Part 8 out of 12
But the question is not quite so easy when we proceed to ask whether these
principles are three or one; whether, that is to say, we learn with one
part of our nature, are angry with another, and with a third part desire
the satisfaction of our natural appetites; or whether the whole soul comes
into play in each sort of action--to determine that is the difficulty.
Yes, he said; there lies the difficulty.
Then let us now try and determine whether they are the same or different.
How can we? he asked.
I replied as follows: The same thing clearly cannot act or be acted upon
in the same part or in relation to the same thing at the same time, in
contrary ways; and therefore whenever this contradiction occurs in things
apparently the same, we know that they are really not the same, but
For example, I said, can the same thing be at rest and in motion at the
same time in the same part?
Still, I said, let us have a more precise statement of terms, lest we
should hereafter fall out by the way. Imagine the case of a man who is
standing and also moving his hands and his head, and suppose a person to
say that one and the same person is in motion and at rest at the same
moment--to such a mode of speech we should object, and should rather say
that one part of him is in motion while another is at rest.
And suppose the objector to refine still further, and to draw the nice
distinction that not only parts of tops, but whole tops, when they spin
round with their pegs fixed on the spot, are at rest and in motion at the
same time (and he may say the same of anything which revolves in the same
spot), his objection would not be admitted by us, because in such cases
things are not at rest and in motion in the same parts of themselves; we
should rather say that they have both an axis and a circumference, and that
the axis stands still, for there is no deviation from the perpendicular;
and that the circumference goes round. But if, while revolving, the axis
inclines either to the right or left, forwards or backwards, then in no
point of view can they be at rest.
That is the correct mode of describing them, he replied.
Then none of these objections will confuse us, or incline us to believe
that the same thing at the same time, in the same part or in relation to
the same thing, can act or be acted upon in contrary ways.
Certainly not, according to my way of thinking.
Yet, I said, that we may not be compelled to examine all such objections,
and prove at length that they are untrue, let us assume their absurdity,
and go forward on the understanding that hereafter, if this assumption turn
out to be untrue, all the consequences which follow shall be withdrawn.
Yes, he said, that will be the best way.
Well, I said, would you not allow that assent and dissent, desire and
aversion, attraction and repulsion, are all of them opposites, whether they
are regarded as active or passive (for that makes no difference in the fact
of their opposition)?
Yes, he said, they are opposites.
Well, I said, and hunger and thirst, and the desires in general, and again
willing and wishing,--all these you would refer to the classes already
mentioned. You would say--would you not?--that the soul of him who desires
is seeking after the object of his desire; or that he is drawing to himself
the thing which he wishes to possess: or again, when a person wants
anything to be given him, his mind, longing for the realization of his
desire, intimates his wish to have it by a nod of assent, as if he had been
asked a question?
And what would you say of unwillingness and dislike and the absence of
desire; should not these be referred to the opposite class of repulsion and
Admitting this to be true of desire generally, let us suppose a particular
class of desires, and out of these we will select hunger and thirst, as
they are termed, which are the most obvious of them?
Let us take that class, he said.
The object of one is food, and of the other drink?
And here comes the point: is not thirst the desire which the soul has of
drink, and of drink only; not of drink qualified by anything else; for
example, warm or cold, or much or little, or, in a word, drink of any
particular sort: but if the thirst be accompanied by heat, then the desire
is of cold drink; or, if accompanied by cold, then of warm drink; or, if
the thirst be excessive, then the drink which is desired will be excessive;
or, if not great, the quantity of drink will also be small: but thirst
pure and simple will desire drink pure and simple, which is the natural
satisfaction of thirst, as food is of hunger?
Yes, he said; the simple desire is, as you say, in every case of the simple
object, and the qualified desire of the qualified object.
But here a confusion may arise; and I should wish to guard against an
opponent starting up and saying that no man desires drink only, but good
drink, or food only, but good food; for good is the universal object of
desire, and thirst being a desire, will necessarily be thirst after good
drink; and the same is true of every other desire.
Yes, he replied, the opponent might have something to say.
Nevertheless I should still maintain, that of relatives some have a quality
attached to either term of the relation; others are simple and have their
I do not know what you mean.
Well, you know of course that the greater is relative to the less?
And the much greater to the much less?
And the sometime greater to the sometime less, and the greater that is to
be to the less that is to be?
Certainly, he said.
And so of more and less, and of other correlative terms, such as the double
and the half, or again, the heavier and the lighter, the swifter and the
slower; and of hot and cold, and of any other relatives;--is not this true
of all of them?
And does not the same principle hold in the sciences? The object of
science is knowledge (assuming that to be the true definition), but the
object of a particular science is a particular kind of knowledge; I mean,
for example, that the science of house-building is a kind of knowledge
which is defined and distinguished from other kinds and is therefore termed
Because it has a particular quality which no other has?
And it has this particular quality because it has an object of a particular
kind; and this is true of the other arts and sciences?
Now, then, if I have made myself clear, you will understand my original
meaning in what I said about relatives. My meaning was, that if one term
of a relation is taken alone, the other is taken alone; if one term is
qualified, the other is also qualified. I do not mean to say that
relatives may not be disparate, or that the science of health is healthy,
or of disease necessarily diseased, or that the sciences of good and evil
are therefore good and evil; but only that, when the term science is no
longer used absolutely, but has a qualified object which in this case is
the nature of health and disease, it becomes defined, and is hence called
not merely science, but the science of medicine.
I quite understand, and I think as you do.
Would you not say that thirst is one of these essentially relative terms,
having clearly a relation--
Yes, thirst is relative to drink.
And a certain kind of thirst is relative to a certain kind of drink; but
thirst taken alone is neither of much nor little, nor of good nor bad, nor
of any particular kind of drink, but of drink only?
Then the soul of the thirsty one, in so far as he is thirsty, desires only
drink; for this he yearns and tries to obtain it?
That is plain.
And if you suppose something which pulls a thirsty soul away from drink,
that must be different from the thirsty principle which draws him like a
beast to drink; for, as we were saying, the same thing cannot at the same
time with the same part of itself act in contrary ways about the same.
No more than you can say that the hands of the archer push and pull the bow
at the same time, but what you say is that one hand pushes and the other
Exactly so, he replied.
And might a man be thirsty, and yet unwilling to drink?
Yes, he said, it constantly happens.
And in such a case what is one to say? Would you not say that there was
something in the soul bidding a man to drink, and something else forbidding
him, which is other and stronger than the principle which bids him?
I should say so.
And the forbidding principle is derived from reason, and that which bids
and attracts proceeds from passion and disease?
Then we may fairly assume that they are two, and that they differ from one
another; the one with which a man reasons, we may call the rational
principle of the soul, the other, with which he loves and hungers and
thirsts and feels the flutterings of any other desire, may be termed the
irrational or appetitive, the ally of sundry pleasures and satisfactions?
Yes, he said, we may fairly assume them to be different.
Then let us finally determine that there are two principles existing in the
soul. And what of passion, or spirit? Is it a third, or akin to one of
I should be inclined to say--akin to desire.
Well, I said, there is a story which I remember to have heard, and in which
I put faith. The story is, that Leontius, the son of Aglaion, coming up
one day from the Piraeus, under the north wall on the outside, observed
some dead bodies lying on the ground at the place of execution. He felt a
desire to see them, and also a dread and abhorrence of them; for a time he
struggled and covered his eyes, but at length the desire got the better of
him; and forcing them open, he ran up to the dead bodies, saying, Look, ye
wretches, take your fill of the fair sight.
