Part 6 out of 12
we must isolate them; there is no other way; and how is the isolation to be
effected? I answer: Let the unjust man be entirely unjust, and the just
man entirely just; nothing is to be taken away from either of them, and
both are to be perfectly furnished for the work of their respective lives.
First, let the unjust be like other distinguished masters of craft; like
the skilful pilot or physician, who knows intuitively his own powers and
keeps within their limits, and who, if he fails at any point, is able to
recover himself. So let the unjust make his unjust attempts in the right
way, and lie hidden if he means to be great in his injustice: (he who is
found out is nobody:) for the highest reach of injustice is, to be deemed
just when you are not. Therefore I say that in the perfectly unjust man we
must assume the most perfect injustice; there is to be no deduction, but we
must allow him, while doing the most unjust acts, to have acquired the
greatest reputation for justice. If he have taken a false step he must be
able to recover himself; he must be one who can speak with effect, if any
of his deeds come to light, and who can force his way where force is
required by his courage and strength, and command of money and friends.
And at his side let us place the just man in his nobleness and simplicity,
wishing, as Aeschylus says, to be and not to seem good. There must be no
seeming, for if he seem to be just he will be honoured and rewarded, and
then we shall not know whether he is just for the sake of justice or for
the sake of honours and rewards; therefore, let him be clothed in justice
only, and have no other covering; and he must be imagined in a state of
life the opposite of the former. Let him be the best of men, and let him
be thought the worst; then he will have been put to the proof; and we shall
see whether he will be affected by the fear of infamy and its consequences.
And let him continue thus to the hour of death; being just and seeming to
be unjust. When both have reached the uttermost extreme, the one of
justice and the other of injustice, let judgment be given which of them is
the happier of the two.
Heavens! my dear Glaucon, I said, how energetically you polish them up for
the decision, first one and then the other, as if they were two statues.
I do my best, he said. And now that we know what they are like there is no
difficulty in tracing out the sort of life which awaits either of them.
This I will proceed to describe; but as you may think the description a
little too coarse, I ask you to suppose, Socrates, that the words which
follow are not mine.--Let me put them into the mouths of the eulogists of
injustice: They will tell you that the just man who is thought unjust will
be scourged, racked, bound--will have his eyes burnt out; and, at last,
after suffering every kind of evil, he will be impaled: Then he will
understand that he ought to seem only, and not to be, just; the words of
Aeschylus may be more truly spoken of the unjust than of the just. For the
unjust is pursuing a reality; he does not live with a view to appearances--
he wants to be really unjust and not to seem only:--
'His mind has a soil deep and fertile,
Out of which spring his prudent counsels.'
In the first place, he is thought just, and therefore bears rule in the
city; he can marry whom he will, and give in marriage to whom he will; also
he can trade and deal where he likes, and always to his own advantage,
because he has no misgivings about injustice; and at every contest, whether
in public or private, he gets the better of his antagonists, and gains at
their expense, and is rich, and out of his gains he can benefit his
friends, and harm his enemies; moreover, he can offer sacrifices, and
dedicate gifts to the gods abundantly and magnificently, and can honour the
gods or any man whom he wants to honour in a far better style than the
just, and therefore he is likely to be dearer than they are to the gods.
And thus, Socrates, gods and men are said to unite in making the life of
the unjust better than the life of the just.
I was going to say something in answer to Glaucon, when Adeimantus, his
brother, interposed: Socrates, he said, you do not suppose that there is
nothing more to be urged?
Why, what else is there? I answered.
The strongest point of all has not been even mentioned, he replied.
Well, then, according to the proverb, 'Let brother help brother'--if he
fails in any part do you assist him; although I must confess that Glaucon
has already said quite enough to lay me in the dust, and take from me the
power of helping justice.
Nonsense, he replied. But let me add something more: There is another
side to Glaucon's argument about the praise and censure of justice and
injustice, which is equally required in order to bring out what I believe
to be his meaning. Parents and tutors are always telling their sons and
their wards that they are to be just; but why? not for the sake of justice,
but for the sake of character and reputation; in the hope of obtaining for
him who is reputed just some of those offices, marriages, and the like
which Glaucon has enumerated among the advantages accruing to the unjust
from the reputation of justice. More, however, is made of appearances by
this class of persons than by the others; for they throw in the good
opinion of the gods, and will tell you of a shower of benefits which the
heavens, as they say, rain upon the pious; and this accords with the
testimony of the noble Hesiod and Homer, the first of whom says, that the
gods make the oaks of the just--
'To bear acorns at their summit, and bees in the middle;
And the sheep are bowed down with the weight of their fleeces,'
and many other blessings of a like kind are provided for them. And Homer
has a very similar strain; for he speaks of one whose fame is--
'As the fame of some blameless king who, like a god,
Maintains justice; to whom the black earth brings forth
Wheat and barley, whose trees are bowed with fruit,
And his sheep never fail to bear, and the sea gives him fish.'
Still grander are the gifts of heaven which Musaeus and his son vouchsafe
to the just; they take them down into the world below, where they have the
saints lying on couches at a feast, everlastingly drunk, crowned with
garlands; their idea seems to be that an immortality of drunkenness is the
highest meed of virtue. Some extend their rewards yet further; the
posterity, as they say, of the faithful and just shall survive to the third
and fourth generation. This is the style in which they praise justice.
But about the wicked there is another strain; they bury them in a slough in
Hades, and make them carry water in a sieve; also while they are yet living
they bring them to infamy, and inflict upon them the punishments which
Glaucon described as the portion of the just who are reputed to be unjust;
nothing else does their invention supply. Such is their manner of praising
the one and censuring the other.
Once more, Socrates, I will ask you to consider another way of speaking
about justice and injustice, which is not confined to the poets, but is
found in prose writers. The universal voice of mankind is always declaring
that justice and virtue are honourable, but grievous and toilsome; and that
the pleasures of vice and injustice are easy of attainment, and are only
censured by law and opinion. They say also that honesty is for the most
part less profitable than dishonesty; and they are quite ready to call
wicked men happy, and to honour them both in public and private when they
are rich or in any other way influential, while they despise and overlook
those who may be weak and poor, even though acknowledging them to be better
than the others. But most extraordinary of all is their mode of speaking
about virtue and the gods: they say that the gods apportion calamity and
misery to many good men, and good and happiness to the wicked. And
mendicant prophets go to rich men's doors and persuade them that they have
a power committed to them by the gods of making an atonement for a man's
own or his ancestor's sins by sacrifices or charms, with rejoicings and
feasts; and they promise to harm an enemy, whether just or unjust, at a
small cost; with magic arts and incantations binding heaven, as they say,
to execute their will. And the poets are the authorities to whom they
appeal, now smoothing the path of vice with the words of Hesiod;--
'Vice may be had in abundance without trouble; the way is smooth and her
dwelling-place is near. But before virtue the gods have set toil,'
and a tedious and uphill road: then citing Homer as a witness that the
gods may be influenced by men; for he also says:--
'The gods, too, may be turned from their purpose; and men pray to them and
avert their wrath by sacrifices and soothing entreaties, and by libations
and the odour of fat, when they have sinned and transgressed.'
And they produce a host of books written by Musaeus and Orpheus, who were
children of the Moon and the Muses--that is what they say--according to
which they perform their ritual, and persuade not only individuals, but
whole cities, that expiations and atonements for sin may be made by
sacrifices and amusements which fill a vacant hour, and are equally at the
service of the living and the dead; the latter sort they call mysteries,
and they redeem us from the pains of hell, but if we neglect them no one
knows what awaits us.
He proceeded: And now when the young hear all this said about virtue and
vice, and the way in which gods and men regard them, how are their minds
likely to be affected, my dear Socrates,--those of them, I mean, who are
quickwitted, and, like bees on the wing, light on every flower, and from
all that they hear are prone to draw conclusions as to what manner of
persons they should be and in what way they should walk if they would make
the best of life? Probably the youth will say to himself in the words of
'Can I by justice or by crooked ways of deceit ascend a loftier tower which
may be a fortress to me all my days?'
