or country at all.
With respect to food and the distribution of the produce of the country,
the right and proper way seems to be nearly that which is the custom of
Crete; for all should be required to distribute the fruits of the soil
into twelve parts, and in this way consume them. Let the twelfth portion
of each as for instance of wheat and barley, to which the rest of the
fruits of the earth shall be added, as well as the animals which are for
sale in each of the twelve divisions, be divided in due proportion into
three parts; one part for freemen, another for their servants, and a third
for craftsmen and in general for strangers, whether sojourners who may be
dwelling in the city, and like other men must live, or those who come on
some business which they have with the state, or with some individual. Let
only this third part of all necessaries be required to be sold; out of the
other two-thirds no one shall be compelled to sell. And how will they be
best distributed? In the first place, we see clearly that the distribution
will be of equals in one point of view, and in another point of view of
CLEINIAS: What do you mean?
ATHENIAN: I mean that the earth of necessity produces and nourishes the
various articles of food, sometimes better and sometimes worse.
CLEINIAS: Of course.
ATHENIAN: Such being the case, let no one of the three portions be greater
than either of the other two--neither that which is assigned to masters or
to slaves, nor again that of the stranger; but let the distribution to all
be equal and alike, and let every citizen take his two portions and
distribute them among slaves and freemen, he having power to determine the
quantity and quality. And what remains he shall distribute by measure and
number among the animals who have to be sustained from the earth, taking
the whole number of them.
In the second place, our citizens should have separate houses duly
ordered; and this will be the order proper for men like them. There shall
be twelve hamlets, one in the middle of each twelfth portion, and in each
hamlet they shall first set apart a market-place, and the temples of the
Gods, and of their attendant demi-gods; and if there be any local deities
of the Magnetes, or holy seats of other ancient deities, whose memory has
been preserved, to these let them pay their ancient honours. But Hestia,
and Zeus, and Athene will have temples everywhere together with the God
who presides in each of the twelve districts. And the first erection of
houses shall be around these temples, where the ground is highest, in
order to provide the safest and most defensible place of retreat for the
guards. All the rest of the country they shall settle in the following
manner: They shall make thirteen divisions of the craftsmen; one of them
they shall establish in the city, and this, again, they shall subdivide
into twelve lesser divisions, among the twelve districts of the city, and
the remainder shall be distributed in the country round about; and in each
village they shall settle various classes of craftsmen, with a view to the
convenience of the husbandmen. And the chief officers of the wardens of
the country shall superintend all these matters, and see how many of them,
and which class of them, each place requires; and fix them where they are
likely to be least troublesome, and most useful to the husbandman. And the
wardens of the city shall see to similar matters in the city.
Now the wardens of the agora ought to see to the details of the agora.
Their first care, after the temples which are in the agora have been seen
to, should be to prevent any one from doing any wrong in dealings between
man and man; in the second place, as being inspectors of temperance and
violence, they should chastise him who requires chastisement. Touching
articles of sale, they should first see whether the articles which the
citizens are under regulations to sell to strangers are sold to them, as
the law ordains. And let the law be as follows: On the first day of the
month, the persons in charge, whoever they are, whether strangers or
slaves, who have the charge on behalf of the citizens, shall produce to
the strangers the portion which falls to them, in the first place, a
twelfth portion of the corn--the stranger shall purchase corn for the
whole month, and other cereals, on the first market day; and on the tenth
day of the month the one party shall sell, and the other buy, liquids
sufficient to last during the whole month; and on the twenty-third day
there shall be a sale of animals by those who are willing to sell to the
people who want to buy, and of implements and other things which
husbandmen sell, (such as skins and all kinds of clothing, either woven or
made of felt and other goods of the same sort) and which strangers are
compelled to buy and purchase of others. As to the retail trade in these
things, whether of barley or wheat set apart for meal and flour, or any
other kind of food, no one shall sell them to citizens or their slaves,
nor shall any one buy of a citizen; but let the stranger sell them in the
market of strangers, to artisans and their slaves, making an exchange of
wine and food, which is commonly called retail trade. And butchers shall
offer for sale parts of dismembered animals to the strangers, and
artisans, and their servants. Let any stranger who likes buy fuel from day
to day wholesale, from those who have the care of it in the country, and
let him sell to the strangers as much as he pleases and when he pleases.
As to other goods and implements which are likely to be wanted, they shall
sell them in the common market, at any place which the guardians of the
law and the wardens of the market and city, choosing according to their
judgment, shall determine; at such places they shall exchange money for
goods, and goods for money, neither party giving credit to the other; and
he who gives credit must be satisfied, whether he obtain his money or not,
for in such exchanges he will not be protected by law. But whenever
property has been bought or sold, greater in quantity or value than is
allowed by the law, which has determined within what limits a man may
increase and diminish his possessions, let the excess be registered in the
books of the guardians of the law; or in case of diminution, let there be
an erasure made. And let the same rule be observed about the registration
of the property of the metics. Any one who likes may come and be a metic
on certain conditions; a foreigner, if he likes, and is able to settle,
may dwell in the land, but he must practise an art, and not abide more
than twenty years from the time at which he has registered himself; and he
shall pay no sojourner's tax, however small, except good conduct, nor any
other tax for buying and selling. But when the twenty years have expired,
he shall take his property with him and depart. And if in the course of
these years he should chance to distinguish himself by any considerable
benefit which he confers on the state, and he thinks that he can persuade
the council and assembly, either to grant him delay in leaving the
country, or to allow him to remain for the whole of his life, let him go
and persuade the city, and whatever they assent to at his instance shall
take effect. For the children of the metics, being artisans, and of
fifteen years of age, let the time of their sojourn commence after their
fifteenth year; and let them remain for twenty years, and then go where
they like; but any of them who wishes to remain, may do so, if he can
persuade the council and assembly. And if he depart, let him erase all the
entries which have been made by him in the register kept by the
Next to all the matters which have preceded in the natural order of
legislation will come suits of law. Of suits those which relate to
agriculture have been already described, but the more important have not
been described. Having mentioned them severally under their usual names,
we will proceed to say what punishments are to be inflicted for each
offence, and who are to be the judges of them.