I have heard the story myself, he said.
The moral of the tale is, that anger at times goes to war with desire, as
though they were two distinct things.
Yes; that is the meaning, he said.
And are there not many other cases in which we observe that when a man's
desires violently prevail over his reason, he reviles himself, and is angry
at the violence within him, and that in this struggle, which is like the
struggle of factions in a State, his spirit is on the side of his reason;--
but for the passionate or spirited element to take part with the desires
when reason decides that she should not be opposed, is a sort of thing
which I believe that you never observed occurring in yourself, nor, as I
should imagine, in any one else?
Suppose that a man thinks he has done a wrong to another, the nobler he is
the less able is he to feel indignant at any suffering, such as hunger, or
cold, or any other pain which the injured person may inflict upon him--
these he deems to be just, and, as I say, his anger refuses to be excited
True, he said.
But when he thinks that he is the sufferer of the wrong, then he boils and
chafes, and is on the side of what he believes to be justice; and because
he suffers hunger or cold or other pain he is only the more determined to
persevere and conquer. His noble spirit will not be quelled until he
either slays or is slain; or until he hears the voice of the shepherd, that
is, reason, bidding his dog bark no more.
The illustration is perfect, he replied; and in our State, as we were
saying, the auxiliaries were to be dogs, and to hear the voice of the
rulers, who are their shepherds.
I perceive, I said, that you quite understand me; there is, however, a
further point which I wish you to consider.
You remember that passion or spirit appeared at first sight to be a kind of
desire, but now we should say quite the contrary; for in the conflict of
the soul spirit is arrayed on the side of the rational principle.
But a further question arises: Is passion different from reason also, or
only a kind of reason; in which latter case, instead of three principles in
the soul, there will only be two, the rational and the concupiscent; or
rather, as the State was composed of three classes, traders, auxiliaries,
counsellors, so may there not be in the individual soul a third element
which is passion or spirit, and when not corrupted by bad education is the
natural auxiliary of reason?
Yes, he said, there must be a third.
Yes, I replied, if passion, which has already been shown to be different
from desire, turn out also to be different from reason.
But that is easily proved:--We may observe even in young children that they
are full of spirit almost as soon as they are born, whereas some of them
never seem to attain to the use of reason, and most of them late enough.
Excellent, I said, and you may see passion equally in brute animals, which
is a further proof of the truth of what you are saying. And we may once
more appeal to the words of Homer, which have been already quoted by us,
'He smote his breast, and thus rebuked his soul,'
for in this verse Homer has clearly supposed the power which reasons about
the better and worse to be different from the unreasoning anger which is
rebuked by it.
Very true, he said.
And so, after much tossing, we have reached land, and are fairly agreed
that the same principles which exist in the State exist also in the
individual, and that they are three in number.
Must we not then infer that the individual is wise in the same way, and in
virtue of the same quality which makes the State wise?
Also that the same quality which constitutes courage in the State
constitutes courage in the individual, and that both the State and the
individual bear the same relation to all the other virtues?
And the individual will be acknowledged by us to be just in the same way in
which the State is just?
That follows, of course.
We cannot but remember that the justice of the State consisted in each of
the three classes doing the work of its own class?
We are not very likely to have forgotten, he said.
We must recollect that the individual in whom the several qualities of his
nature do their own work will be just, and will do his own work?
Yes, he said, we must remember that too.
And ought not the rational principle, which is wise, and has the care of
the whole soul, to rule, and the passionate or spirited principle to be the
subject and ally?
And, as we were saying, the united influence of music and gymnastic will
bring them into accord, nerving and sustaining the reason with noble words
and lessons, and moderating and soothing and civilizing the wildness of
passion by harmony and rhythm?
Quite true, he said.
And these two, thus nurtured and educated, and having learned truly to know
their own functions, will rule over the concupiscent, which in each of us
is the largest part of the soul and by nature most insatiable of gain; over
this they will keep guard, lest, waxing great and strong with the fulness
of bodily pleasures, as they are termed, the concupiscent soul, no longer
confined to her own sphere, should attempt to enslave and rule those who
are not her natural-born subjects, and overturn the whole life of man?
Very true, he said.
Both together will they not be the best defenders of the whole soul and the
whole body against attacks from without; the one counselling, and the other
fighting under his leader, and courageously executing his commands and
And he is to be deemed courageous whose spirit retains in pleasure and in
pain the commands of reason about what he ought or ought not to fear?
Right, he replied.
And him we call wise who has in him that little part which rules, and which
proclaims these commands; that part too being supposed to have a knowledge
of what is for the interest of each of the three parts and of the whole?
And would you not say that he is temperate who has these same elements in
friendly harmony, in whom the one ruling principle of reason, and the two
subject ones of spirit and desire are equally agreed that reason ought to
rule, and do not rebel?
Certainly, he said, that is the true account of temperance whether in the
State or individual.
And surely, I said, we have explained again and again how and by virtue of
what quality a man will be just.
That is very certain.
And is justice dimmer in the individual, and is her form different, or is
she the same which we found her to be in the State?
There is no difference in my opinion, he said.
Because, if any doubt is still lingering in our minds, a few commonplace
instances will satisfy us of the truth of what I am saying.
What sort of instances do you mean?
If the case is put to us, must we not admit that the just State, or the man
who is trained in the principles of such a State, will be less likely than
the unjust to make away with a deposit of gold or silver? Would any one
No one, he replied.
Will the just man or citizen ever be guilty of sacrilege or theft, or
treachery either to his friends or to his country?
Neither will he ever break faith where there have been oaths or agreements?
No one will be less likely to commit adultery, or to dishonour his father
and mother, or to fail in his religious duties?
And the reason is that each part of him is doing its own business, whether
in ruling or being ruled?
Are you satisfied then that the quality which makes such men and such
states is justice, or do you hope to discover some other?
Not I, indeed.
Then our dream has been realized; and the suspicion which we entertained at
the beginning of our work of construction, that some divine power must have
conducted us to a primary form of justice, has now been verified?
And the division of labour which required the carpenter and the shoemaker
and the rest of the citizens to be doing each his own business, and not
another's, was a shadow of justice, and for that reason it was of use?
But in reality justice was such as we were describing, being concerned
however, not with the outward man, but with the inward, which is the true
self and concernment of man: for the just man does not permit the several
elements within him to interfere with one another, or any of them to do the
work of others,--he sets in order his own inner life, and is his own master
and his own law, and at peace with himself; and when he has bound together
the three principles within him, which may be compared to the higher,
lower, and middle notes of the scale, and the intermediate intervals--when
he has bound all these together, and is no longer many, but has become one
entirely temperate and perfectly adjusted nature, then he proceeds to act,
if he has to act, whether in a matter of property, or in the treatment of
the body, or in some affair of politics or private business; always
thinking and calling that which preserves and co-operates with this
harmonious condition, just and good action, and the knowledge which
presides over it, wisdom, and that which at any time impairs this
condition, he will call unjust action, and the opinion which presides over
You have said the exact truth, Socrates.
Very good; and if we were to affirm that we had discovered the just man and
the just State, and the nature of justice in each of them, we should not be
telling a falsehood?
Most certainly not.
May we say so, then?
Let us say so.
And now, I said, injustice has to be considered.
Must not injustice be a strife which arises among the three principles--a
meddlesomeness, and interference, and rising up of a part of the soul
against the whole, an assertion of unlawful authority, which is made by a
rebellious subject against a true prince, of whom he is the natural
vassal,--what is all this confusion and delusion but injustice, and
intemperance and cowardice and ignorance, and every form of vice?