For what men say is that, if I am really just and am not also thought just
profit there is none, but the pain and loss on the other hand are
unmistakeable. But if, though unjust, I acquire the reputation of justice,
a heavenly life is promised to me. Since then, as philosophers prove,
appearance tyrannizes over truth and is lord of happiness, to appearance I
must devote myself. I will describe around me a picture and shadow of
virtue to be the vestibule and exterior of my house; behind I will trail
the subtle and crafty fox, as Archilochus, greatest of sages, recommends.
But I hear some one exclaiming that the concealment of wickedness is often
difficult; to which I answer, Nothing great is easy. Nevertheless, the
argument indicates this, if we would be happy, to be the path along which
we should proceed. With a view to concealment we will establish secret
brotherhoods and political clubs. And there are professors of rhetoric who
teach the art of persuading courts and assemblies; and so, partly by
persuasion and partly by force, I shall make unlawful gains and not be
punished. Still I hear a voice saying that the gods cannot be deceived,
neither can they be compelled. But what if there are no gods? or, suppose
them to have no care of human things--why in either case should we mind
about concealment? And even if there are gods, and they do care about us,
yet we know of them only from tradition and the genealogies of the poets;
and these are the very persons who say that they may be influenced and
turned by 'sacrifices and soothing entreaties and by offerings.' Let us be
consistent then, and believe both or neither. If the poets speak truly,
why then we had better be unjust, and offer of the fruits of injustice; for
if we are just, although we may escape the vengeance of heaven, we shall
lose the gains of injustice; but, if we are unjust, we shall keep the
gains, and by our sinning and praying, and praying and sinning, the gods
will be propitiated, and we shall not be punished. 'But there is a world
below in which either we or our posterity will suffer for our unjust
deeds.' Yes, my friend, will be the reflection, but there are mysteries
and atoning deities, and these have great power. That is what mighty
cities declare; and the children of the gods, who were their poets and
prophets, bear a like testimony.
On what principle, then, shall we any longer choose justice rather than the
worst injustice? when, if we only unite the latter with a deceitful regard
to appearances, we shall fare to our mind both with gods and men, in life
and after death, as the most numerous and the highest authorities tell us.
Knowing all this, Socrates, how can a man who has any superiority of mind
or person or rank or wealth, be willing to honour justice; or indeed to
refrain from laughing when he hears justice praised? And even if there
should be some one who is able to disprove the truth of my words, and who
is satisfied that justice is best, still he is not angry with the unjust,
but is very ready to forgive them, because he also knows that men are not
just of their own free will; unless, peradventure, there be some one whom
the divinity within him may have inspired with a hatred of injustice, or
who has attained knowledge of the truth--but no other man. He only blames
injustice who, owing to cowardice or age or some weakness, has not the
power of being unjust. And this is proved by the fact that when he obtains
the power, he immediately becomes unjust as far as he can be.
The cause of all this, Socrates, was indicated by us at the beginning of
the argument, when my brother and I told you how astonished we were to find
that of all the professing panegyrists of justice--beginning with the
ancient heroes of whom any memorial has been preserved to us, and ending
with the men of our own time--no one has ever blamed injustice or praised
justice except with a view to the glories, honours, and benefits which flow
from them. No one has ever adequately described either in verse or prose
the true essential nature of either of them abiding in the soul, and
invisible to any human or divine eye; or shown that of all the things of a
man's soul which he has within him, justice is the greatest good, and
injustice the greatest evil. Had this been the universal strain, had you
sought to persuade us of this from our youth upwards, we should not have
been on the watch to keep one another from doing wrong, but every one would
have been his own watchman, because afraid, if he did wrong, of harbouring
in himself the greatest of evils. I dare say that Thrasymachus and others
would seriously hold the language which I have been merely repeating, and
words even stronger than these about justice and injustice, grossly, as I
conceive, perverting their true nature. But I speak in this vehement
manner, as I must frankly confess to you, because I want to hear from you
the opposite side; and I would ask you to show not only the superiority
which justice has over injustice, but what effect they have on the
possessor of them which makes the one to be a good and the other an evil to
him. And please, as Glaucon requested of you, to exclude reputations; for
unless you take away from each of them his true reputation and add on the
false, we shall say that you do not praise justice, but the appearance of
it; we shall think that you are only exhorting us to keep injustice dark,
and that you really agree with Thrasymachus in thinking that justice is
another's good and the interest of the stronger, and that injustice is a
man's own profit and interest, though injurious to the weaker. Now as you
have admitted that justice is one of that highest class of goods which are
desired indeed for their results, but in a far greater degree for their own
sakes--like sight or hearing or knowledge or health, or any other real and
natural and not merely conventional good--I would ask you in your praise of
justice to regard one point only: I mean the essential good and evil which
justice and injustice work in the possessors of them. Let others praise
justice and censure injustice, magnifying the rewards and honours of the
one and abusing the other; that is a manner of arguing which, coming from
them, I am ready to tolerate, but from you who have spent your whole life
in the consideration of this question, unless I hear the contrary from your
own lips, I expect something better. And therefore, I say, not only prove
to us that justice is better than injustice, but show what they either of
them do to the possessor of them, which makes the one to be a good and the
other an evil, whether seen or unseen by gods and men.
I had always admired the genius of Glaucon and Adeimantus, but on hearing
these words I was quite delighted, and said: Sons of an illustrious
father, that was not a bad beginning of the Elegiac verses which the
admirer of Glaucon made in honour of you after you had distinguished
yourselves at the battle of Megara:--
'Sons of Ariston,' he sang, 'divine offspring of an illustrious hero.'
The epithet is very appropriate, for there is something truly divine in
being able to argue as you have done for the superiority of injustice, and
remaining unconvinced by your own arguments. And I do believe that you are
not convinced--this I infer from your general character, for had I judged
only from your speeches I should have mistrusted you. But now, the greater
my confidence in you, the greater is my difficulty in knowing what to say.
For I am in a strait between two; on the one hand I feel that I am unequal
to the task; and my inability is brought home to me by the fact that you
were not satisfied with the answer which I made to Thrasymachus, proving,
as I thought, the superiority which justice has over injustice. And yet I
cannot refuse to help, while breath and speech remain to me; I am afraid
that there would be an impiety in being present when justice is evil spoken
of and not lifting up a hand in her defence. And therefore I had best give
such help as I can.
Glaucon and the rest entreated me by all means not to let the question
drop, but to proceed in the investigation. They wanted to arrive at the
truth, first, about the nature of justice and injustice, and secondly,
about their relative advantages. I told them, what I really thought, that
the enquiry would be of a serious nature, and would require very good eyes.
Seeing then, I said, that we are no great wits, I think that we had better
adopt a method which I may illustrate thus; suppose that a short-sighted
person had been asked by some one to read small letters from a distance;
and it occurred to some one else that they might be found in another place
which was larger and in which the letters were larger--if they were the
same and he could read the larger letters first, and then proceed to the
lesser--this would have been thought a rare piece of good fortune.
Very true, said Adeimantus; but how does the illustration apply to our
I will tell you, I replied; justice, which is the subject of our enquiry,
is, as you know, sometimes spoken of as the virtue of an individual, and
sometimes as the virtue of a State.
True, he replied.
And is not a State larger than an individual?
Then in the larger the quantity of justice is likely to be larger and more
easily discernible. I propose therefore that we enquire into the nature of
justice and injustice, first as they appear in the State, and secondly in
the individual, proceeding from the greater to the lesser and comparing
That, he said, is an excellent proposal.
And if we imagine the State in process of creation, we shall see the
justice and injustice of the State in process of creation also.
I dare say.
When the State is completed there may be a hope that the object of our
search will be more easily discovered.
Yes, far more easily.
But ought we to attempt to construct one? I said; for to do so, as I am
inclined to think, will be a very serious task. Reflect therefore.
I have reflected, said Adeimantus, and am anxious that you should proceed.
A State, I said, arises, as I conceive, out of the needs of mankind; no one
is self-sufficing, but all of us have many wants. Can any other origin of
a State be imagined?
There can be no other.
Then, as we have many wants, and many persons are needed to supply them,
one takes a helper for one purpose and another for another; and when these
partners and helpers are gathered together in one habitation the body of
inhabitants is termed a State.
True, he said.
