Part 10 out of 11
there is no other purification, nor can the pollution be washed out until
the homicidal soul which did the deed has given life for life, and has
propitiated and laid to sleep the wrath of the whole family. These are the
retributions of Heaven, and by such punishments men should be deterred.
But if they are not deterred, and any one should be incited by some
fatality to deprive his father, or mother, or brethren, or children, of
life voluntarily and of purpose, for him the earthly lawgiver legislates
as follows: There shall be the same proclamations about outlawry, and
there shall be the same sureties which have been enacted in the former
cases. But in his case, if he be convicted, the servants of the judges and
the magistrates shall slay him at an appointed place without the city
where three ways meet, and there expose his body naked, and each of the
magistrates on behalf of the whole city shall take a stone and cast it
upon the head of the dead man, and so deliver the city from pollution;
after that, they shall bear him to the borders of the land, and cast him
forth unburied, according to law. And what shall he suffer who slays him
who of all men, as they say, is his own best friend? I mean the suicide,
who deprives himself by violence of his appointed share of life, not
because the law of the state requires him, nor yet under the compulsion of
some painful and inevitable misfortune which has come upon him, nor
because he has had to suffer from irremediable and intolerable shame, but
who from sloth or want of manliness imposes upon himself an unjust
penalty. For him, what ceremonies there are to be of purification and
burial God knows, and about these the next of kin should enquire of the
interpreters and of the laws thereto relating, and do according to their
injunctions. They who meet their death in this way shall be buried alone,
and none shall be laid by their side; they shall be buried ingloriously in
the borders of the twelve portions of the land, in such places as are
uncultivated and nameless, and no column or inscription shall mark the
place of their interment. And if a beast of burden or other animal cause
the death of any one, except in the case of anything of that kind
happening to a competitor in the public contests, the kinsmen of the
deceased shall prosecute the slayer for murder, and the wardens of the
country, such, and so many as the kinsmen appoint, shall try the cause,
and let the beast when condemned be slain by them, and let them cast it
beyond the borders. And if any lifeless thing deprive a man of life,
except in the case of a thunderbolt or other fatal dart sent from the
Gods--whether a man is killed by lifeless objects falling upon him, or by
his falling upon them, the nearest of kin shall appoint the nearest
neighbour to be a judge, and thereby acquit himself and the whole family
of guilt. And he shall cast forth the guilty thing beyond the border, as
has been said about the animals.
If a man is found dead, and his murderer be unknown, and after a diligent
search cannot be detected, there shall be the same proclamation as in the
previous cases, and the same interdict on the murderer; and having
proceeded against him, they shall proclaim in the agora by a herald, that
he who has slain such and such a person, and has been convicted of murder,
shall not set his foot in the temples, nor at all in the country of the
murdered man, and if he appears and is discovered, he shall die, and be
cast forth unburied beyond the border. Let this one law then be laid down
by us about murder; and let cases of this sort be so regarded.
And now let us say in what cases and under what circumstances the murderer
is rightly free from guilt: If a man catch a thief coming into his house
by night to steal, and he take and kill him, or if he slay a footpad in
self-defence, he shall be guiltless. And any one who does violence to a
free woman or a youth, shall be slain with impunity by the injured person,
or by his or her father or brothers or sons. If a man find his wife
suffering violence, he may kill the violator, and be guiltless in the eye
of the law; or if a person kill another in warding off death from his
father or mother or children or brethren or wife who are doing no wrong,
he shall assuredly be guiltless.
Thus much as to the nurture and education of the living soul of man,
having which, he can, and without which, if he unfortunately be without
them, he cannot live; and also concerning the punishments which are to be
inflicted for violent deaths, let thus much be enacted. Of the nurture and
education of the body we have spoken before, and next in order we have to
speak of deeds of violence, voluntary and involuntary, which men do to one
another; these we will now distinguish, as far as we are able, according
to their nature and number, and determine what will be the suitable
penalties of each, and so assign to them their proper place in the series
of our enactments. The poorest legislator will have no difficulty in
determining that wounds and mutilations arising out of wounds should
follow next in order after deaths. Let wounds be divided as homicides were
divided--into those which are involuntary, and which are given in passion
or from fear, and those inflicted voluntarily and with premeditation.