And if the nature of justice and injustice be known, then the meaning of
acting unjustly and being unjust, or, again, of acting justly, will also be
What do you mean? he said.
Why, I said, they are like disease and health; being in the soul just what
disease and health are in the body.
How so? he said.
Why, I said, that which is healthy causes health, and that which is
unhealthy causes disease.
And just actions cause justice, and unjust actions cause injustice?
That is certain.
And the creation of health is the institution of a natural order and
government of one by another in the parts of the body; and the creation of
disease is the production of a state of things at variance with this
And is not the creation of justice the institution of a natural order and
government of one by another in the parts of the soul, and the creation of
injustice the production of a state of things at variance with the natural
Exactly so, he said.
Then virtue is the health and beauty and well-being of the soul, and vice
the disease and weakness and deformity of the same?
And do not good practices lead to virtue, and evil practices to vice?
Still our old question of the comparative advantage of justice and
injustice has not been answered: Which is the more profitable, to be just
and act justly and practise virtue, whether seen or unseen of gods and men,
or to be unjust and act unjustly, if only unpunished and unreformed?
In my judgment, Socrates, the question has now become ridiculous. We know
that, when the bodily constitution is gone, life is no longer endurable,
though pampered with all kinds of meats and drinks, and having all wealth
and all power; and shall we be told that when the very essence of the vital
principle is undermined and corrupted, life is still worth having to a man,
if only he be allowed to do whatever he likes with the single exception
that he is not to acquire justice and virtue, or to escape from injustice
and vice; assuming them both to be such as we have described?
Yes, I said, the question is, as you say, ridiculous. Still, as we are
near the spot at which we may see the truth in the clearest manner with our
own eyes, let us not faint by the way.
Certainly not, he replied.
Come up hither, I said, and behold the various forms of vice, those of
them, I mean, which are worth looking at.
I am following you, he replied: proceed.
I said, The argument seems to have reached a height from which, as from
some tower of speculation, a man may look down and see that virtue is one,
but that the forms of vice are innumerable; there being four special ones
which are deserving of note.
What do you mean? he said.
I mean, I replied, that there appear to be as many forms of the soul as
there are distinct forms of the State.
There are five of the State, and five of the soul, I said.
What are they?
The first, I said, is that which we have been describing, and which may be
said to have two names, monarchy and aristocracy, accordingly as rule is
exercised by one distinguished man or by many.
True, he replied.
But I regard the two names as describing one form only; for whether the
government is in the hands of one or many, if the governors have been
trained in the manner which we have supposed, the fundamental laws of the
State will be maintained.
That is true, he replied.
Such is the good and true City or State, and the good and true man is of
the same pattern; and if this is right every other is wrong; and the evil
is one which affects not only the ordering of the State, but also the
regulation of the individual soul, and is exhibited in four forms.
What are they? he said.
I was proceeding to tell the order in which the four evil forms appeared to
me to succeed one another, when Polemarchus, who was sitting a little way
off, just beyond Adeimantus, began to whisper to him: stretching forth his
hand, he took hold of the upper part of his coat by the shoulder, and drew
him towards him, leaning forward himself so as to be quite close and saying
something in his ear, of which I only caught the words, 'Shall we let him
off, or what shall we do?'
Certainly not, said Adeimantus, raising his voice.
Who is it, I said, whom you are refusing to let off?
You, he said.
I repeated, Why am I especially not to be let off?
Why, he said, we think that you are lazy, and mean to cheat us out of a
whole chapter which is a very important part of the story; and you fancy
that we shall not notice your airy way of proceeding; as if it were
self-evident to everybody, that in the matter of women and children
'friends have all things in common.'
And was I not right, Adeimantus?
Yes, he said; but what is right in this particular case, like everything
else, requires to be explained; for community may be of many kinds.
Please, therefore, to say what sort of community you mean. We have been
long expecting that you would tell us something about the family life of
your citizens--how they will bring children into the world, and rear them
when they have arrived, and, in general, what is the nature of this
community of women and children--for we are of opinion that the right or
wrong management of such matters will have a great and paramount influence
on the State for good or for evil. And now, since the question is still
undetermined, and you are taking in hand another State, we have resolved,
as you heard, not to let you go until you give an account of all this.
To that resolution, said Glaucon, you may regard me as saying Agreed.
And without more ado, said Thrasymachus, you may consider us all to be
I said, You know not what you are doing in thus assailing me: What an
argument are you raising about the State! Just as I thought that I had
finished, and was only too glad that I had laid this question to sleep, and
was reflecting how fortunate I was in your acceptance of what I then said,
you ask me to begin again at the very foundation, ignorant of what a
hornet's nest of words you are stirring. Now I foresaw this gathering
trouble, and avoided it.
For what purpose do you conceive that we have come here, said Thrasymachus,
--to look for gold, or to hear discourse?
Yes, but discourse should have a limit.
Yes, Socrates, said Glaucon, and the whole of life is the only limit which
wise men assign to the hearing of such discourses. But never mind about
us; take heart yourself and answer the question in your own way: What sort
of community of women and children is this which is to prevail among our
guardians? and how shall we manage the period between birth and education,
which seems to require the greatest care? Tell us how these things will
Yes, my simple friend, but the answer is the reverse of easy; many more
doubts arise about this than about our previous conclusions. For the
practicability of what is said may be doubted; and looked at in another
point of view, whether the scheme, if ever so practicable, would be for the
best, is also doubtful. Hence I feel a reluctance to approach the subject,
lest our aspiration, my dear friend, should turn out to be a dream only.
Fear not, he replied, for your audience will not be hard upon you; they are
not sceptical or hostile.
I said: My good friend, I suppose that you mean to encourage me by these
Yes, he said.
Then let me tell you that you are doing just the reverse; the encouragement
which you offer would have been all very well had I myself believed that I
knew what I was talking about: to declare the truth about matters of high
interest which a man honours and loves among wise men who love him need
occasion no fear or faltering in his mind; but to carry on an argument when
you are yourself only a hesitating enquirer, which is my condition, is a
dangerous and slippery thing; and the danger is not that I shall be laughed
at (of which the fear would be childish), but that I shall miss the truth
where I have most need to be sure of my footing, and drag my friends after
me in my fall. And I pray Nemesis not to visit upon me the words which I
am going to utter. For I do indeed believe that to be an involuntary
homicide is a less crime than to be a deceiver about beauty or goodness or
justice in the matter of laws. And that is a risk which I would rather run
among enemies than among friends, and therefore you do well to encourage
Glaucon laughed and said: Well then, Socrates, in case you and your
argument do us any serious injury you shall be acquitted beforehand of the
homicide, and shall not be held to be a deceiver; take courage then and
Well, I said, the law says that when a man is acquitted he is free from
guilt, and what holds at law may hold in argument.
Then why should you mind?
Well, I replied, I suppose that I must retrace my steps and say what I
perhaps ought to have said before in the proper place. The part of the men
has been played out, and now properly enough comes the turn of the women.
Of them I will proceed to speak, and the more readily since I am invited by
For men born and educated like our citizens, the only way, in my opinion,
of arriving at a right conclusion about the possession and use of women and
children is to follow the path on which we originally started, when we said
that the men were to be the guardians and watchdogs of the herd.
Let us further suppose the birth and education of our women to be subject
to similar or nearly similar regulations; then we shall see whether the
result accords with our design.
What do you mean?