And they exchange with one another, and one gives, and another receives,
under the idea that the exchange will be for their good.
Then, I said, let us begin and create in idea a State; and yet the true
creator is necessity, who is the mother of our invention.
Of course, he replied.
Now the first and greatest of necessities is food, which is the condition
of life and existence.
The second is a dwelling, and the third clothing and the like.
And now let us see how our city will be able to supply this great demand:
We may suppose that one man is a husbandman, another a builder, some one
else a weaver--shall we add to them a shoemaker, or perhaps some other
purveyor to our bodily wants?
The barest notion of a State must include four or five men.
And how will they proceed? Will each bring the result of his labours into
a common stock?--the individual husbandman, for example, producing for
four, and labouring four times as long and as much as he need in the
provision of food with which he supplies others as well as himself; or will
he have nothing to do with others and not be at the trouble of producing
for them, but provide for himself alone a fourth of the food in a fourth of
the time, and in the remaining three fourths of his time be employed in
making a house or a coat or a pair of shoes, having no partnership with
others, but supplying himself all his own wants?
Adeimantus thought that he should aim at producing food only and not at
Probably, I replied, that would be the better way; and when I hear you say
this, I am myself reminded that we are not all alike; there are diversities
of natures among us which are adapted to different occupations.
And will you have a work better done when the workman has many occupations,
or when he has only one?
When he has only one.
Further, there can be no doubt that a work is spoilt when not done at the
For business is not disposed to wait until the doer of the business is at
leisure; but the doer must follow up what he is doing, and make the
business his first object.
And if so, we must infer that all things are produced more plentifully and
easily and of a better quality when one man does one thing which is natural
to him and does it at the right time, and leaves other things.
Then more than four citizens will be required; for the husbandman will not
make his own plough or mattock, or other implements of agriculture, if they
are to be good for anything. Neither will the builder make his tools--and
he too needs many; and in like manner the weaver and shoemaker.
Then carpenters, and smiths, and many other artisans, will be sharers in
our little State, which is already beginning to grow?
Yet even if we add neatherds, shepherds, and other herdsmen, in order that
our husbandmen may have oxen to plough with, and builders as well as
husbandmen may have draught cattle, and curriers and weavers fleeces and
hides,--still our State will not be very large.
That is true; yet neither will it be a very small State which contains all
Then, again, there is the situation of the city--to find a place where
nothing need be imported is wellnigh impossible.
Then there must be another class of citizens who will bring the required
supply from another city?
But if the trader goes empty-handed, having nothing which they require who
would supply his need, he will come back empty-handed.
That is certain.
And therefore what they produce at home must be not only enough for
themselves, but such both in quantity and quality as to accommodate those
from whom their wants are supplied.
Then more husbandmen and more artisans will be required?
Not to mention the importers and exporters, who are called merchants?
Then we shall want merchants?
And if merchandise is to be carried over the sea, skilful sailors will also
be needed, and in considerable numbers?
Yes, in considerable numbers.
Then, again, within the city, how will they exchange their productions? To
secure such an exchange was, as you will remember, one of our principal
objects when we formed them into a society and constituted a State.
Clearly they will buy and sell.
Then they will need a market-place, and a money-token for purposes of
Suppose now that a husbandman, or an artisan, brings some production to
market, and he comes at a time when there is no one to exchange with him,--
is he to leave his calling and sit idle in the market-place?
Not at all; he will find people there who, seeing the want, undertake the
office of salesmen. In well-ordered states they are commonly those who are
the weakest in bodily strength, and therefore of little use for any other
purpose; their duty is to be in the market, and to give money in exchange
for goods to those who desire to sell and to take money from those who
desire to buy.
This want, then, creates a class of retail-traders in our State. Is not
'retailer' the term which is applied to those who sit in the market-place
engaged in buying and selling, while those who wander from one city to
another are called merchants?
Yes, he said.
And there is another class of servants, who are intellectually hardly on
the level of companionship; still they have plenty of bodily strength for
labour, which accordingly they sell, and are called, if I do not mistake,
hirelings, hire being the name which is given to the price of their labour.
Then hirelings will help to make up our population?
And now, Adeimantus, is our State matured and perfected?
I think so.
Where, then, is justice, and where is injustice, and in what part of the
State did they spring up?
Probably in the dealings of these citizens with one another. I cannot
imagine that they are more likely to be found any where else.
I dare say that you are right in your suggestion, I said; we had better
think the matter out, and not shrink from the enquiry.
Let us then consider, first of all, what will be their way of life, now
that we have thus established them. Will they not produce corn, and wine,
and clothes, and shoes, and build houses for themselves? And when they are
housed, they will work, in summer, commonly, stripped and barefoot, but in
winter substantially clothed and shod. They will feed on barley-meal and
flour of wheat, baking and kneading them, making noble cakes and loaves;
these they will serve up on a mat of reeds or on clean leaves, themselves
reclining the while upon beds strewn with yew or myrtle. And they and
their children will feast, drinking of the wine which they have made,
wearing garlands on their heads, and hymning the praises of the gods, in
happy converse with one another. And they will take care that their
families do not exceed their means; having an eye to poverty or war.
But, said Glaucon, interposing, you have not given them a relish to their
True, I replied, I had forgotten; of course they must have a relish--salt,
and olives, and cheese, and they will boil roots and herbs such as country
people prepare; for a dessert we shall give them figs, and peas, and beans;
and they will roast myrtle-berries and acorns at the fire, drinking in
moderation. And with such a diet they may be expected to live in peace and
health to a good old age, and bequeath a similar life to their children
Yes, Socrates, he said, and if you were providing for a city of pigs, how
else would you feed the beasts?
But what would you have, Glaucon? I replied.
Why, he said, you should give them the ordinary conveniences of life.
People who are to be comfortable are accustomed to lie on sofas, and dine
off tables, and they should have sauces and sweets in the modern style.
Yes, I said, now I understand: the question which you would have me
consider is, not only how a State, but how a luxurious State is created;
and possibly there is no harm in this, for in such a State we shall be more
likely to see how justice and injustice originate. In my opinion the true
and healthy constitution of the State is the one which I have described.
But if you wish also to see a State at fever-heat, I have no objection.
For I suspect that many will not be satisfied with the simpler way of life.
They will be for adding sofas, and tables, and other furniture; also
dainties, and perfumes, and incense, and courtesans, and cakes, all these
not of one sort only, but in every variety; we must go beyond the
necessaries of which I was at first speaking, such as houses, and clothes,
and shoes: the arts of the painter and the embroiderer will have to be set
in motion, and gold and ivory and all sorts of materials must be procured.
True, he said.
Then we must enlarge our borders; for the original healthy State is no
longer sufficient. Now will the city have to fill and swell with a
multitude of callings which are not required by any natural want; such as
the whole tribe of hunters and actors, of whom one large class have to do
with forms and colours; another will be the votaries of music--poets and
their attendant train of rhapsodists, players, dancers, contractors; also
makers of divers kinds of articles, including women's dresses. And we
shall want more servants. Will not tutors be also in request, and nurses
wet and dry, tirewomen and barbers, as well as confectioners and cooks; and
swineherds, too, who were not needed and therefore had no place in the
former edition of our State, but are needed now? They must not be
forgotten: and there will be animals of many other kinds, if people eat
And living in this way we shall have much greater need of physicians than
And the country which was enough to support the original inhabitants will
be too small now, and not enough?
Then a slice of our neighbours' land will be wanted by us for pasture and
tillage, and they will want a slice of ours, if, like ourselves, they
exceed the limit of necessity, and give themselves up to the unlimited
accumulation of wealth?
That, Socrates, will be inevitable.
And so we shall go to war, Glaucon. Shall we not?
Most certainly, he replied.
Then without determining as yet whether war does good or harm, thus much we
may affirm, that now we have discovered war to be derived from causes which
are also the causes of almost all the evils in States, private as well as
And our State must once more enlarge; and this time the enlargement will be
nothing short of a whole army, which will have to go out and fight with the
invaders for all that we have, as well as for the things and persons whom
we were describing above.
Why? he said; are they not capable of defending themselves?
No, I said; not if we were right in the principle which was acknowledged by
all of us when we were framing the State: the principle, as you will
remember, was that one man cannot practise many arts with success.