CLEINIAS: Very good.
ATHENIAN: There is a sense of disgrace in legislating, as we are about to
do, for all the details of crime in a state which, as we say, is to be
well regulated and will be perfectly adapted to the practice of virtue. To
assume that in such a state there will arise some one who will be guilty
of crimes as heinous as any which are ever perpetrated in other states,
and that we must legislate for him by anticipation, and threaten and make
laws against him if he should arise, in order to deter him, and punish his
acts, under the idea that he will arise--this, as I was saying, is in a
manner disgraceful. Yet seeing that we are not like the ancient
legislators, who gave laws to heroes and sons of gods, being, according to
the popular belief, themselves the offspring of the gods, and legislating
for others, who were also the children of divine parents, but that we are
only men who are legislating for the sons of men, there is no
uncharitableness in apprehending that some one of our citizens may be like
a seed which has touched the ox's horn, having a heart so hard that it
cannot be softened any more than those seeds can be softened by fire.
Among our citizens there may be those who cannot be subdued by all the
strength of the laws; and for their sake, though an ungracious task, I
will proclaim my first law about the robbing of temples, in case any one
should dare to commit such a crime. I do not expect or imagine that any
well-brought-up citizen will ever take the infection, but their servants,
and strangers, and strangers' servants may be guilty of many impieties.
And with a view to them especially, and yet not without a provident eye to
the weakness of human nature generally, I will proclaim the law about
robbers of temples and similar incurable, or almost incurable, criminals.
Having already agreed that such enactments ought always to have a short
prelude, we may speak to the criminal, whom some tormenting desire by
night and by day tempts to go and rob a temple, the fewest possible words
of admonition and exhortation: O sir, we will say to him, the impulse
which moves you to rob temples is not an ordinary human malady, nor yet a
visitation of heaven, but a madness which is begotten in a man from
ancient and unexpiated crimes of his race, an ever-recurring curse--
against this you must guard with all your might, and how you are to guard
we will explain to you. When any such thought comes into your mind, go and
perform expiations, go as a suppliant to the temples of the Gods who avert
evils, go to the society of those who are called good men among you; hear
them tell and yourself try to repeat after them, that every man should
honour the noble and the just. Fly from the company of the wicked--fly and
turn not back; and if your disorder is lightened by these remedies, well
and good, but if not, then acknowledge death to be nobler than life, and
Such are the preludes which we sing to all who have thoughts of unholy and
treasonable actions, and to him who hearkens to them the law has nothing
to say. But to him who is disobedient when the prelude is over, cry with a
loud voice--He who is taken in the act of robbing temples, if he be a
slave or stranger, shall have his evil deed engraven on his face and
hands, and shall be beaten with as many stripes as may seem good to the
judges, and be cast naked beyond the borders of the land. And if he
suffers this punishment he will probably return to his right mind and be
improved; for no penalty which the law inflicts is designed for evil, but
always makes him who suffers either better or not so much worse as he
would have been. But if any citizen be found guilty of any great or
unmentionable wrong, either in relation to the Gods, or his parents, or
the state, let the judge deem him to be incurable, remembering that after
receiving such an excellent education and training from youth upward, he
has not abstained from the greatest of crimes. His punishment shall be
death, which to him will be the least of evils; and his example will
benefit others, if he perish ingloriously, and be cast beyond the borders
of the land. But let his children and family, if they avoid the ways of
their father, have glory, and let honourable mention be made of them, as
having nobly and manfully escaped out of evil into good. None of them
should have their goods confiscated to the state, for the lots of the
citizens ought always to continue the same and equal.
Touching the exaction of penalties, when a man appears to have done
anything which deserves a fine, he shall pay the fine, if he have anything
in excess of the lot which is assigned to him; but more than that he shall
not pay. And to secure exactness, let the guardians of the law refer to
the registers, and inform the judges of the precise truth, in order that
none of the lots may go uncultivated for want of money. But if any one
seems to deserve a greater penalty, let him undergo a long and public
imprisonment and be dishonoured, unless some of his friends are willing to
be surety for him, and liberate him by assisting him to pay the fine. No
criminal shall go unpunished, not even for a single offence, nor if he
have fled the country; but let the penalty be according to his deserts--
death, or bonds, or blows, or degrading places of sitting or standing, or
removal to some temple on the borders of the land; or let him pay fines,
as we said before. In cases of death, let the judges be the guardians of
the law, and a court selected by merit from the last year's magistrates.
But how the causes are to be brought into court, how the summonses are to
be served, and the like, these things may be left to the younger
generation of legislators to determine; the manner of voting we must
Let the vote be given openly; but before they come to the vote let the
judges sit in order of seniority over against plaintiff and defendant, and
let all the citizens who can spare time hear and take a serious interest
in listening to such causes. First of all the plaintiff shall make one
speech, and then the defendant shall make another; and after the speeches
have been made the eldest judge shall begin to examine the parties, and
proceed to make an adequate enquiry into what has been said; and after the
oldest has spoken, the rest shall proceed in order to examine either party
as to what he finds defective in the evidence, whether of statement or
omission; and he who has nothing to ask shall hand over the examination to
another. And on so much of what has been said as is to the purpose all the
judges shall set their seals, and place the writings on the altar of
Hestia. On the next day they shall meet again, and in like manner put
their questions and go through the cause, and again set their seals upon
the evidence; and when they have three times done this, and have had
witnesses and evidence enough, they shall each of them give a holy vote,
after promising by Hestia that they will decide justly and truly to the
utmost of their power; and so they shall put an end to the suit.