What I mean may be put into the form of a question, I said: Are dogs
divided into hes and shes, or do they both share equally in hunting and in
keeping watch and in the other duties of dogs? or do we entrust to the
males the entire and exclusive care of the flocks, while we leave the
females at home, under the idea that the bearing and suckling their puppies
is labour enough for them?
No, he said, they share alike; the only difference between them is that the
males are stronger and the females weaker.
But can you use different animals for the same purpose, unless they are
bred and fed in the same way?
Then, if women are to have the same duties as men, they must have the same
nurture and education?
The education which was assigned to the men was music and gymnastic.
Then women must be taught music and gymnastic and also the art of war,
which they must practise like the men?
That is the inference, I suppose.
I should rather expect, I said, that several of our proposals, if they are
carried out, being unusual, may appear ridiculous.
No doubt of it.
Yes, and the most ridiculous thing of all will be the sight of women naked
in the palaestra, exercising with the men, especially when they are no
longer young; they certainly will not be a vision of beauty, any more than
the enthusiastic old men who in spite of wrinkles and ugliness continue to
frequent the gymnasia.
Yes, indeed, he said: according to present notions the proposal would be
But then, I said, as we have determined to speak our minds, we must not
fear the jests of the wits which will be directed against this sort of
innovation; how they will talk of women's attainments both in music and
gymnastic, and above all about their wearing armour and riding upon
Very true, he replied.
Yet having begun we must go forward to the rough places of the law; at the
same time begging of these gentlemen for once in their life to be serious.
Not long ago, as we shall remind them, the Hellenes were of the opinion,
which is still generally received among the barbarians, that the sight of a
naked man was ridiculous and improper; and when first the Cretans and then
the Lacedaemonians introduced the custom, the wits of that day might
equally have ridiculed the innovation.
But when experience showed that to let all things be uncovered was far
better than to cover them up, and the ludicrous effect to the outward eye
vanished before the better principle which reason asserted, then the man
was perceived to be a fool who directs the shafts of his ridicule at any
other sight but that of folly and vice, or seriously inclines to weigh the
beautiful by any other standard but that of the good.
Very true, he replied.
First, then, whether the question is to be put in jest or in earnest, let
us come to an understanding about the nature of woman: Is she capable of
sharing either wholly or partially in the actions of men, or not at all?
And is the art of war one of those arts in which she can or can not share?
That will be the best way of commencing the enquiry, and will probably lead
to the fairest conclusion.
That will be much the best way.
Shall we take the other side first and begin by arguing against ourselves;
in this manner the adversary's position will not be undefended.
Why not? he said.
Then let us put a speech into the mouths of our opponents. They will say:
'Socrates and Glaucon, no adversary need convict you, for you yourselves,
at the first foundation of the State, admitted the principle that everybody
was to do the one work suited to his own nature.' And certainly, if I am
not mistaken, such an admission was made by us. 'And do not the natures of
men and women differ very much indeed?' And we shall reply: Of course
they do. Then we shall be asked, 'Whether the tasks assigned to men and to
women should not be different, and such as are agreeable to their different
natures?' Certainly they should. 'But if so, have you not fallen into a
serious inconsistency in saying that men and women, whose natures are so
entirely different, ought to perform the same actions?'--What defence will
you make for us, my good Sir, against any one who offers these objections?
That is not an easy question to answer when asked suddenly; and I shall and
I do beg of you to draw out the case on our side.
These are the objections, Glaucon, and there are many others of a like
kind, which I foresaw long ago; they made me afraid and reluctant to take
in hand any law about the possession and nurture of women and children.
By Zeus, he said, the problem to be solved is anything but easy.
Why yes, I said, but the fact is that when a man is out of his depth,
whether he has fallen into a little swimming bath or into mid ocean, he has
to swim all the same.
And must not we swim and try to reach the shore: we will hope that Arion's
dolphin or some other miraculous help may save us?
I suppose so, he said.
Well then, let us see if any way of escape can be found. We acknowledged--
did we not? that different natures ought to have different pursuits, and
that men's and women's natures are different. And now what are we saying?
--that different natures ought to have the same pursuits,--this is the
inconsistency which is charged upon us.
Verily, Glaucon, I said, glorious is the power of the art of contradiction!
Why do you say so?
Because I think that many a man falls into the practice against his will.
When he thinks that he is reasoning he is really disputing, just because he
cannot define and divide, and so know that of which he is speaking; and he
will pursue a merely verbal opposition in the spirit of contention and not
of fair discussion.
Yes, he replied, such is very often the case; but what has that to do with
us and our argument?
A great deal; for there is certainly a danger of our getting
unintentionally into a verbal opposition.
In what way?
Why we valiantly and pugnaciously insist upon the verbal truth, that
different natures ought to have different pursuits, but we never considered
at all what was the meaning of sameness or difference of nature, or why we
distinguished them when we assigned different pursuits to different natures
and the same to the same natures.
Why, no, he said, that was never considered by us.
I said: Suppose that by way of illustration we were to ask the question
whether there is not an opposition in nature between bald men and hairy
men; and if this is admitted by us, then, if bald men are cobblers, we
should forbid the hairy men to be cobblers, and conversely?
That would be a jest, he said.
Yes, I said, a jest; and why? because we never meant when we constructed
the State, that the opposition of natures should extend to every
difference, but only to those differences which affected the pursuit in
which the individual is engaged; we should have argued, for example, that a
physician and one who is in mind a physician may be said to have the same
Whereas the physician and the carpenter have different natures?
And if, I said, the male and female sex appear to differ in their fitness
for any art or pursuit, we should say that such pursuit or art ought to be
assigned to one or the other of them; but if the difference consists only
in women bearing and men begetting children, this does not amount to a
proof that a woman differs from a man in respect of the sort of education
she should receive; and we shall therefore continue to maintain that our
guardians and their wives ought to have the same pursuits.
Very true, he said.
Next, we shall ask our opponent how, in reference to any of the pursuits or
arts of civic life, the nature of a woman differs from that of a man?
That will be quite fair.
And perhaps he, like yourself, will reply that to give a sufficient answer
on the instant is not easy; but after a little reflection there is no
Suppose then that we invite him to accompany us in the argument, and then
we may hope to show him that there is nothing peculiar in the constitution
of women which would affect them in the administration of the State.
By all means.
Let us say to him: Come now, and we will ask you a question:--when you
spoke of a nature gifted or not gifted in any respect, did you mean to say
that one man will acquire a thing easily, another with difficulty; a little
learning will lead the one to discover a great deal; whereas the other,
after much study and application, no sooner learns than he forgets; or
again, did you mean, that the one has a body which is a good servant to his
mind, while the body of the other is a hindrance to him?--would not these
be the sort of differences which distinguish the man gifted by nature from
the one who is ungifted?
No one will deny that.
And can you mention any pursuit of mankind in which the male sex has not
all these gifts and qualities in a higher degree than the female? Need I
waste time in speaking of the art of weaving, and the management of
pancakes and preserves, in which womankind does really appear to be great,
and in which for her to be beaten by a man is of all things the most
You are quite right, he replied, in maintaining the general inferiority of
the female sex: although many women are in many things superior to many
men, yet on the whole what you say is true.
And if so, my friend, I said, there is no special faculty of administration
in a state which a woman has because she is a woman, or which a man has by
virtue of his sex, but the gifts of nature are alike diffused in both; all
the pursuits of men are the pursuits of women also, but in all of them a
woman is inferior to a man.
Then are we to impose all our enactments on men and none of them on women?
That will never do.
One woman has a gift of healing, another not; one is a musician, and
another has no music in her nature?