Very true, he said.
But is not war an art?
And an art requiring as much attention as shoemaking?
And the shoemaker was not allowed by us to be a husbandman, or a weaver, or
a builder--in order that we might have our shoes well made; but to him and
to every other worker was assigned one work for which he was by nature
fitted, and at that he was to continue working all his life long and at no
other; he was not to let opportunities slip, and then he would become a
good workman. Now nothing can be more important than that the work of a
soldier should be well done. But is war an art so easily acquired that a
man may be a warrior who is also a husbandman, or shoemaker, or other
artisan; although no one in the world would be a good dice or draught
player who merely took up the game as a recreation, and had not from his
earliest years devoted himself to this and nothing else? No tools will
make a man a skilled workman, or master of defence, nor be of any use to
him who has not learned how to handle them, and has never bestowed any
attention upon them. How then will he who takes up a shield or other
implement of war become a good fighter all in a day, whether with
heavy-armed or any other kind of troops?
Yes, he said, the tools which would teach men their own use would be beyond
And the higher the duties of the guardian, I said, the more time, and
skill, and art, and application will be needed by him?
No doubt, he replied.
Will he not also require natural aptitude for his calling?
Then it will be our duty to select, if we can, natures which are fitted for
the task of guarding the city?
And the selection will be no easy matter, I said; but we must be brave and
do our best.
Is not the noble youth very like a well-bred dog in respect of guarding and
What do you mean?
I mean that both of them ought to be quick to see, and swift to overtake
the enemy when they see him; and strong too if, when they have caught him,
they have to fight with him.
All these qualities, he replied, will certainly be required by them.
Well, and your guardian must be brave if he is to fight well?
And is he likely to be brave who has no spirit, whether horse or dog or any
other animal? Have you never observed how invincible and unconquerable is
spirit and how the presence of it makes the soul of any creature to be
absolutely fearless and indomitable?
Then now we have a clear notion of the bodily qualities which are required
in the guardian.
And also of the mental ones; his soul is to be full of spirit?
But are not these spirited natures apt to be savage with one another, and
with everybody else?
A difficulty by no means easy to overcome, he replied.
Whereas, I said, they ought to be dangerous to their enemies, and gentle to
their friends; if not, they will destroy themselves without waiting for
their enemies to destroy them.
True, he said.
What is to be done then? I said; how shall we find a gentle nature which
has also a great spirit, for the one is the contradiction of the other?
He will not be a good guardian who is wanting in either of these two
qualities; and yet the combination of them appears to be impossible; and
hence we must infer that to be a good guardian is impossible.
I am afraid that what you say is true, he replied.
Here feeling perplexed I began to think over what had preceded.--My friend,
I said, no wonder that we are in a perplexity; for we have lost sight of
the image which we had before us.
What do you mean? he said.
I mean to say that there do exist natures gifted with those opposite
And where do you find them?
Many animals, I replied, furnish examples of them; our friend the dog is a
very good one: you know that well-bred dogs are perfectly gentle to their
familiars and acquaintances, and the reverse to strangers.
Yes, I know.
Then there is nothing impossible or out of the order of nature in our
finding a guardian who has a similar combination of qualities?
Would not he who is fitted to be a guardian, besides the spirited nature,
need to have the qualities of a philosopher?
I do not apprehend your meaning.
The trait of which I am speaking, I replied, may be also seen in the dog,
and is remarkable in the animal.
Why, a dog, whenever he sees a stranger, is angry; when an acquaintance, he
welcomes him, although the one has never done him any harm, nor the other
any good. Did this never strike you as curious?
The matter never struck me before; but I quite recognise the truth of your
And surely this instinct of the dog is very charming;--your dog is a true
Why, because he distinguishes the face of a friend and of an enemy only by
the criterion of knowing and not knowing. And must not an animal be a
lover of learning who determines what he likes and dislikes by the test of
knowledge and ignorance?
And is not the love of learning the love of wisdom, which is philosophy?
They are the same, he replied.
And may we not say confidently of man also, that he who is likely to be
gentle to his friends and acquaintances, must by nature be a lover of
wisdom and knowledge?
That we may safely affirm.
Then he who is to be a really good and noble guardian of the State will
require to unite in himself philosophy and spirit and swiftness and
Then we have found the desired natures; and now that we have found them,
how are they to be reared and educated? Is not this an enquiry which may
be expected to throw light on the greater enquiry which is our final end--
How do justice and injustice grow up in States? for we do not want either
to omit what is to the point or to draw out the argument to an inconvenient
Adeimantus thought that the enquiry would be of great service to us.
Then, I said, my dear friend, the task must not be given up, even if
Come then, and let us pass a leisure hour in story-telling, and our story
shall be the education of our heroes.
By all means.
And what shall be their education? Can we find a better than the
traditional sort?--and this has two divisions, gymnastic for the body, and
music for the soul.
Shall we begin education with music, and go on to gymnastic afterwards?
By all means.
And when you speak of music, do you include literature or not?
And literature may be either true or false?
And the young should be trained in both kinds, and we begin with the false?
I do not understand your meaning, he said.
You know, I said, that we begin by telling children stories which, though
not wholly destitute of truth, are in the main fictitious; and these
stories are told them when they are not of an age to learn gymnastics.
That was my meaning when I said that we must teach music before gymnastics.
Quite right, he said.
You know also that the beginning is the most important part of any work,
especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that is the time at
which the character is being formed and the desired impression is more
And shall we just carelessly allow children to hear any casual tales which
may be devised by casual persons, and to receive into their minds ideas for
the most part the very opposite of those which we should wish them to have
when they are grown up?
Then the first thing will be to establish a censorship of the writers of
fiction, and let the censors receive any tale of fiction which is good, and
reject the bad; and we will desire mothers and nurses to tell their
children the authorised ones only. Let them fashion the mind with such
tales, even more fondly than they mould the body with their hands; but most
of those which are now in use must be discarded.
Of what tales are you speaking? he said.
You may find a model of the lesser in the greater, I said; for they are
necessarily of the same type, and there is the same spirit in both of them.
Very likely, he replied; but I do not as yet know what you would term the
Those, I said, which are narrated by Homer and Hesiod, and the rest of the
poets, who have ever been the great story-tellers of mankind.
But which stories do you mean, he said; and what fault do you find with
A fault which is most serious, I said; the fault of telling a lie, and,
what is more, a bad lie.
But when is this fault committed?
Whenever an erroneous representation is made of the nature of gods and
heroes,--as when a painter paints a portrait not having the shadow of a
likeness to the original.
Yes, he said, that sort of thing is certainly very blameable; but what are
the stories which you mean?
First of all, I said, there was that greatest of all lies in high places,
which the poet told about Uranus, and which was a bad lie too,--I mean what
Hesiod says that Uranus did, and how Cronus retaliated on him. The doings
of Cronus, and the sufferings which in turn his son inflicted upon him,
even if they were true, ought certainly not to be lightly told to young and
thoughtless persons; if possible, they had better be buried in silence.
But if there is an absolute necessity for their mention, a chosen few might
hear them in a mystery, and they should sacrifice not a common (Eleusinian)
pig, but some huge and unprocurable victim; and then the number of the
hearers will be very few indeed.
Why, yes, said he, those stories are extremely objectionable.
Yes, Adeimantus, they are stories not to be repeated in our State; the
young man should not be told that in committing the worst of crimes he is
far from doing anything outrageous; and that even if he chastises his
father when he does wrong, in whatever manner, he will only be following
the example of the first and greatest among the gods.
I entirely agree with you, he said; in my opinion those stories are quite
unfit to be repeated.
Neither, if we mean our future guardians to regard the habit of quarrelling
among themselves as of all things the basest, should any word be said to
them of the wars in heaven, and of the plots and fightings of the gods
against one another, for they are not true. No, we shall never mention the
battles of the giants, or let them be embroidered on garments; and we shall
be silent about the innumerable other quarrels of gods and heroes with
their friends and relatives. If they would only believe us we would tell
them that quarrelling is unholy, and that never up to this time has there
been any quarrel between citizens; this is what old men and old women
should begin by telling children; and when they grow up, the poets also
should be told to compose for them in a similar spirit. But the narrative
of Hephaestus binding Here his mother, or how on another occasion Zeus sent
him flying for taking her part when she was being beaten, and all the
battles of the gods in Homer--these tales must not be admitted into our
State, whether they are supposed to have an allegorical meaning or not.