Next, after what relates to the Gods, follows what relates to the
dissolution of the state: Whoever by permitting a man to power enslaves
the laws, and subjects the city to factions, using violence and stirring
up sedition contrary to law, him we will deem the greatest enemy of the
whole state. But he who takes no part in such proceedings, and, being one
of the chief magistrates of the state, has no knowledge of treason, or,
having knowledge of it, by reason of cowardice does not interfere on
behalf of his country, such an one we must consider nearly as bad. Every
man who is worth anything will inform the magistrates, and bring the
conspirator to trial for making a violent and illegal attempt to change
the government. The judges of such cases shall be the same as of the
robbers of temples; and let the whole proceeding be carried on in the same
way, and the vote of the majority condemn to death. But let there be a
general rule, that the disgrace and punishment of the father is not to be
visited on the children, except in the case of some one whose father,
grandfather, and great-grandfather have successively undergone the penalty
of death. Such persons the city shall send away with all their possessions
to the city and country of their ancestors, retaining only and wholly
their appointed lot. And out of the citizens who have more than one son of
not less than ten years of age, they shall select ten whom their father or
grandfather by the mother's or father's side shall appoint, and let them
send to Delphi the names of those who are selected, and him whom the God
chooses they shall establish as heir of the house which has failed; and
may he have better fortune than his predecessors!
CLEINIAS: Very good.
ATHENIAN: Once more let there be a third general law respecting the judges
who are to give judgment, and the manner of conducting suits against those
who are tried on an accusation of treason; and as concerning the remaining
or departure of their descendants--there shall be one law for all three,
for the traitor, and the robber of temples, and the subverter by violence
of the laws of the state. For a thief, whether he steal much or little,
let there be one law, and one punishment for all alike: in the first
place, let him pay double the amount of the theft if he be convicted, and
if he have so much over and above the allotment--if he have not, he shall
be bound until he pay the penalty, or persuade him who has obtained the
sentence against him to forgive him. But if a person be convicted of a
theft against the state, then if he can persuade the city, or if he will
pay back twice the amount of the theft, he shall be set free from his
CLEINIAS: What makes you say, Stranger, that a theft is all one, whether
the thief may have taken much or little, and either from sacred or secular
places--and these are not the only differences in thefts--seeing, then,
that they are of many kinds, ought not the legislator to adapt himself to
them, and impose upon them entirely different penalties?
ATHENIAN: Excellent. I was running on too fast, Cleinias, and you impinged
upon me, and brought me to my senses, reminding me of what, indeed, had
occurred to my mind already, that legislation was never yet rightly worked
out, as I may say in passing. Do you remember the image in which I likened
the men for whom laws are now made to slaves who are doctored by slaves?
For of this you may be very sure, that if one of those empirical
physicians, who practise medicine without science, were to come upon the
gentleman physician talking to his gentleman patient, and using the
language almost of philosophy, beginning at the beginning of the disease
and discoursing about the whole nature of the body, he would burst into a
hearty laugh--he would say what most of those who are called doctors
always have at their tongue's end: Foolish fellow, he would say, you are
not healing the sick man, but you are educating him; and he does not want
to be made a doctor, but to get well.
CLEINIAS: And would he not be right?
ATHENIAN: Perhaps he would; and he might remark upon us, that he who
discourses about laws, as we are now doing, is giving the citizens
education and not laws; that would be rather a telling observation.
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: But we are fortunate.
CLEINIAS: In what way?
ATHENIAN: Inasmuch as we are not compelled to give laws, but we may take
into consideration every form of government, and ascertain what is best
and what is most needful, and how they may both be carried into execution;
and we may also, if we please, at this very moment choose what is best,
or, if we prefer, what is most necessary--which shall we do?
CLEINIAS: There is something ridiculous, Stranger, in our proposing such
an alternative, as if we were legislators, simply bound under some great
necessity which cannot be deferred to the morrow. But we, as I may by the
grace of Heaven affirm, like gatherers of stones or beginners of some
composite work, may gather a heap of materials, and out of this, at our
leisure, select what is suitable for our projected construction. Let us
then suppose ourselves to be at leisure, not of necessity building, but
rather like men who are partly providing materials, and partly putting
them together. And we may truly say that some of our laws, like stones,
are already fixed in their places, and others lie at hand.
ATHENIAN: Certainly, in that case, Cleinias, our view of law will be more
in accordance with nature. For there is another matter affecting
legislators, which I must earnestly entreat you to consider.
CLEINIAS: What is it?
ATHENIAN: There are many writings to be found in cities, and among them
there are discourses composed by legislators as well as by other persons.
CLEINIAS: To be sure.
ATHENIAN: Shall we give heed rather to the writings of those others--poets
and the like, who either in metre or out of metre have recorded their
advice about the conduct of life, and not to the writings of legislators?
or shall we give heed to them above all?
CLEINIAS: Yes; to them far above all others.
ATHENIAN: And ought the legislator alone among writers to withhold his
opinion about the beautiful, the good, and the just, and not to teach what
they are, and how they are to be pursued by those who intend to be happy?
CLEINIAS: Certainly not.