And one woman has a turn for gymnastic and military exercises, and another
is unwarlike and hates gymnastics?
And one woman is a philosopher, and another is an enemy of philosophy; one
has spirit, and another is without spirit?
That is also true.
Then one woman will have the temper of a guardian, and another not. Was
not the selection of the male guardians determined by differences of this
Men and women alike possess the qualities which make a guardian; they
differ only in their comparative strength or weakness.
And those women who have such qualities are to be selected as the
companions and colleagues of men who have similar qualities and whom they
resemble in capacity and in character?
And ought not the same natures to have the same pursuits?
Then, as we were saying before, there is nothing unnatural in assigning
music and gymnastic to the wives of the guardians--to that point we come
The law which we then enacted was agreeable to nature, and therefore not an
impossibility or mere aspiration; and the contrary practice, which prevails
at present, is in reality a violation of nature.
That appears to be true.
We had to consider, first, whether our proposals were possible, and
secondly whether they were the most beneficial?
And the possibility has been acknowledged?
The very great benefit has next to be established?
You will admit that the same education which makes a man a good guardian
will make a woman a good guardian; for their original nature is the same?
I should like to ask you a question.
What is it?
Would you say that all men are equal in excellence, or is one man better
And in the commonwealth which we were founding do you conceive the
guardians who have been brought up on our model system to be more perfect
men, or the cobblers whose education has been cobbling?
What a ridiculous question!
You have answered me, I replied: Well, and may we not further say that our
guardians are the best of our citizens?
By far the best.
And will not their wives be the best women?
Yes, by far the best.
And can there be anything better for the interests of the State than that
the men and women of a State should be as good as possible?
There can be nothing better.
And this is what the arts of music and gymnastic, when present in such
manner as we have described, will accomplish?
Then we have made an enactment not only possible but in the highest degree
beneficial to the State?
Then let the wives of our guardians strip, for their virtue will be their
robe, and let them share in the toils of war and the defence of their
country; only in the distribution of labours the lighter are to be assigned
to the women, who are the weaker natures, but in other respects their
duties are to be the same. And as for the man who laughs at naked women
exercising their bodies from the best of motives, in his laughter he is
'A fruit of unripe wisdom,'
and he himself is ignorant of what he is laughing at, or what he is about;
--for that is, and ever will be, the best of sayings, That the useful is
the noble and the hurtful is the base.
Here, then, is one difficulty in our law about women, which we may say that
we have now escaped; the wave has not swallowed us up alive for enacting
that the guardians of either sex should have all their pursuits in common;
to the utility and also to the possibility of this arrangement the
consistency of the argument with itself bears witness.
Yes, that was a mighty wave which you have escaped.
Yes, I said, but a greater is coming; you will not think much of this when
you see the next.
Go on; let me see.
The law, I said, which is the sequel of this and of all that has preceded,
is to the following effect,--'that the wives of our guardians are to be
common, and their children are to be common, and no parent is to know his
own child, nor any child his parent.'
Yes, he said, that is a much greater wave than the other; and the
possibility as well as the utility of such a law are far more questionable.
I do not think, I said, that there can be any dispute about the very great
utility of having wives and children in common; the possibility is quite
another matter, and will be very much disputed.
I think that a good many doubts may be raised about both.
You imply that the two questions must be combined, I replied. Now I meant
that you should admit the utility; and in this way, as I thought, I should
escape from one of them, and then there would remain only the possibility.
But that little attempt is detected, and therefore you will please to give
a defence of both.
Well, I said, I submit to my fate. Yet grant me a little favour: let me
feast my mind with the dream as day dreamers are in the habit of feasting
themselves when they are walking alone; for before they have discovered any
means of effecting their wishes--that is a matter which never troubles
them--they would rather not tire themselves by thinking about
possibilities; but assuming that what they desire is already granted to
them, they proceed with their plan, and delight in detailing what they mean
to do when their wish has come true--that is a way which they have of not
doing much good to a capacity which was never good for much. Now I myself
am beginning to lose heart, and I should like, with your permission, to
pass over the question of possibility at present. Assuming therefore the
possibility of the proposal, I shall now proceed to enquire how the rulers
will carry out these arrangements, and I shall demonstrate that our plan,
if executed, will be of the greatest benefit to the State and to the
guardians. First of all, then, if you have no objection, I will endeavour
with your help to consider the advantages of the measure; and hereafter the
question of possibility.
I have no objection; proceed.
First, I think that if our rulers and their auxiliaries are to be worthy of
the name which they bear, there must be willingness to obey in the one and
the power of command in the other; the guardians must themselves obey the
laws, and they must also imitate the spirit of them in any details which
are entrusted to their care.
That is right, he said.
You, I said, who are their legislator, having selected the men, will now
select the women and give them to them;--they must be as far as possible of
like natures with them; and they must live in common houses and meet at
common meals. None of them will have anything specially his or her own;
they will be together, and will be brought up together, and will associate
at gymnastic exercises. And so they will be drawn by a necessity of their
natures to have intercourse with each other--necessity is not too strong a
word, I think?
Yes, he said;--necessity, not geometrical, but another sort of necessity
which lovers know, and which is far more convincing and constraining to the
mass of mankind.
True, I said; and this, Glaucon, like all the rest, must proceed after an
orderly fashion; in a city of the blessed, licentiousness is an unholy
thing which the rulers will forbid.
Yes, he said, and it ought not to be permitted.
Then clearly the next thing will be to make matrimony sacred in the highest
degree, and what is most beneficial will be deemed sacred?
And how can marriages be made most beneficial?--that is a question which I
put to you, because I see in your house dogs for hunting, and of the nobler
sort of birds not a few. Now, I beseech you, do tell me, have you ever
attended to their pairing and breeding?
In what particulars?
Why, in the first place, although they are all of a good sort, are not some
better than others?
And do you breed from them all indifferently, or do you take care to breed
from the best only?
From the best.
And do you take the oldest or the youngest, or only those of ripe age?
I choose only those of ripe age.
And if care was not taken in the breeding, your dogs and birds would
And the same of horses and animals in general?
Good heavens! my dear friend, I said, what consummate skill will our rulers
need if the same principle holds of the human species!
Certainly, the same principle holds; but why does this involve any
Because, I said, our rulers will often have to practise upon the body
corporate with medicines. Now you know that when patients do not require
medicines, but have only to be put under a regimen, the inferior sort of
practitioner is deemed to be good enough; but when medicine has to be
given, then the doctor should be more of a man.
That is quite true, he said; but to what are you alluding?
I mean, I replied, that our rulers will find a considerable dose of
falsehood and deceit necessary for the good of their subjects: we were
saying that the use of all these things regarded as medicines might be of
And we were very right.
And this lawful use of them seems likely to be often needed in the
regulations of marriages and births.
Why, I said, the principle has been already laid down that the best of
either sex should be united with the best as often, and the inferior with
the inferior, as seldom as possible; and that they should rear the
offspring of the one sort of union, but not of the other, if the flock is
to be maintained in first-rate condition. Now these goings on must be a
secret which the rulers only know, or there will be a further danger of our
herd, as the guardians may be termed, breaking out into rebellion.
Had we not better appoint certain festivals at which we will bring together
the brides and bridegrooms, and sacrifices will be offered and suitable
hymeneal songs composed by our poets: the number of weddings is a matter
which must be left to the discretion of the rulers, whose aim will be to
preserve the average of population? There are many other things which they
will have to consider, such as the effects of wars and diseases and any
similar agencies, in order as far as this is possible to prevent the State
from becoming either too large or too small.