For a young person cannot judge what is allegorical and what is literal;
anything that he receives into his mind at that age is likely to become
indelible and unalterable; and therefore it is most important that the
tales which the young first hear should be models of virtuous thoughts.
There you are right, he replied; but if any one asks where are such models
to be found and of what tales are you speaking--how shall we answer him?
I said to him, You and I, Adeimantus, at this moment are not poets, but
founders of a State: now the founders of a State ought to know the general
forms in which poets should cast their tales, and the limits which must be
observed by them, but to make the tales is not their business.
Very true, he said; but what are these forms of theology which you mean?
Something of this kind, I replied:--God is always to be represented as he
truly is, whatever be the sort of poetry, epic, lyric or tragic, in which
the representation is given.
And is he not truly good? and must he not be represented as such?
And no good thing is hurtful?
And that which is not hurtful hurts not?
And that which hurts not does no evil?
And can that which does no evil be a cause of evil?
And the good is advantageous?
And therefore the cause of well-being?
It follows therefore that the good is not the cause of all things, but of
the good only?
Then God, if he be good, is not the author of all things, as the many
assert, but he is the cause of a few things only, and not of most things
that occur to men. For few are the goods of human life, and many are the
evils, and the good is to be attributed to God alone; of the evils the
causes are to be sought elsewhere, and not in him.
That appears to me to be most true, he said.
Then we must not listen to Homer or to any other poet who is guilty of the
folly of saying that two casks
'Lie at the threshold of Zeus, full of lots, one of good, the other of evil
and that he to whom Zeus gives a mixture of the two
'Sometimes meets with evil fortune, at other times with good;'
but that he to whom is given the cup of unmingled ill,
'Him wild hunger drives o'er the beauteous earth.'
'Zeus, who is the dispenser of good and evil to us.'
And if any one asserts that the violation of oaths and treaties, which was
really the work of Pandarus, was brought about by Athene and Zeus, or that
the strife and contention of the gods was instigated by Themis and Zeus, he
shall not have our approval; neither will we allow our young men to hear
the words of Aeschylus, that
'God plants guilt among men when he desires utterly to destroy a house.'
And if a poet writes of the sufferings of Niobe--the subject of the tragedy
in which these iambic verses occur--or of the house of Pelops, or of the
Trojan war or on any similar theme, either we must not permit him to say
that these are the works of God, or if they are of God, he must devise some
explanation of them such as we are seeking; he must say that God did what
was just and right, and they were the better for being punished; but that
those who are punished are miserable, and that God is the author of their
misery--the poet is not to be permitted to say; though he may say that the
wicked are miserable because they require to be punished, and are benefited
by receiving punishment from God; but that God being good is the author of
evil to any one is to be strenuously denied, and not to be said or sung or
heard in verse or prose by any one whether old or young in any well-ordered
commonwealth. Such a fiction is suicidal, ruinous, impious.
I agree with you, he replied, and am ready to give my assent to the law.
Let this then be one of our rules and principles concerning the gods, to
which our poets and reciters will be expected to conform,--that God is not
the author of all things, but of good only.
That will do, he said.
And what do you think of a second principle? Shall I ask you whether God
is a magician, and of a nature to appear insidiously now in one shape, and
now in another--sometimes himself changing and passing into many forms,
sometimes deceiving us with the semblance of such transformations; or is he
one and the same immutably fixed in his own proper image?
I cannot answer you, he said, without more thought.
Well, I said; but if we suppose a change in anything, that change must be
effected either by the thing itself, or by some other thing?
And things which are at their best are also least liable to be altered or
discomposed; for example, when healthiest and strongest, the human frame is
least liable to be affected by meats and drinks, and the plant which is in
the fullest vigour also suffers least from winds or the heat of the sun or
any similar causes.
And will not the bravest and wisest soul be least confused or deranged by
any external influence?
And the same principle, as I should suppose, applies to all composite
things--furniture, houses, garments: when good and well made, they are
least altered by time and circumstances.
Then everything which is good, whether made by art or nature, or both, is
least liable to suffer change from without?
But surely God and the things of God are in every way perfect?
Of course they are.
Then he can hardly be compelled by external influence to take many shapes?
But may he not change and transform himself?
Clearly, he said, that must be the case if he is changed at all.
And will he then change himself for the better and fairer, or for the worse
and more unsightly?
If he change at all he can only change for the worse, for we cannot suppose
him to be deficient either in virtue or beauty.
Very true, Adeimantus; but then, would any one, whether God or man, desire
to make himself worse?
Then it is impossible that God should ever be willing to change; being, as
is supposed, the fairest and best that is conceivable, every God remains
absolutely and for ever in his own form.
That necessarily follows, he said, in my judgment.
Then, I said, my dear friend, let none of the poets tell us that
'The gods, taking the disguise of strangers from other lands, walk up and
down cities in all sorts of forms;'
and let no one slander Proteus and Thetis, neither let any one, either in
tragedy or in any other kind of poetry, introduce Here disguised in the
likeness of a priestess asking an alms
'For the life-giving daughters of Inachus the river of Argos;'
--let us have no more lies of that sort. Neither must we have mothers
under the influence of the poets scaring their children with a bad version
of these myths--telling how certain gods, as they say, 'Go about by night
in the likeness of so many strangers and in divers forms;' but let them
take heed lest they make cowards of their children, and at the same time
speak blasphemy against the gods.
Heaven forbid, he said.
But although the gods are themselves unchangeable, still by witchcraft and
deception they may make us think that they appear in various forms?
Perhaps, he replied.
Well, but can you imagine that God will be willing to lie, whether in word
or deed, or to put forth a phantom of himself?
I cannot say, he replied.
Do you not know, I said, that the true lie, if such an expression may be
allowed, is hated of gods and men?
What do you mean? he said.
I mean that no one is willingly deceived in that which is the truest and
highest part of himself, or about the truest and highest matters; there,
above all, he is most afraid of a lie having possession of him.
Still, he said, I do not comprehend you.
The reason is, I replied, that you attribute some profound meaning to my
words; but I am only saying that deception, or being deceived or uninformed
about the highest realities in the highest part of themselves, which is the
soul, and in that part of them to have and to hold the lie, is what mankind
least like;--that, I say, is what they utterly detest.
There is nothing more hateful to them.
And, as I was just now remarking, this ignorance in the soul of him who is
deceived may be called the true lie; for the lie in words is only a kind of
imitation and shadowy image of a previous affection of the soul, not pure
unadulterated falsehood. Am I not right?
The true lie is hated not only by the gods, but also by men?
Whereas the lie in words is in certain cases useful and not hateful; in
dealing with enemies--that would be an instance; or again, when those whom
we call our friends in a fit of madness or illusion are going to do some
harm, then it is useful and is a sort of medicine or preventive; also in
the tales of mythology, of which we were just now speaking--because we do
not know the truth about ancient times, we make falsehood as much like
truth as we can, and so turn it to account.
Very true, he said.
But can any of these reasons apply to God? Can we suppose that he is
ignorant of antiquity, and therefore has recourse to invention?
That would be ridiculous, he said.
Then the lying poet has no place in our idea of God?
I should say not.
Or perhaps he may tell a lie because he is afraid of enemies?
That is inconceivable.
But he may have friends who are senseless or mad?
But no mad or senseless person can be a friend of God.
Then no motive can be imagined why God should lie?
Then the superhuman and divine is absolutely incapable of falsehood?
Then is God perfectly simple and true both in word and deed; he changes
not; he deceives not, either by sign or word, by dream or waking vision.
Your thoughts, he said, are the reflection of my own.
You agree with me then, I said, that this is the second type or form in
which we should write and speak about divine things. The gods are not
magicians who transform themselves, neither do they deceive mankind in any
I grant that.