ATHENIAN: And is it disgraceful for Homer and Tyrtaeus and other poets to
lay down evil precepts in their writings respecting life and the pursuits
of men, but not so disgraceful for Lycurgus and Solon and others who were
legislators as well as writers? Is it not true that of all the writings to
be found in cities, those which relate to laws, when you unfold and read
them, ought to be by far the noblest and the best? and should not other
writings either agree with them, or if they disagree, be deemed
ridiculous? We should consider whether the laws of states ought not to
have the character of loving and wise parents, rather than of tyrants and
masters, who command and threaten, and, after writing their decrees on
walls, go their ways; and whether, in discoursing of laws, we should not
take the gentler view of them which may or may not be attainable--at any
rate, we will show our readiness to entertain such a view, and be prepared
to undergo whatever may be the result. And may the result be good, and if
God be gracious, it will be good!
CLEINIAS: Excellent; let us do as you say.
ATHENIAN: Then we will now consider accurately, as we proposed, what
relates to robbers of temples, and all kinds of thefts, and offences in
general; and we must not be annoyed if, in the course of legislation, we
have enacted some things, and have not made up our minds about some
others; for as yet we are not legislators, but we may soon be. Let us, if
you please, consider these matters.
CLEINIAS: By all means.
ATHENIAN: Concerning all things honourable and just, let us then endeavour
to ascertain how far we are consistent with ourselves, and how far we are
inconsistent, and how far the many, from whom at any rate we should
profess a desire to differ, agree and disagree among themselves.
CLEINIAS: What are the inconsistencies which you observe in us?
ATHENIAN: I will endeavour to explain. If I am not mistaken, we are all
agreed that justice, and just men and things and actions, are all fair,
and, if a person were to maintain that just men, even when they are
deformed in body, are still perfectly beautiful in respect of the
excellent justice of their minds, no one would say that there was any
inconsistency in this.
CLEINIAS: They would be quite right.
ATHENIAN: Perhaps; but let us consider further, that if all things which
are just are fair and honourable, in the term 'all' we must include just
sufferings which are the correlatives of just actions.
CLEINIAS: And what is the inference?
ATHENIAN: The inference is, that a just action in partaking of the just
partakes also in the same degree of the fair and honourable.
ATHENIAN: And must not a suffering which partakes of the just principle be
admitted to be in the same degree fair and honourable, if the argument is
consistently carried out?
ATHENIAN: But then if we admit suffering to be just and yet dishonourable,
and the term 'dishonourable' is applied to justice, will not the just and
the honourable disagree?
CLEINIAS: What do you mean?
ATHENIAN: A thing not difficult to understand; the laws which have been
already enacted would seem to announce principles directly opposed to what
we are saying.
CLEINIAS: To what?
ATHENIAN: We had enacted, if I am not mistaken, that the robber of
temples, and he who was the enemy of law and order, might justly be put to
death, and we were proceeding to make divers other enactments of a similar
nature. But we stopped short, because we saw that these sufferings are
infinite in number and degree, and that they are, at once, the most just
and also the most dishonourable of all sufferings. And if this be true,
are not the just and the honourable at one time all the same, and at
another time in the most diametrical opposition?
CLEINIAS: Such appears to be the case.
ATHENIAN: In this discordant and inconsistent fashion does the language of
the many rend asunder the honourable and just.
CLEINIAS: Very true, Stranger.
ATHENIAN: Then now, Cleinias, let us see how far we ourselves are
consistent about these matters.
CLEINIAS: Consistent in what?
ATHENIAN: I think that I have clearly stated in the former part of the
discussion, but if I did not, let me now state--
ATHENIAN: That all bad men are always involuntarily bad; and from this I
must proceed to draw a further inference.
CLEINIAS: What is it?
ATHENIAN: That the unjust man may be bad, but that he is bad against his
will. Now that an action which is voluntary should be done involuntarily
is a contradiction; wherefore he who maintains that injustice is
involuntary will deem that the unjust does injustice involuntarily. I too
admit that all men do injustice involuntarily, and if any contentious or
disputatious person says that men are unjust against their will, and yet
that many do injustice willingly, I do not agree with him. But, then, how
can I avoid being inconsistent with myself, if you, Cleinias, and you,
Megillus, say to me--Well, Stranger, if all this be as you say, how about
legislating for the city of the Magnetes--shall we legislate or not--what
do you advise? Certainly we will, I should reply. Then will you determine
for them what are voluntary and what are involuntary crimes, and shall we
make the punishments greater of voluntary errors and crimes and less for
the involuntary? or shall we make the punishment of all to be alike, under
the idea that there is no such thing as voluntary crime?
CLEINIAS: Very good, Stranger; and what shall we say in answer to these
ATHENIAN: That is a very fair question. In the first place, let us--
CLEINIAS: Do what?
ATHENIAN: Let us remember what has been well said by us already, that our
ideas of justice are in the highest degree confused and contradictory.
Bearing this in mind, let us proceed to ask ourselves once more whether we
have discovered a way out of the difficulty. Have we ever determined in
what respect these two classes of actions differ from one another? For in
all states and by all legislators whatsoever, two kinds of actions have
been distinguished--the one, voluntary, the other, involuntary; and they
have legislated about them accordingly. But shall this new word of ours,
like an oracle of God, be only spoken, and get away without giving any
explanation or verification of itself? How can a word not understood be
the basis of legislation? Impossible. Before proceeding to legislate,
then, we must prove that they are two, and what is the difference between
them, that when we impose the penalty upon either, every one may
understand our proposal, and be able in some way to judge whether the
penalty is fitly or unfitly inflicted.
CLEINIAS: I agree with you, Stranger; for one of two things is certain:
either we must not say that all unjust acts are involuntary, or we must
show the meaning and truth of this statement.
ATHENIAN: Of these two alternatives, the one is quite intolerable--not to
speak what I believe to be the truth would be to me unlawful and unholy.