Certainly, he replied.
We shall have to invent some ingenious kind of lots which the less worthy
may draw on each occasion of our bringing them together, and then they will
accuse their own ill-luck and not the rulers.
To be sure, he said.
And I think that our braver and better youth, besides their other honours
and rewards, might have greater facilities of intercourse with women given
them; their bravery will be a reason, and such fathers ought to have as
many sons as possible.
And the proper officers, whether male or female or both, for offices are to
be held by women as well as by men--
The proper officers will take the offspring of the good parents to the pen
or fold, and there they will deposit them with certain nurses who dwell in
a separate quarter; but the offspring of the inferior, or of the better
when they chance to be deformed, will be put away in some mysterious,
unknown place, as they should be.
Yes, he said, that must be done if the breed of the guardians is to be kept
They will provide for their nurture, and will bring the mothers to the fold
when they are full of milk, taking the greatest possible care that no
mother recognises her own child; and other wet-nurses may be engaged if
more are required. Care will also be taken that the process of suckling
shall not be protracted too long; and the mothers will have no getting up
at night or other trouble, but will hand over all this sort of thing to the
nurses and attendants.
You suppose the wives of our guardians to have a fine easy time of it when
they are having children.
Why, said I, and so they ought. Let us, however, proceed with our scheme.
We were saying that the parents should be in the prime of life?
And what is the prime of life? May it not be defined as a period of about
twenty years in a woman's life, and thirty in a man's?
Which years do you mean to include?
A woman, I said, at twenty years of age may begin to bear children to the
State, and continue to bear them until forty; a man may begin at five-and-
twenty, when he has passed the point at which the pulse of life beats
quickest, and continue to beget children until he be fifty-five.
Certainly, he said, both in men and women those years are the prime of
physical as well as of intellectual vigour.
Any one above or below the prescribed ages who takes part in the public
hymeneals shall be said to have done an unholy and unrighteous thing; the
child of which he is the father, if it steals into life, will have been
conceived under auspices very unlike the sacrifices and prayers, which at
each hymeneal priestesses and priest and the whole city will offer, that
the new generation may be better and more useful than their good and useful
parents, whereas his child will be the offspring of darkness and strange
Very true, he replied.
And the same law will apply to any one of those within the prescribed age
who forms a connection with any woman in the prime of life without the
sanction of the rulers; for we shall say that he is raising up a bastard to
the State, uncertified and unconsecrated.
Very true, he replied.
This applies, however, only to those who are within the specified age:
after that we allow them to range at will, except that a man may not marry
his daughter or his daughter's daughter, or his mother or his mother's
mother; and women, on the other hand, are prohibited from marrying their
sons or fathers, or son's son or father's father, and so on in either
direction. And we grant all this, accompanying the permission with strict
orders to prevent any embryo which may come into being from seeing the
light; and if any force a way to the birth, the parents must understand
that the offspring of such an union cannot be maintained, and arrange
That also, he said, is a reasonable proposition. But how will they know
who are fathers and daughters, and so on?
They will never know. The way will be this:--dating from the day of the
hymeneal, the bridegroom who was then married will call all the male
children who are born in the seventh and tenth month afterwards his sons,
and the female children his daughters, and they will call him father, and
he will call their children his grandchildren, and they will call the elder
generation grandfathers and grandmothers. All who were begotten at the
time when their fathers and mothers came together will be called their
brothers and sisters, and these, as I was saying, will be forbidden to
inter-marry. This, however, is not to be understood as an absolute
prohibition of the marriage of brothers and sisters; if the lot favours
them, and they receive the sanction of the Pythian oracle, the law will
Quite right, he replied.
Such is the scheme, Glaucon, according to which the guardians of our State
are to have their wives and families in common. And now you would have the
argument show that this community is consistent with the rest of our
polity, and also that nothing can be better--would you not?
Shall we try to find a common basis by asking of ourselves what ought to be
the chief aim of the legislator in making laws and in the organization of a
State,--what is the greatest good, and what is the greatest evil, and then
consider whether our previous description has the stamp of the good or of
By all means.
Can there be any greater evil than discord and distraction and plurality
where unity ought to reign? or any greater good than the bond of unity?
And there is unity where there is community of pleasures and pains--where
all the citizens are glad or grieved on the same occasions of joy and
Yes; and where there is no common but only private feeling a State is
disorganized--when you have one half of the world triumphing and the other
plunged in grief at the same events happening to the city or the citizens?
Such differences commonly originate in a disagreement about the use of the
terms 'mine' and 'not mine,' 'his' and 'not his.'
And is not that the best-ordered State in which the greatest number of
persons apply the terms 'mine' and 'not mine' in the same way to the same
Or that again which most nearly approaches to the condition of the
individual--as in the body, when but a finger of one of us is hurt, the
whole frame, drawn towards the soul as a centre and forming one kingdom
under the ruling power therein, feels the hurt and sympathizes all together
with the part affected, and we say that the man has a pain in his finger;
and the same expression is used about any other part of the body, which has
a sensation of pain at suffering or of pleasure at the alleviation of
Very true, he replied; and I agree with you that in the best-ordered State
there is the nearest approach to this common feeling which you describe.
Then when any one of the citizens experiences any good or evil, the whole
State will make his case their own, and will either rejoice or sorrow with
Yes, he said, that is what will happen in a well-ordered State.
It will now be time, I said, for us to return to our State and see whether
this or some other form is most in accordance with these fundamental
Our State like every other has rulers and subjects?
All of whom will call one another citizens?
But is there not another name which people give to their rulers in other
Generally they call them masters, but in democratic States they simply call
And in our State what other name besides that of citizens do the people
give the rulers?
They are called saviours and helpers, he replied.
And what do the rulers call the people?
Their maintainers and foster-fathers.
And what do they call them in other States?
And what do the rulers call one another in other States?
And what in ours?
Did you ever know an example in any other State of a ruler who would speak
of one of his colleagues as his friend and of another as not being his
Yes, very often.
And the friend he regards and describes as one in whom he has an interest,
and the other as a stranger in whom he has no interest?
But would any of your guardians think or speak of any other guardian as a
Certainly he would not; for every one whom they meet will be regarded by
them either as a brother or sister, or father or mother, or son or
daughter, or as the child or parent of those who are thus connected with
Capital, I said; but let me ask you once more: Shall they be a family in
name only; or shall they in all their actions be true to the name? For
example, in the use of the word 'father,' would the care of a father be
implied and the filial reverence and duty and obedience to him which the
law commands; and is the violator of these duties to be regarded as an
impious and unrighteous person who is not likely to receive much good
either at the hands of God or of man? Are these to be or not to be the
strains which the children will hear repeated in their ears by all the
citizens about those who are intimated to them to be their parents and the
rest of their kinsfolk?
These, he said, and none other; for what can be more ridiculous than for
them to utter the names of family ties with the lips only and not to act in
the spirit of them?
Then in our city the language of harmony and concord will be more often
heard than in any other. As I was describing before, when any one is well
or ill, the universal word will be 'with me it is well' or 'it is ill.'
And agreeably to this mode of thinking and speaking, were we not saying
that they will have their pleasures and pains in common?
Yes, and so they will.
And they will have a common interest in the same thing which they will
alike call 'my own,' and having this common interest they will have a
common feeling of pleasure and pain?
Yes, far more so than in other States.
And the reason of this, over and above the general constitution of the
State, will be that the guardians will have a community of women and
That will be the chief reason.