Then, although we are admirers of Homer, we do not admire the lying dream
which Zeus sends to Agamemnon; neither will we praise the verses of
Aeschylus in which Thetis says that Apollo at her nuptials
'Was celebrating in song her fair progeny whose days were to be long, and
to know no sickness. And when he had spoken of my lot as in all things
blessed of heaven he raised a note of triumph and cheered my soul. And I
thought that the word of Phoebus, being divine and full of prophecy, would
not fail. And now he himself who uttered the strain, he who was present at
the banquet, and who said this--he it is who has slain my son.'
These are the kind of sentiments about the gods which will arouse our
anger; and he who utters them shall be refused a chorus; neither shall we
allow teachers to make use of them in the instruction of the young,
meaning, as we do, that our guardians, as far as men can be, should be true
worshippers of the gods and like them.
I entirely agree, he said, in these principles, and promise to make them my
Such then, I said, are our principles of theology--some tales are to be
told, and others are not to be told to our disciples from their youth
upwards, if we mean them to honour the gods and their parents, and to value
friendship with one another.
Yes; and I think that our principles are right, he said.
But if they are to be courageous, must they not learn other lessons besides
these, and lessons of such a kind as will take away the fear of death? Can
any man be courageous who has the fear of death in him?
Certainly not, he said.
And can he be fearless of death, or will he choose death in battle rather
than defeat and slavery, who believes the world below to be real and
Then we must assume a control over the narrators of this class of tales as
well as over the others, and beg them not simply to revile but rather to
commend the world below, intimating to them that their descriptions are
untrue, and will do harm to our future warriors.
That will be our duty, he said.
Then, I said, we shall have to obliterate many obnoxious passages,
beginning with the verses,
'I would rather be a serf on the land of a poor and portionless man than
rule over all the dead who have come to nought.'
We must also expunge the verse, which tells us how Pluto feared,
'Lest the mansions grim and squalid which the gods abhor should be seen
both of mortals and immortals.'
'O heavens! verily in the house of Hades there is soul and ghostly form but
no mind at all!'
Again of Tiresias:--
'(To him even after death did Persephone grant mind,) that he alone should
be wise; but the other souls are flitting shades.'
'The soul flying from the limbs had gone to Hades, lamenting her fate,
leaving manhood and youth.'
'And the soul, with shrilling cry, passed like smoke beneath the earth.'
'As bats in hollow of mystic cavern, whenever any of them has dropped out
of the string and falls from the rock, fly shrilling and cling to one
another, so did they with shrilling cry hold together as they moved.'
And we must beg Homer and the other poets not to be angry if we strike out
these and similar passages, not because they are unpoetical, or
unattractive to the popular ear, but because the greater the poetical charm
of them, the less are they meet for the ears of boys and men who are meant
to be free, and who should fear slavery more than death.
Also we shall have to reject all the terrible and appalling names which
describe the world below--Cocytus and Styx, ghosts under the earth, and
sapless shades, and any similar words of which the very mention causes a
shudder to pass through the inmost soul of him who hears them. I do not
say that these horrible stories may not have a use of some kind; but there
is a danger that the nerves of our guardians may be rendered too excitable
and effeminate by them.
There is a real danger, he said.
Then we must have no more of them.
Another and a nobler strain must be composed and sung by us.
And shall we proceed to get rid of the weepings and wailings of famous men?
They will go with the rest.
But shall we be right in getting rid of them? Reflect: our principle is
that the good man will not consider death terrible to any other good man
who is his comrade.
Yes; that is our principle.
And therefore he will not sorrow for his departed friend as though he had
suffered anything terrible?
He will not.
Such an one, as we further maintain, is sufficient for himself and his own
happiness, and therefore is least in need of other men.
True, he said.
And for this reason the loss of a son or brother, or the deprivation of
fortune, is to him of all men least terrible.
And therefore he will be least likely to lament, and will bear with the
greatest equanimity any misfortune of this sort which may befall him.
Yes, he will feel such a misfortune far less than another.
Then we shall be right in getting rid of the lamentations of famous men,
and making them over to women (and not even to women who are good for
anything), or to men of a baser sort, that those who are being educated by
us to be the defenders of their country may scorn to do the like.
That will be very right.
Then we will once more entreat Homer and the other poets not to depict
Achilles, who is the son of a goddess, first lying on his side, then on his
back, and then on his face; then starting up and sailing in a frenzy along
the shores of the barren sea; now taking the sooty ashes in both his hands
and pouring them over his head, or weeping and wailing in the various modes
which Homer has delineated. Nor should he describe Priam the kinsman of
the gods as praying and beseeching,
'Rolling in the dirt, calling each man loudly by his name.'
Still more earnestly will we beg of him at all events not to introduce the
gods lamenting and saying,
'Alas! my misery! Alas! that I bore the bravest to my sorrow.'
But if he must introduce the gods, at any rate let him not dare so
completely to misrepresent the greatest of the gods, as to make him say--
'O heavens! with my eyes verily I behold a dear friend of mine chased round
and round the city, and my heart is sorrowful.'
Woe is me that I am fated to have Sarpedon, dearest of men to me, subdued
at the hands of Patroclus the son of Menoetius.'
For if, my sweet Adeimantus, our youth seriously listen to such unworthy
representations of the gods, instead of laughing at them as they ought,
hardly will any of them deem that he himself, being but a man, can be
dishonoured by similar actions; neither will he rebuke any inclination
which may arise in his mind to say and do the like. And instead of having
any shame or self-control, he will be always whining and lamenting on
Yes, he said, that is most true.
Yes, I replied; but that surely is what ought not to be, as the argument
has just proved to us; and by that proof we must abide until it is
disproved by a better.
It ought not to be.
Neither ought our guardians to be given to laughter. For a fit of laughter
which has been indulged to excess almost always produces a violent
So I believe.
Then persons of worth, even if only mortal men, must not be represented as
overcome by laughter, and still less must such a representation of the gods
Still less of the gods, as you say, he replied.
Then we shall not suffer such an expression to be used about the gods as
that of Homer when he describes how
'Inextinguishable laughter arose among the blessed gods, when they saw
Hephaestus bustling about the mansion.'
On your views, we must not admit them.
On my views, if you like to father them on me; that we must not admit them
Again, truth should be highly valued; if, as we were saying, a lie is
useless to the gods, and useful only as a medicine to men, then the use of
such medicines should be restricted to physicians; private individuals have
no business with them.
Clearly not, he said.
Then if any one at all is to have the privilege of lying, the rulers of the
State should be the persons; and they, in their dealings either with
enemies or with their own citizens, may be allowed to lie for the public
good. But nobody else should meddle with anything of the kind; and
although the rulers have this privilege, for a private man to lie to them
in return is to be deemed a more heinous fault than for the patient or the
pupil of a gymnasium not to speak the truth about his own bodily illnesses
to the physician or to the trainer, or for a sailor not to tell the captain
what is happening about the ship and the rest of the crew, and how things
are going with himself or his fellow sailors.
Most true, he said.
If, then, the ruler catches anybody beside himself lying in the State,
'Any of the craftsmen, whether he be priest or physician or carpenter,'
he will punish him for introducing a practice which is equally subversive
and destructive of ship or State.
Most certainly, he said, if our idea of the State is ever carried out.
In the next place our youth must be temperate?
Are not the chief elements of temperance, speaking generally, obedience to
commanders and self-control in sensual pleasures?
Then we shall approve such language as that of Diomede in Homer,
'Friend, sit still and obey my word,'
and the verses which follow,
'The Greeks marched breathing prowess,
...in silent awe of their leaders,'
and other sentiments of the same kind.
What of this line,
'O heavy with wine, who hast the eyes of a dog and the heart of a stag,'
and of the words which follow? Would you say that these, or any similar
impertinences which private individuals are supposed to address to their
rulers, whether in verse or prose, are well or ill spoken?
They are ill spoken.
They may very possibly afford some amusement, but they do not conduce to
temperance. And therefore they are likely to do harm to our young men--you
would agree with me there?
And then, again, to make the wisest of men say that nothing in his opinion
is more glorious than
'When the tables are full of bread and meat, and the cup-bearer carries
round wine which he draws from the bowl and pours into the cups,'
is it fit or conducive to temperance for a young man to hear such
words? Or the verse
'The saddest of fates is to die and meet destiny from hunger?'