But if acts of injustice cannot be divided into voluntary and involuntary,
I must endeavour to find some other distinction between them.
CLEINIAS: Very true, Stranger; there cannot be two opinions among us upon
ATHENIAN: Reflect, then; there are hurts of various kinds done by the
citizens to one another in the intercourse of life, affording plentiful
examples both of the voluntary and involuntary.
ATHENIAN: I would not have any one suppose that all these hurts are
injuries, and that these injuries are of two kinds--one, voluntary, and
the other, involuntary; for the involuntary hurts of all men are quite as
many and as great as the voluntary. And please to consider whether I am
right or quite wrong in what I am going to say; for I deny, Cleinias and
Megillus, that he who harms another involuntarily does him an injury
involuntarily, nor should I legislate about such an act under the idea
that I am legislating for an involuntary injury. But I should rather say
that such a hurt, whether great or small, is not an injury at all; and, on
the other hand, if I am right, when a benefit is wrongly conferred, the
author of the benefit may often be said to injure. For I maintain, O my
friends, that the mere giving or taking away of anything is not to be
described either as just or unjust; but the legislator has to consider
whether mankind do good or harm to one another out of a just principle and
intention. On the distinction between injustice and hurt he must fix his
eye; and when there is hurt, he must, as far as he can, make the hurt good
by law, and save that which is ruined, and raise up that which is fallen,
and make that which is dead or wounded whole. And when compensation has
been given for injustice, the law must always seek to win over the doers
and sufferers of the several hurts from feelings of enmity to those of
CLEINIAS: Very good.
ATHENIAN: Then as to unjust hurts (and gains also, supposing the injustice
to bring gain), of these we may heal as many as are capable of being
healed, regarding them as diseases of the soul; and the cure of injustice
will take the following direction.
CLEINIAS: What direction?
ATHENIAN: When any one commits any injustice, small or great, the law will
admonish and compel him either never at all to do the like again, or never
voluntarily, or at any rate in a far less degree; and he must in addition
pay for the hurt. Whether the end is to be attained by word or action,
with pleasure or pain, by giving or taking away privileges, by means of
fines or gifts, or in whatsoever way the law shall proceed to make a man
hate injustice, and love or not hate the nature of the just--this is quite
the noblest work of law. But if the legislator sees any one who is
incurable, for him he will appoint a law and a penalty. He knows quite
well that to such men themselves there is no profit in the continuance of
their lives, and that they would do a double good to the rest of mankind
if they would take their departure, inasmuch as they would be an example
to other men not to offend, and they would relieve the city of bad
citizens. In such cases, and in such cases only, the legislator ought to
inflict death as the punishment of offences.
CLEINIAS: What you have said appears to me to be very reasonable, but will
you favour me by stating a little more clearly the difference between hurt
and injustice, and the various complications of the voluntary and
involuntary which enter into them?
ATHENIAN: I will endeavour to do as you wish: Concerning the soul, thus
much would be generally said and allowed, that one element in her nature
is passion, which may be described either as a state or a part of her, and
is hard to be striven against and contended with, and by irrational force
overturns many things.
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: And pleasure is not the same with passion, but has an opposite
power, working her will by persuasion and by the force of deceit in all
CLEINIAS: Quite true.
ATHENIAN: A man may truly say that ignorance is a third cause of crimes.
Ignorance, however, may be conveniently divided by the legislator into two
sorts: there is simple ignorance, which is the source of lighter offences,
and double ignorance, which is accompanied by a conceit of wisdom; and he
who is under the influence of the latter fancies that he knows all about
matters of which he knows nothing. This second kind of ignorance, when
possessed of power and strength, will be held by the legislator to be the
source of great and monstrous crimes, but when attended with weakness,
will only result in the errors of children and old men; and these he will
treat as errors, and will make laws accordingly for those who commit them,
which will be the mildest and most merciful of all laws.
CLEINIAS: You are perfectly right.
ATHENIAN: We all of us remark of one man that he is superior to pleasure
and passion, and of another that he is inferior to them; and this is true.
ATHENIAN: But no one was ever yet heard to say that one of us is superior
and another inferior to ignorance.
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: We are speaking of motives which incite men to the fulfilment of
their will; although an individual may be often drawn by them in opposite
directions at the same time.
CLEINIAS: Yes, often.
ATHENIAN: And now I can define to you clearly, and without ambiguity, what
I mean by the just and unjust, according to my notion of them: When anger
and fear, and pleasure and pain, and jealousies and desires, tyrannize
over the soul, whether they do any harm or not--I call all this injustice.
But when the opinion of the best, in whatever part of human nature states
or individuals may suppose that to dwell, has dominion in the soul and
orders the life of every man, even if it be sometimes mistaken, yet what
is done in accordance therewith, and the principle in individuals which
obeys this rule, and is best for the whole life of man, is to be called
just; although the hurt done by mistake is thought by many to be
involuntary injustice. Leaving the question of names, about which we are
not going to quarrel, and having already delineated three sources of
error, we may begin by recalling them somewhat more vividly to our memory:
One of them was of the painful sort, which we denominate anger and fear.
CLEINIAS: Quite right.
ATHENIAN: There was a second consisting of pleasures and desires, and a
third of hopes, which aimed at true opinion about the best. The latter
being subdivided into three, we now get five sources of actions, and for
these five we will make laws of two kinds.
CLEINIAS: What are the two kinds?
ATHENIAN: There is one kind of actions done by violence and in the light
of day, and another kind of actions which are done in darkness and with
secret deceit, or sometimes both with violence and deceit; the laws
concerning these last ought to have a character of severity.