And this unity of feeling we admitted to be the greatest good, as was
implied in our own comparison of a well-ordered State to the relation of
the body and the members, when affected by pleasure or pain?
That we acknowledged, and very rightly.
Then the community of wives and children among our citizens is clearly the
source of the greatest good to the State?
And this agrees with the other principle which we were affirming,--that the
guardians were not to have houses or lands or any other property; their pay
was to be their food, which they were to receive from the other citizens,
and they were to have no private expenses; for we intended them to preserve
their true character of guardians.
Right, he replied.
Both the community of property and the community of families, as I am
saying, tend to make them more truly guardians; they will not tear the city
in pieces by differing about 'mine' and 'not mine;' each man dragging any
acquisition which he has made into a separate house of his own, where he
has a separate wife and children and private pleasures and pains; but all
will be affected as far as may be by the same pleasures and pains because
they are all of one opinion about what is near and dear to them, and
therefore they all tend towards a common end.
Certainly, he replied.
And as they have nothing but their persons which they can call their own,
suits and complaints will have no existence among them; they will be
delivered from all those quarrels of which money or children or relations
are the occasion.
Of course they will.
Neither will trials for assault or insult ever be likely to occur among
them. For that equals should defend themselves against equals we shall
maintain to be honourable and right; we shall make the protection of the
person a matter of necessity.
That is good, he said.
Yes; and there is a further good in the law; viz. that if a man has a
quarrel with another he will satisfy his resentment then and there, and not
proceed to more dangerous lengths.
To the elder shall be assigned the duty of ruling and chastising the
Nor can there be a doubt that the younger will not strike or do any other
violence to an elder, unless the magistrates command him; nor will he
slight him in any way. For there are two guardians, shame and fear, mighty
to prevent him: shame, which makes men refrain from laying hands on those
who are to them in the relation of parents; fear, that the injured one will
be succoured by the others who are his brothers, sons, fathers.
That is true, he replied.
Then in every way the laws will help the citizens to keep the peace with
Yes, there will be no want of peace.
And as the guardians will never quarrel among themselves there will be no
danger of the rest of the city being divided either against them or against
I hardly like even to mention the little meannesses of which they will be
rid, for they are beneath notice: such, for example, as the flattery of
the rich by the poor, and all the pains and pangs which men experience in
bringing up a family, and in finding money to buy necessaries for their
household, borrowing and then repudiating, getting how they can, and giving
the money into the hands of women and slaves to keep--the many evils of so
many kinds which people suffer in this way are mean enough and obvious
enough, and not worth speaking of.
Yes, he said, a man has no need of eyes in order to perceive that.
And from all these evils they will be delivered, and their life will be
blessed as the life of Olympic victors and yet more blessed.
The Olympic victor, I said, is deemed happy in receiving a part only of the
blessedness which is secured to our citizens, who have won a more glorious
victory and have a more complete maintenance at the public cost. For the
victory which they have won is the salvation of the whole State; and the
crown with which they and their children are crowned is the fulness of all
that life needs; they receive rewards from the hands of their country while
living, and after death have an honourable burial.
Yes, he said, and glorious rewards they are.
Do you remember, I said, how in the course of the previous discussion some
one who shall be nameless accused us of making our guardians unhappy--they
had nothing and might have possessed all things--to whom we replied that,
if an occasion offered, we might perhaps hereafter consider this question,
but that, as at present advised, we would make our guardians truly
guardians, and that we were fashioning the State with a view to the
greatest happiness, not of any particular class, but of the whole?
Yes, I remember.
And what do you say, now that the life of our protectors is made out to be
far better and nobler than that of Olympic victors--is the life of
shoemakers, or any other artisans, or of husbandmen, to be compared with
At the same time I ought here to repeat what I have said elsewhere, that if
any of our guardians shall try to be happy in such a manner that he will
cease to be a guardian, and is not content with this safe and harmonious
life, which, in our judgment, is of all lives the best, but infatuated by
some youthful conceit of happiness which gets up into his head shall seek
to appropriate the whole state to himself, then he will have to learn how
wisely Hesiod spoke, when he said, 'half is more than the whole.'
If he were to consult me, I should say to him: Stay where you are, when
you have the offer of such a life.
You agree then, I said, that men and women are to have a common way of life
such as we have described--common education, common children; and they are
to watch over the citizens in common whether abiding in the city or going
out to war; they are to keep watch together, and to hunt together like
dogs; and always and in all things, as far as they are able, women are to
share with the men? And in so doing they will do what is best, and will
not violate, but preserve the natural relation of the sexes.
I agree with you, he replied.
The enquiry, I said, has yet to be made, whether such a community be found
possible--as among other animals, so also among men--and if possible, in
what way possible?
You have anticipated the question which I was about to suggest.
There is no difficulty, I said, in seeing how war will be carried on by
Why, of course they will go on expeditions together; and will take with
them any of their children who are strong enough, that, after the manner of
the artisan's child, they may look on at the work which they will have to
do when they are grown up; and besides looking on they will have to help
and be of use in war, and to wait upon their fathers and mothers. Did you
never observe in the arts how the potters' boys look on and help, long
before they touch the wheel?
Yes, I have.
And shall potters be more careful in educating their children and in giving
them the opportunity of seeing and practising their duties than our
guardians will be?
The idea is ridiculous, he said.
There is also the effect on the parents, with whom, as with other animals,
the presence of their young ones will be the greatest incentive to valour.
That is quite true, Socrates; and yet if they are defeated, which may often
happen in war, how great the danger is! the children will be lost as well
as their parents, and the State will never recover.
True, I said; but would you never allow them to run any risk?
I am far from saying that.
Well, but if they are ever to run a risk should they not do so on some
occasion when, if they escape disaster, they will be the better for it?
Whether the future soldiers do or do not see war in the days of their youth
is a very important matter, for the sake of which some risk may fairly be
Yes, very important.
This then must be our first step,--to make our children spectators of war;
but we must also contrive that they shall be secured against danger; then
all will be well.
Their parents may be supposed not to be blind to the risks of war, but to
know, as far as human foresight can, what expeditions are safe and what
That may be assumed.
And they will take them on the safe expeditions and be cautious about the
And they will place them under the command of experienced veterans who will
be their leaders and teachers?
Still, the dangers of war cannot be always foreseen; there is a good deal
of chance about them?
Then against such chances the children must be at once furnished with
wings, in order that in the hour of need they may fly away and escape.
What do you mean? he said.
I mean that we must mount them on horses in their earliest youth, and when
they have learnt to ride, take them on horseback to see war: the horses
must not be spirited and warlike, but the most tractable and yet the
swiftest that can be had. In this way they will get an excellent view of
what is hereafter to be their own business; and if there is danger they
have only to follow their elder leaders and escape.
I believe that you are right, he said.
Next, as to war; what are to be the relations of your soldiers to one
another and to their enemies? I should be inclined to propose that the
soldier who leaves his rank or throws away his arms, or is guilty of any
other act of cowardice, should be degraded into the rank of a husbandman or
artisan. What do you think?
By all means, I should say.
And he who allows himself to be taken prisoner may as well be made a
present of to his enemies; he is their lawful prey, and let them do what
they like with him.
But the hero who has distinguished himself, what shall be done to him? In
the first place, he shall receive honour in the army from his youthful
comrades; every one of them in succession shall crown him. What do you
And what do you say to his receiving the right hand of fellowship?
To that too, I agree.
But you will hardly agree to my next proposal.
What is your proposal?
That he should kiss and be kissed by them.