What would you say again to the tale of Zeus, who, while other gods and men
were asleep and he the only person awake, lay devising plans, but forgot
them all in a moment through his lust, and was so completely overcome at
the sight of Here that he would not even go into the hut, but wanted to lie
with her on the ground, declaring that he had never been in such a state of
rapture before, even when they first met one another
'Without the knowledge of their parents;'
or that other tale of how Hephaestus, because of similar goings on, cast a
chain around Ares and Aphrodite?
Indeed, he said, I am strongly of opinion that they ought not to hear that
sort of thing.
But any deeds of endurance which are done or told by famous men, these they
ought to see and hear; as, for example, what is said in the verses,
'He smote his breast, and thus reproached his heart,
Endure, my heart; far worse hast thou endured!'
Certainly, he said.
In the next place, we must not let them be receivers of gifts or lovers of
Neither must we sing to them of
'Gifts persuading gods, and persuading reverend kings.'
Neither is Phoenix, the tutor of Achilles, to be approved or deemed to have
given his pupil good counsel when he told him that he should take the gifts
of the Greeks and assist them; but that without a gift he should not lay
aside his anger. Neither will we believe or acknowledge Achilles himself
to have been such a lover of money that he took Agamemnon's gifts, or that
when he had received payment he restored the dead body of Hector, but that
without payment he was unwilling to do so.
Undoubtedly, he said, these are not sentiments which can be approved.
Loving Homer as I do, I hardly like to say that in attributing these
feelings to Achilles, or in believing that they are truly attributed to
him, he is guilty of downright impiety. As little can I believe the
narrative of his insolence to Apollo, where he says,
'Thou hast wronged me, O far-darter, most abominable of deities. Verily I
would be even with thee, if I had only the power;'
or his insubordination to the river-god, on whose divinity he is ready to
lay hands; or his offering to the dead Patroclus of his own hair, which had
been previously dedicated to the other river-god Spercheius, and that he
actually performed this vow; or that he dragged Hector round the tomb of
Patroclus, and slaughtered the captives at the pyre; of all this I cannot
believe that he was guilty, any more than I can allow our citizens to
believe that he, the wise Cheiron's pupil, the son of a goddess and of
Peleus who was the gentlest of men and third in descent from Zeus, was so
disordered in his wits as to be at one time the slave of two seemingly
inconsistent passions, meanness, not untainted by avarice, combined with
overweening contempt of gods and men.
You are quite right, he replied.
And let us equally refuse to believe, or allow to be repeated, the tale of
Theseus son of Poseidon, or of Peirithous son of Zeus, going forth as they
did to perpetrate a horrid rape; or of any other hero or son of a god
daring to do such impious and dreadful things as they falsely ascribe to
them in our day: and let us further compel the poets to declare either
that these acts were not done by them, or that they were not the sons of
gods;--both in the same breath they shall not be permitted to affirm. We
will not have them trying to persuade our youth that the gods are the
authors of evil, and that heroes are no better than men--sentiments which,
as we were saying, are neither pious nor true, for we have already proved
that evil cannot come from the gods.
And further they are likely to have a bad effect on those who hear them;
for everybody will begin to excuse his own vices when he is convinced that
similar wickednesses are always being perpetrated by--
'The kindred of the gods, the relatives of Zeus, whose ancestral altar, the
altar of Zeus, is aloft in air on the peak of Ida,'
and who have
'the blood of deities yet flowing in their veins.'
And therefore let us put an end to such tales, lest they engender laxity of
morals among the young.
By all means, he replied.
But now that we are determining what classes of subjects are or are not to
be spoken of, let us see whether any have been omitted by us. The manner
in which gods and demigods and heroes and the world below should be treated
has been already laid down.
And what shall we say about men? That is clearly the remaining portion of
But we are not in a condition to answer this question at present, my
Because, if I am not mistaken, we shall have to say that about men poets
and story-tellers are guilty of making the gravest misstatements when they
tell us that wicked men are often happy, and the good miserable; and that
injustice is profitable when undetected, but that justice is a man's own
loss and another's gain--these things we shall forbid them to utter, and
command them to sing and say the opposite.
To be sure we shall, he replied.
But if you admit that I am right in this, then I shall maintain that you
have implied the principle for which we have been all along contending.
I grant the truth of your inference.
That such things are or are not to be said about men is a question which we
cannot determine until we have discovered what justice is, and how
naturally advantageous to the possessor, whether he seem to be just or not.
Most true, he said.
Enough of the subjects of poetry: let us now speak of the style; and when
this has been considered, both matter and manner will have been completely
I do not understand what you mean, said Adeimantus.
Then I must make you understand; and perhaps I may be more intelligible if
I put the matter in this way. You are aware, I suppose, that all mythology
and poetry is a narration of events, either past, present, or to come?
Certainly, he replied.
And narration may be either simple narration, or imitation, or a union of
That again, he said, I do not quite understand.
I fear that I must be a ridiculous teacher when I have so much difficulty
in making myself apprehended. Like a bad speaker, therefore, I will not
take the whole of the subject, but will break a piece off in illustration
of my meaning. You know the first lines of the Iliad, in which the poet
says that Chryses prayed Agamemnon to release his daughter, and that
Agamemnon flew into a passion with him; whereupon Chryses, failing of his
object, invoked the anger of the God against the Achaeans. Now as far as
'And he prayed all the Greeks, but especially the two sons of Atreus, the
chiefs of the people,'
the poet is speaking in his own person; he never leads us to suppose that
he is any one else. But in what follows he takes the person of Chryses,
and then he does all that he can to make us believe that the speaker is not
Homer, but the aged priest himself. And in this double form he has cast
the entire narrative of the events which occurred at Troy and in Ithaca and
throughout the Odyssey.
And a narrative it remains both in the speeches which the poet recites from
time to time and in the intermediate passages?
But when the poet speaks in the person of another, may we not say that he
assimilates his style to that of the person who, as he informs you, is
going to speak?
And this assimilation of himself to another, either by the use of voice or
gesture, is the imitation of the person whose character he assumes?
Then in this case the narrative of the poet may be said to proceed by way
Or, if the poet everywhere appears and never conceals himself, then again
the imitation is dropped, and his poetry becomes simple narration.
However, in order that I may make my meaning quite clear, and that you may
no more say, 'I don't understand,' I will show how the change might be
effected. If Homer had said, 'The priest came, having his daughter's
ransom in his hands, supplicating the Achaeans, and above all the kings;'
and then if, instead of speaking in the person of Chryses, he had continued
in his own person, the words would have been, not imitation, but simple
narration. The passage would have run as follows (I am no poet, and
therefore I drop the metre), 'The priest came and prayed the gods on behalf
of the Greeks that they might capture Troy and return safely home, but
begged that they would give him back his daughter, and take the ransom
which he brought, and respect the God. Thus he spoke, and the other Greeks
revered the priest and assented. But Agamemnon was wroth, and bade him
depart and not come again, lest the staff and chaplets of the God should be
of no avail to him--the daughter of Chryses should not be released, he
said--she should grow old with him in Argos. And then he told him to go
away and not to provoke him, if he intended to get home unscathed. And the
old man went away in fear and silence, and, when he had left the camp, he
called upon Apollo by his many names, reminding him of everything which he
had done pleasing to him, whether in building his temples, or in offering
sacrifice, and praying that his good deeds might be returned to him, and
that the Achaeans might expiate his tears by the arrows of the god,'--and
so on. In this way the whole becomes simple narrative.
I understand, he said.
Or you may suppose the opposite case--that the intermediate passages are
omitted, and the dialogue only left.
That also, he said, I understand; you mean, for example, as in tragedy.
You have conceived my meaning perfectly; and if I mistake not, what you
failed to apprehend before is now made clear to you, that poetry and
mythology are, in some cases, wholly imitative--instances of this are
supplied by tragedy and comedy; there is likewise the opposite style, in
which the poet is the only speaker--of this the dithyramb affords the best
example; and the combination of both is found in epic, and in several other
styles of poetry. Do I take you with me?
Yes, he said; I see now what you meant.
I will ask you to remember also what I began by saying, that we had done
with the subject and might proceed to the style.