ATHENIAN: And now let us return from this digression and complete the work
of legislation. Laws have been already enacted by us concerning the
robbers of the Gods, and concerning traitors, and also concerning those
who corrupt the laws for the purpose of subverting the government. A man
may very likely commit some of these crimes, either in a state of madness
or when affected by disease, or under the influence of extreme old age, or
in a fit of childish wantonness, himself no better than a child. And if
this be made evident to the judges elected to try the cause, on the appeal
of the criminal or his advocate, and he be judged to have been in this
state when he committed the offence, he shall simply pay for the hurt
which he may have done to another; but he shall be exempt from other
penalties, unless he have slain some one, and have on his hands the stain
of blood. And in that case he shall go to another land and country, and
there dwell for a year; and if he return before the expiration of the time
which the law appoints, or even set his foot at all on his native land, he
shall be bound by the guardians of the law in the public prison for two
years, and then go free.
Having begun to speak of homicide, let us endeavour to lay down laws
concerning every different kind of homicide; and, first of all, concerning
violent and involuntary homicides. If any one in an athletic contest, and
at the public games, involuntarily kills a friend, and he dies either at
the time or afterwards of the blows which he has received; or if the like
misfortune happens to any one in war, or military exercises, or mimic
contests of which the magistrates enjoin the practice, whether with or
without arms, when he has been purified according to the law brought from
Delphi relating to these matters, he shall be innocent. And so in the case
of physicians: if their patient dies against their will, they shall be
held guiltless by the law. And if one slay another with his own hand, but
unintentionally, whether he be unarmed or have some instrument or dart in
his hand; or if he kill him by administering food or drink, or by the
application of fire or cold, or by suffocating him, whether he do the deed
by his own hand, or by the agency of others, he shall be deemed the agent,
and shall suffer one of the following penalties: If he kill the slave of
another in the belief that he is his own, he shall bear the master of the
dead man harmless from loss, or shall pay a penalty of twice the value of
the dead man, which the judges shall assess; but purifications must be
used greater and more numerous than for those who committed homicide at
the games--what they are to be, the interpreters whom the God appoints
shall be authorised to declare. And if a man kills his own slave, when he
has been purified according to law, he shall be quit of the homicide. And
if a man kills a freeman unintentionally, he shall undergo the same
purification as he did who killed the slave. But let him not forget also a
tale of olden time, which is to this effect: He who has suffered a violent
end, when newly dead, if he has had the soul of a freeman in life, is
angry with the author of his death; and being himself full of fear and
panic by reason of his violent end, when he sees his murderer walking
about in his own accustomed haunts, he is stricken with terror and becomes
disordered, and this disorder of his, aided by the guilty recollection of
the other, is communicated by him with overwhelming force to the murderer
and his deeds. Wherefore also the murderer must go out of the way of his
victim for the entire period of a year, and not himself be found in any
spot which was familiar to him throughout the country. And if the dead man
be a stranger, the homicide shall be kept from the country of the stranger
during a like period. If any one voluntarily obeys this law, the next of
kin to the deceased, seeing all that has happened, shall take pity on him,
and make peace with him, and show him all gentleness. But if any one is
disobedient, and either ventures to go to any of the temples and sacrifice
unpurified, or will not continue in exile during the appointed time, the
next of kin to the deceased shall proceed against him for murder; and if
he be convicted, every part of his punishment shall be doubled. And if the
next of kin do not proceed against the perpetrator of the crime, then the
pollution shall be deemed to fall upon his own head--the murdered man will
fix the guilt upon his kinsman, and he who has a mind to proceed against
him may compel him to be absent from his country during five years,
according to law. If a stranger unintentionally kill a stranger who is
dwelling in the city, he who likes shall prosecute the cause according to
the same rules. If he be a metic, let him be absent for a year, or if he
be an entire stranger, in addition to the purification, whether he have
slain a stranger, or a metic, or a citizen, he shall be banished for life
from the country which is in possession of our laws. And if he return
contrary to law, let the guardians of the law punish him with death; and
let them hand over his property, if he have any, to him who is next of kin
to the sufferer. And if he be wrecked, and driven on the coast against his
will, he shall take up his abode on the seashore, wetting his feet in the
sea, and watching for an opportunity of sailing; but if he be brought by
land, and is not his own master, let the magistrate whom he first comes
across in the city, release him and send him unharmed over the border.
If any one slays a freeman with his own hand, and the deed be done in
passion, in the case of such actions we must begin by making a
distinction. For a deed is done from passion either when men suddenly, and
without intention to kill, cause the death of another by blows and the
like on a momentary impulse, and are sorry for the deed immediately
afterwards; or again, when after having been insulted in deed or word, men
pursue revenge, and kill a person intentionally, and are not sorry for the
act. And, therefore, we must assume that these homicides are of two kinds,
both of them arising from passion, which may be justly said to be in a
mean between the voluntary and involuntary; at the same time, they are
neither of them anything more than a likeness or shadow of either. He who
treasures up his anger, and avenges himself, not immediately and at the
moment, but with insidious design, and after an interval, is like the
voluntary; but he who does not treasure up his anger, and takes vengeance
on the instant, and without malice prepense, approaches to the
involuntary; and yet even he is not altogether involuntary, but is only
the image or shadow of the involuntary; wherefore about homicides
committed in hot blood, there is a difficulty in determining whether in
legislating we shall reckon them as voluntary or as partly involuntary.
The best and truest view is to regard them respectively as likenesses only
of the voluntary and involuntary, and to distinguish them accordingly as
they are done with or without premeditation. And we should make the
penalties heavier for those who commit homicide with angry premeditation,
and lighter for those who do not premeditate, but smite upon the instant;
for that which is like a greater evil should be punished more severely,
and that which is like a less evil should be punished less severely: this
shall be the rule of our laws.