Most certainly, and I should be disposed to go further, and say: Let no
one whom he has a mind to kiss refuse to be kissed by him while the
expedition lasts. So that if there be a lover in the army, whether his
love be youth or maiden, he may be more eager to win the prize of valour.
Capital, I said. That the brave man is to have more wives than others has
been already determined: and he is to have first choices in such matters
more than others, in order that he may have as many children as possible?
Again, there is another manner in which, according to Homer, brave youths
should be honoured; for he tells how Ajax, after he had distinguished
himself in battle, was rewarded with long chines, which seems to be a
compliment appropriate to a hero in the flower of his age, being not only a
tribute of honour but also a very strengthening thing.
Most true, he said.
Then in this, I said, Homer shall be our teacher; and we too, at sacrifices
and on the like occasions, will honour the brave according to the measure
of their valour, whether men or women, with hymns and those other
distinctions which we were mentioning; also with
'seats of precedence, and meats and full cups;'
and in honouring them, we shall be at the same time training them.
That, he replied, is excellent.
Yes, I said; and when a man dies gloriously in war shall we not say, in the
first place, that he is of the golden race?
To be sure.
Nay, have we not the authority of Hesiod for affirming that when they are
'They are holy angels upon the earth, authors of good, averters of evil,
the guardians of speech-gifted men'?
Yes; and we accept his authority.
We must learn of the god how we are to order the sepulture of divine and
heroic personages, and what is to be their special distinction; and we must
do as he bids?
By all means.
And in ages to come we will reverence them and kneel before their
sepulchres as at the graves of heroes. And not only they but any who are
deemed pre-eminently good, whether they die from age, or in any other way,
shall be admitted to the same honours.
That is very right, he said.
Next, how shall our soldiers treat their enemies? What about this?
In what respect do you mean?
First of all, in regard to slavery? Do you think it right that Hellenes
should enslave Hellenic States, or allow others to enslave them, if they
can help? Should not their custom be to spare them, considering the danger
which there is that the whole race may one day fall under the yoke of the
To spare them is infinitely better.
Then no Hellene should be owned by them as a slave; that is a rule which
they will observe and advise the other Hellenes to observe.
Certainly, he said; they will in this way be united against the barbarians
and will keep their hands off one another.
Next as to the slain; ought the conquerors, I said, to take anything but
their armour? Does not the practice of despoiling an enemy afford an
excuse for not facing the battle? Cowards skulk about the dead, pretending
that they are fulfilling a duty, and many an army before now has been lost
from this love of plunder.
And is there not illiberality and avarice in robbing a corpse, and also a
degree of meanness and womanishness in making an enemy of the dead body
when the real enemy has flown away and left only his fighting gear behind
him,--is not this rather like a dog who cannot get at his assailant,
quarrelling with the stones which strike him instead?
Very like a dog, he said.
Then we must abstain from spoiling the dead or hindering their burial?
Yes, he replied, we most certainly must.
Neither shall we offer up arms at the temples of the gods, least of all the
arms of Hellenes, if we care to maintain good feeling with other Hellenes;
and, indeed, we have reason to fear that the offering of spoils taken from
kinsmen may be a pollution unless commanded by the god himself?
Again, as to the devastation of Hellenic territory or the burning of
houses, what is to be the practice?
May I have the pleasure, he said, of hearing your opinion?
Both should be forbidden, in my judgment; I would take the annual produce
and no more. Shall I tell you why?
Why, you see, there is a difference in the names 'discord' and 'war,' and I
imagine that there is also a difference in their natures; the one is
expressive of what is internal and domestic, the other of what is external
and foreign; and the first of the two is termed discord, and only the
That is a very proper distinction, he replied.
And may I not observe with equal propriety that the Hellenic race is all
united together by ties of blood and friendship, and alien and strange to
Very good, he said.
And therefore when Hellenes fight with barbarians and barbarians with
Hellenes, they will be described by us as being at war when they fight, and
by nature enemies, and this kind of antagonism should be called war; but
when Hellenes fight with one another we shall say that Hellas is then in a
state of disorder and discord, they being by nature friends; and such
enmity is to be called discord.
Consider then, I said, when that which we have acknowledged to be discord
occurs, and a city is divided, if both parties destroy the lands and burn
the houses of one another, how wicked does the strife appear! No true
lover of his country would bring himself to tear in pieces his own nurse
and mother: There might be reason in the conqueror depriving the conquered
of their harvest, but still they would have the idea of peace in their
hearts and would not mean to go on fighting for ever.
Yes, he said, that is a better temper than the other.
And will not the city, which you are founding, be an Hellenic city?
It ought to be, he replied.
Then will not the citizens be good and civilized?
Yes, very civilized.
And will they not be lovers of Hellas, and think of Hellas as their own
land, and share in the common temples?
And any difference which arises among them will be regarded by them as
discord only--a quarrel among friends, which is not to be called a war?
Then they will quarrel as those who intend some day to be reconciled?
They will use friendly correction, but will not enslave or destroy their
opponents; they will be correctors, not enemies?
And as they are Hellenes themselves they will not devastate Hellas, nor
will they burn houses, nor ever suppose that the whole population of a
city--men, women, and children--are equally their enemies, for they know
that the guilt of war is always confined to a few persons and that the many
are their friends. And for all these reasons they will be unwilling to
waste their lands and rase their houses; their enmity to them will only
last until the many innocent sufferers have compelled the guilty few to
I agree, he said, that our citizens should thus deal with their Hellenic
enemies; and with barbarians as the Hellenes now deal with one another.
Then let us enact this law also for our guardians:--that they are neither
to devastate the lands of Hellenes nor to burn their houses.
Agreed; and we may agree also in thinking that these, like all our previous
enactments, are very good.
But still I must say, Socrates, that if you are allowed to go on in this
way you will entirely forget the other question which at the commencement
of this discussion you thrust aside:--Is such an order of things possible,
and how, if at all? For I am quite ready to acknowledge that the plan
which you propose, if only feasible, would do all sorts of good to the
State. I will add, what you have omitted, that your citizens will be the
bravest of warriors, and will never leave their ranks, for they will all
know one another, and each will call the other father, brother, son; and if
you suppose the women to join their armies, whether in the same rank or in
the rear, either as a terror to the enemy, or as auxiliaries in case of
need, I know that they will then be absolutely invincible; and there are
many domestic advantages which might also be mentioned and which I also
fully acknowledge: but, as I admit all these advantages and as many more
as you please, if only this State of yours were to come into existence, we
need say no more about them; assuming then the existence of the State, let
us now turn to the question of possibility and ways and means--the rest may
If I loiter for a moment, you instantly make a raid upon me, I said, and
have no mercy; I have hardly escaped the first and second waves, and you
seem not to be aware that you are now bringing upon me the third, which is
the greatest and heaviest. When you have seen and heard the third wave, I
think you will be more considerate and will acknowledge that some fear and
hesitation was natural respecting a proposal so extraordinary as that which
I have now to state and investigate.
The more appeals of this sort which you make, he said, the more determined
are we that you shall tell us how such a State is possible: speak out and
Let me begin by reminding you that we found our way hither in the search
after justice and injustice.
True, he replied; but what of that?
I was only going to ask whether, if we have discovered them, we are to
require that the just man should in nothing fail of absolute justice; or
may we be satisfied with an approximation, and the attainment in him of a
higher degree of justice than is to be found in other men?
The approximation will be enough.
We were enquiring into the nature of absolute justice and into the
character of the perfectly just, and into injustice and the perfectly