Yes, I remember.
In saying this, I intended to imply that we must come to an understanding
about the mimetic art,--whether the poets, in narrating their stories, are
to be allowed by us to imitate, and if so, whether in whole or in part, and
if the latter, in what parts; or should all imitation be prohibited?
You mean, I suspect, to ask whether tragedy and comedy shall be admitted
into our State?
Yes, I said; but there may be more than this in question: I really do not
know as yet, but whither the argument may blow, thither we go.
And go we will, he said.
Then, Adeimantus, let me ask you whether our guardians ought to be
imitators; or rather, has not this question been decided by the rule
already laid down that one man can only do one thing well, and not many;
and that if he attempt many, he will altogether fail of gaining much
reputation in any?
And this is equally true of imitation; no one man can imitate many things
as well as he would imitate a single one?
Then the same person will hardly be able to play a serious part in life,
and at the same time to be an imitator and imitate many other parts as
well; for even when two species of imitation are nearly allied, the same
persons cannot succeed in both, as, for example, the writers of tragedy and
comedy--did you not just now call them imitations?
Yes, I did; and you are right in thinking that the same persons cannot
succeed in both.
Any more than they can be rhapsodists and actors at once?
Neither are comic and tragic actors the same; yet all these things are but
They are so.
And human nature, Adeimantus, appears to have been coined into yet smaller
pieces, and to be as incapable of imitating many things well, as of
performing well the actions of which the imitations are copies.
Quite true, he replied.
If then we adhere to our original notion and bear in mind that our
guardians, setting aside every other business, are to dedicate themselves
wholly to the maintenance of freedom in the State, making this their craft,
and engaging in no work which does not bear on this end, they ought not to
practise or imitate anything else; if they imitate at all, they should
imitate from youth upward only those characters which are suitable to their
profession--the courageous, temperate, holy, free, and the like; but they
should not depict or be skilful at imitating any kind of illiberality or
baseness, lest from imitation they should come to be what they imitate.
Did you never observe how imitations, beginning in early youth and
continuing far into life, at length grow into habits and become a second
nature, affecting body, voice, and mind?
Yes, certainly, he said.
Then, I said, we will not allow those for whom we profess a care and of
whom we say that they ought to be good men, to imitate a woman, whether
young or old, quarrelling with her husband, or striving and vaunting
against the gods in conceit of her happiness, or when she is in affliction,
or sorrow, or weeping; and certainly not one who is in sickness, love, or
Very right, he said.
Neither must they represent slaves, male or female, performing the offices
They must not.
And surely not bad men, whether cowards or any others, who do the reverse
of what we have just been prescribing, who scold or mock or revile one
another in drink or out of drink, or who in any other manner sin against
themselves and their neighbours in word or deed, as the manner of such is.
Neither should they be trained to imitate the action or speech of men or
women who are mad or bad; for madness, like vice, is to be known but not to
be practised or imitated.
Very true, he replied.
Neither may they imitate smiths or other artificers, or oarsmen, or
boatswains, or the like?
How can they, he said, when they are not allowed to apply their minds to
the callings of any of these?
Nor may they imitate the neighing of horses, the bellowing of bulls, the
murmur of rivers and roll of the ocean, thunder, and all that sort of
Nay, he said, if madness be forbidden, neither may they copy the behaviour
You mean, I said, if I understand you aright, that there is one sort of
narrative style which may be employed by a truly good man when he has
anything to say, and that another sort will be used by a man of an opposite
character and education.
And which are these two sorts? he asked.
Suppose, I answered, that a just and good man in the course of a narration
comes on some saying or action of another good man,--I should imagine that
he will like to personate him, and will not be ashamed of this sort of
imitation: he will be most ready to play the part of the good man when he
is acting firmly and wisely; in a less degree when he is overtaken by
illness or love or drink, or has met with any other disaster. But when he
comes to a character which is unworthy of him, he will not make a study of
that; he will disdain such a person, and will assume his likeness, if at
all, for a moment only when he is performing some good action; at other
times he will be ashamed to play a part which he has never practised, nor
will he like to fashion and frame himself after the baser models; he feels
the employment of such an art, unless in jest, to be beneath him, and his
mind revolts at it.
So I should expect, he replied.
Then he will adopt a mode of narration such as we have illustrated out of
Homer, that is to say, his style will be both imitative and narrative; but
there will be very little of the former, and a great deal of the latter.
Do you agree?
Certainly, he said; that is the model which such a speaker must necessarily
But there is another sort of character who will narrate anything, and, the
worse he is, the more unscrupulous he will be; nothing will be too bad for
him: and he will be ready to imitate anything, not as a joke, but in right
good earnest, and before a large company. As I was just now saying, he
will attempt to represent the roll of thunder, the noise of wind and hail,
or the creaking of wheels, and pulleys, and the various sounds of flutes,
pipes, trumpets, and all sorts of instruments: he will bark like a dog,
bleat like a sheep, or crow like a cock; his entire art will consist in
imitation of voice and gesture, and there will be very little narration.
That, he said, will be his mode of speaking.
These, then, are the two kinds of style?
And you would agree with me in saying that one of them is simple and has
but slight changes; and if the harmony and rhythm are also chosen for their
simplicity, the result is that the speaker, if he speaks correctly, is
always pretty much the same in style, and he will keep within the limits of
a single harmony (for the changes are not great), and in like manner he
will make use of nearly the same rhythm?
That is quite true, he said.
Whereas the other requires all sorts of harmonies and all sorts of rhythms,
if the music and the style are to correspond, because the style has all
sorts of changes.
That is also perfectly true, he replied.
And do not the two styles, or the mixture of the two, comprehend all
poetry, and every form of expression in words? No one can say anything
except in one or other of them or in both together.
They include all, he said.
And shall we receive into our State all the three styles, or one only of
the two unmixed styles? or would you include the mixed?
I should prefer only to admit the pure imitator of virtue.
Yes, I said, Adeimantus, but the mixed style is also very charming: and
indeed the pantomimic, which is the opposite of the one chosen by you, is
the most popular style with children and their attendants, and with the
world in general.
I do not deny it.
But I suppose you would argue that such a style is unsuitable to our State,
in which human nature is not twofold or manifold, for one man plays one
Yes; quite unsuitable.
And this is the reason why in our State, and in our State only, we shall
find a shoemaker to be a shoemaker and not a pilot also, and a husbandman
to be a husbandman and not a dicast also, and a soldier a soldier and not a
trader also, and the same throughout?
True, he said.
And therefore when any one of these pantomimic gentlemen, who are so clever
that they can imitate anything, comes to us, and makes a proposal to
exhibit himself and his poetry, we will fall down and worship him as a
sweet and holy and wonderful being; but we must also inform him that in our
State such as he are not permitted to exist; the law will not allow them.
And so when we have anointed him with myrrh, and set a garland of wool upon
his head, we shall send him away to another city. For we mean to employ
for our souls' health the rougher and severer poet or story-teller, who
will imitate the style of the virtuous only, and will follow those models
which we prescribed at first when we began the education of our soldiers.
We certainly will, he said, if we have the power.
Then now, my friend, I said, that part of music or literary education which
relates to the story or myth may be considered to be finished; for the
matter and manner have both been discussed.
I think so too, he said.
Next in order will follow melody and song.
That is obvious.
Every one can see already what we ought to say about them, if we are to be
consistent with ourselves.
I fear, said Glaucon, laughing, that the word 'every one' hardly includes
me, for I cannot at the moment say what they should be; though I may guess.
At any rate you can tell that a song or ode has three parts--the words, the
melody, and the rhythm; that degree of knowledge I may presuppose?
Yes, he said; so much as that you may.
And as for the words, there will surely be no difference between words
which are and which are not set to music; both will conform to the same
laws, and these have been already determined by us?
And the melody and rhythm will depend upon the words?
We were saying, when we spoke of the subject-matter, that we had no need of
lamentation and strains of sorrow?
And which are the harmonies expressive of sorrow? You are musical, and can
The harmonies which you mean are the mixed or tenor Lydian, and the
full-toned or bass Lydian, and such like.
These then, I said, must be banished; even to women who have a character to