ATHENIAN: Let us proceed: If any one slays a freeman with his own hand,
and the deed be done in a moment of anger, and without premeditation, let
the offender suffer in other respects as the involuntary homicide would
have suffered, and also undergo an exile of two years, that he may learn
to school his passions. But he who slays another from passion, yet with
premeditation, shall in other respects suffer as the former; and to this
shall be added an exile of three instead of two years--his punishment is
to be longer because his passion is greater. The manner of their return
shall be on this wise: (and here the law has difficulty in determining
exactly; for in some cases the murderer who is judged by the law to be the
worse may really be the less cruel, and he who is judged the less cruel
may be really the worse, and may have executed the murder in a more savage
manner, whereas the other may have been gentler. But in general the
degrees of guilt will be such as we have described them. Of all these
things the guardians of the law must take cognizance): When a homicide of
either kind has completed his term of exile, the guardians shall send
twelve judges to the borders of the land; these during the interval shall
have informed themselves of the actions of the criminals, and they shall
judge respecting their pardon and reception; and the homicides shall abide
by their judgment. But if after they have returned home, any one of them
in a moment of anger repeats the deed, let him be an exile, and return no
more; or if he returns, let him suffer as the stranger was to suffer in a
similar case. He who kills his own slave shall undergo a purification, but
if he kills the slave of another in anger, he shall pay twice the amount
of the loss to his owner. And if any homicide is disobedient to the law,
and without purification pollutes the agora, or the games, or the temples,
he who pleases may bring to trial the next of kin to the dead man for
permitting him, and the murderer with him, and may compel the one to exact
and the other to suffer a double amount of fines and purifications; and
the accuser shall himself receive the fine in accordance with the law. If
a slave in a fit of passion kills his master, the kindred of the deceased
man may do with the murderer (provided only they do not spare his life)
whatever they please, and they will be pure; or if he kills a freeman, who
is not his master, the owner shall give up the slave to the relatives of
the deceased, and they shall be under an obligation to put him to death,
but this may be done in any manner which they please. And if (which is a
rare occurrence, but does sometimes happen) a father or a mother in a
moment of passion slays a son or daughter by blows, or some other
violence, the slayer shall undergo the same purification as in other
cases, and be exiled during three years; but when the exile returns the
wife shall separate from the husband, and the husband from the wife, and
they shall never afterwards beget children together, or live under the
same roof, or partake of the same sacred rites with those whom they have
deprived of a child or of a brother. And he who is impious and disobedient
in such a case shall be brought to trial for impiety by any one who
pleases. If in a fit of anger a husband kills his wedded wife, or the wife
her husband, the slayer shall undergo the same purification, and the term
of exile shall be three years. And when he who has committed any such
crime returns, let him have no communication in sacred rites with his
children, neither let him sit at the same table with them, and the father
or son who disobeys shall be liable to be brought to trial for impiety by
any one who pleases. If a brother or a sister in a fit of passion kills a
brother or a sister, they shall undergo purification and exile, as was the
case with parents who killed their offspring: they shall not come under
the same roof, or share in the sacred rites of those whom they have
deprived of their brethren, or of their children. And he who is
disobedient shall be justly liable to the law concerning impiety, which
relates to these matters. If any one is so violent in his passion against
his parents, that in the madness of his anger he dares to kill one of
them, if the murdered person before dying freely forgives the murderer,
let him undergo the purification which is assigned to those who have been
guilty of involuntary homicide, and do as they do, and he shall be pure.
But if he be not acquitted, the perpetrator of such a deed shall be
amenable to many laws--he shall be amenable to the extreme punishments for
assault, and impiety, and robbing of temples, for he has robbed his parent
of life; and if a man could be slain more than once, most justly would he
who in a fit of passion has slain father or mother, undergo many deaths.
How can he, whom, alone of all men, even in defence of his life, and when
about to suffer death at the hands of his parents, no law will allow to
kill his father or his mother who are the authors of his being, and whom
the legislator will command to endure any extremity rather than do this--
how can he, I say, lawfully receive any other punishment? Let death then
be the appointed punishment of him who in a fit of passion slays his
father or his mother. But if brother kills brother in a civil broil, or
under other like circumstances, if the other has begun, and he only
defends himself, let him be free from guilt, as he would be if he had
slain an enemy; and the same rule will apply if a citizen kill a citizen,
or a stranger a stranger. Or if a stranger kill a citizen or a citizen a
stranger in self-defence, let him be free from guilt in like manner; and
so in the case of a slave who has killed a slave; but if a slave have
killed a freeman in self-defence, let him be subject to the same law as he
who has killed a father; and let the law about the remission of penalties
in the case of parricide apply equally to every other remission. Whenever
any sufferer of his own accord remits the guilt of homicide to another,
under the idea that his act was involuntary, let the perpetrator of the
deed undergo a purification and remain in exile for a year, according to
Enough has been said of murders violent and involuntary and committed in
passion: we have now to speak of voluntary crimes done with injustice of
every kind and with premeditation, through the influence of pleasures, and
desires, and jealousies.
CLEINIAS: Very good.
ATHENIAN: Let us first speak, as far as we are able, of their various
kinds. The greatest cause of them is lust, which gets the mastery of the
soul maddened by desire; and this is most commonly found to exist where
the passion reigns which is strongest and most prevalent among the mass of
mankind: I mean where the power of wealth breeds endless desires of never-
to-be-satisfied acquisition, originating in natural disposition, and a
miserable want of education. Of this want of education, the false praise
of wealth which is bruited about both among Hellenes and barbarians is the
cause; they deem that to be the first of goods which in reality is only
the third. And in this way they wrong both posterity and themselves, for
nothing can be nobler and better than that the truth about wealth should
be spoken in all states--namely, that riches are for the sake of the body,
as the body is for the sake of the soul. They are good, and wealth is
intended by nature to be for the sake of them, and is therefore inferior
to them both, and third in order of excellence. This argument teaches us
that he who would be happy ought not to seek to be rich, or rather he
should seek to be rich justly and temperately, and then there would be no
murders in states requiring to be purged away by other murders. But now,
as I said at first, avarice is the chiefest cause and source of the worst
trials for voluntary homicide. A second cause is ambition: this creates
jealousies, which are troublesome companions, above all to the jealous man
himself, and in a less degree to the chiefs of the state. And a third
cause is cowardly and unjust fear, which has been the occasion of many
murders. When a man is doing or has done something which he desires that
no one should know him to be doing or to have done, he will take the life
of those who are likely to inform of such things, if he have no other
means of getting rid of them. Let this be said as a prelude concerning
crimes of violence in general; and I must not omit to mention a tradition
which is firmly believed by many, and has been received by them from those
who are learned in the mysteries: they say that such deeds will be
punished in the world below, and also that when the perpetrators return to
this world they will pay the natural penalty which is due to the sufferer,
and end their lives in like manner by the hand of another. If he who is
about to commit murder believes this, and is made by the mere prelude to
dread such a penalty, there is no need to proceed with the proclamation of
the law. But if he will not listen, let the following law be declared and
registered against him: Whoever shall wrongfully and of design slay with
his own hand any of his kinsmen, shall in the first place be deprived of
legal privileges; and he shall not pollute the temples, or the agora, or
the harbours, or any other place of meeting, whether he is forbidden of
men or not; for the law, which represents the whole state, forbids him,
and always is and will be in the attitude of forbidding him. And if a
cousin or nearer relative of the deceased, whether on the male or female
side, does not prosecute the homicide when he ought, and have him
proclaimed an outlaw, he shall in the first place be involved in the
pollution, and incur the hatred of the Gods, even as the curse of the law
stirs up the voices of men against him; and in the second place he shall
be liable to be prosecuted by any one who is willing to inflict
retribution on behalf of the dead. And he who would avenge a murder shall
observe all the precautionary ceremonies of lavation, and any others which
the God commands in cases of this kind. Let him have proclamation made,
and then go forth and compel the perpetrator to suffer the execution of
justice according to the law. Now the legislator may easily show that
these things must be accomplished by prayers and sacrifices to certain
Gods, who are concerned with the prevention of murders in states. But who
these Gods are, and what should be the true manner of instituting such
trials with due regard to religion, the guardians of the law, aided by the
interpreters, and the prophets, and the God, shall determine, and when
they have determined let them carry on the prosecution at law. The cause
shall have the same judges who are appointed to decide in the case of
those who plunder temples. Let him who is convicted be punished with
death, and let him not be buried in the country of the murdered man, for
this would be shameless as well as impious. But if he fly and will not
stand his trial, let him fly for ever; or, if he set foot anywhere on any
part of the murdered man's country, let any relation of the deceased, or
any other citizen who may first happen to meet with him, kill him with
impunity, or bind and deliver him to those among the judges of the case
who are magistrates, that they may put him to death. And let the
prosecutor demand surety of him whom he prosecutes; three sureties
sufficient in the opinion of the magistrates who try the cause shall be
provided by him, and they shall undertake to produce him at the trial. But
if he be unwilling or unable to provide sureties, then the magistrates
shall take him and keep him in bonds, and produce him at the day of trial.
If a man do not commit a murder with his own hand, but contrives the death
of another, and is the author of the deed in intention and design, and he
continues to dwell in the city, having his soul not pure of the guilt of
murder, let him be tried in the same way, except in what relates to the
sureties; and also, if he be found guilty, his body after execution may
have burial in his native land, but in all other respects his case shall
be as the former; and whether a stranger shall kill a citizen, or a
citizen a stranger, or a slave a slave, there shall be no difference as
touching murder by one's own hand or by contrivance, except in the matter
of sureties; and these, as has been said, shall be required of the actual
murderer only, and he who brings the accusation shall bind them over at
the time. If a slave be convicted of slaying a freeman voluntarily, either
by his own hand or by contrivance, let the public executioner take him in
the direction of the sepulchre, to a place whence he can see the tomb of
the dead man, and inflict upon him as many stripes as the person who
caught him orders, and if he survive, let him put him to death. And if any
one kills a slave who has done no wrong, because he is afraid that he may
inform of some base and evil deeds of his own, or for any similar reason,
in such a case let him pay the penalty of murder, as he would have done if
he had slain a citizen. There are things about which it is terrible and
unpleasant to legislate, but impossible not to legislate. If, for example,
there should be murders of kinsmen, either perpetrated by the hands of
kinsmen, or by their contrivance, voluntary and purely malicious, which
most often happen in ill-regulated and ill-educated states, and may
perhaps occur even in a country where a man would not expect to find them,
we must repeat once more the tale which we narrated a little while ago, in
the hope that he who hears us will be the more disposed to abstain
voluntarily on these grounds from murders which are utterly abominable.
For the myth, or saying, or whatever we ought to call it, has been plainly
set forth by priests of old; they have pronounced that the justice which
guards and avenges the blood of kindred, follows the law of retaliation,
and ordains that he who has done any murderous act should of necessity
suffer that which he has done. He who has slain a father shall himself be
slain at some time or other by his children--if a mother, he shall of
necessity take a woman's nature, and lose his life at the hands of his
offspring in after ages; for where the blood of a family has been polluted