Concerning all this, we must make some such proclamation as the following:
Mankind must have laws, and conform to them, or their life would be as bad
as that of the most savage beast. And the reason of this is that no man's
nature is able to know what is best for human society; or knowing, always
able and willing to do what is best. In the first place, there is a
difficulty in apprehending that the true art of politics is concerned, not
with private but with public good (for public good binds together states,
but private only distracts them); and that both the public and private
good as well of individuals as of states is greater when the state and not
the individual is first considered. In the second place, although a person
knows in the abstract that this is true, yet if he be possessed of
absolute and irresponsible power, he will never remain firm in his
principles or persist in regarding the public good as primary in the
state, and the private good as secondary. Human nature will be always
drawing him into avarice and selfishness, avoiding pain and pursuing
pleasure without any reason, and will bring these to the front, obscuring
the juster and better; and so working darkness in his soul will at last
fill with evils both him and the whole city. For if a man were born so
divinely gifted that he could naturally apprehend the truth, he would have
no need of laws to rule over him; for there is no law or order which is
above knowledge, nor can mind, without impiety, be deemed the subject or
slave of any man, but rather the lord of all. I speak of mind, true and
free, and in harmony with nature. But then there is no such mind anywhere,
or at least not much; and therefore we must choose law and order, which
are second best. These look at things as they exist for the most part
only, and are unable to survey the whole of them. And therefore I have
spoken as I have.
And now we will determine what penalty he ought to pay or suffer who has
hurt or wounded another. Any one may easily imagine the questions which
have to be asked in all such cases: What did he wound, or whom, or how, or
when? for there are innumerable particulars of this sort which greatly
vary from one another. And to allow courts of law to determine all these
things, or not to determine any of them, is alike impossible. There is one
particular which they must determine in all cases--the question of fact.
And then, again, that the legislator should not permit them to determine
what punishment is to be inflicted in any of these cases, but should
himself decide about all of them, small or great, is next to impossible.
CLEINIAS: Then what is to be the inference?
ATHENIAN: The inference is, that some things should be left to courts of
law; others the legislator must decide for himself.
CLEINIAS: And what ought the legislator to decide, and what ought he to
leave to the courts of law?
ATHENIAN: I may reply, that in a state in which the courts are bad and
mute, because the judges conceal their opinions and decide causes
clandestinely; or what is worse, when they are disorderly and noisy, as in
a theatre, clapping or hooting in turn this or that orator--I say that
then there is a very serious evil, which affects the whole state.
Unfortunate is the necessity of having to legislate for such courts, but
where the necessity exists, the legislator should only allow them to
ordain the penalties for the smallest offences; if the state for which he
is legislating be of this character, he must take most matters into his
own hands and speak distinctly. But when a state has good courts, and the
judges are well trained and scrupulously tested, the determination of the
penalties or punishments which shall be inflicted on the guilty may fairly
and with advantage be left to them. And we are not to be blamed for not
legislating concerning all that large class of matters which judges far
worse educated than ours would be able to determine, assigning to each
offence what is due both to the perpetrator and to the sufferer. We
believe those for whom we are legislating to be best able to judge, and
therefore to them the greater part may be left. At the same time, as I
have often said, we should exhibit to the judges, as we have done, the
outline and form of the punishments to be inflicted, and then they will
not transgress the just rule. That was an excellent practice, which we
observed before, and which now that we are resuming the work of
legislation, may with advantage be repeated by us.
Let the enactment about wounding be in the following terms: If any one has
a purpose and intention to slay another who is not his enemy, and whom the
law does not permit him to slay, and he wounds him, but is unable to kill
him, he who had the intent and has wounded him is not to be pitied--he
deserves no consideration, but should be regarded as a murderer and be
tried for murder. Still having respect to the fortune which has in a
manner favoured him, and to the providence which in pity to him and to the
wounded man saved the one from a fatal blow, and the other from an
accursed fate and calamity--as a thank-offering to this deity, and in
order not to oppose his will--in such a case the law will remit the
punishment of death, and only compel the offender to emigrate to a
neighbouring city for the rest of his life, where he shall remain in the
enjoyment of all his possessions. But if he have injured the wounded man,
he shall make such compensation for the injury as the court deciding the
cause shall assess, and the same judges shall decide who would have
decided if the man had died of his wounds. And if a child intentionally
wound his parents, or a servant his master, death shall be the penalty.
And if a brother or a sister intentionally wound a brother or a sister,
and is found guilty, death shall be the penalty. And if a husband wound a
wife, or a wife a husband, with intent to kill, let him or her undergo
perpetual exile; if they have sons or daughters who are still young, the
guardians shall take care of their property, and have charge of the
children as orphans. If their sons are grown up, they shall be under no
obligation to support the exiled parent, but they shall possess the
property themselves. And if he who meets with such a misfortune has no
children, the kindred of the exiled man to the degree of sons of cousins,
both on the male and female side, shall meet together, and after taking
counsel with the guardians of the law and the priests, shall appoint a
5040th citizen to be the heir of the house, considering and reasoning that
no house of all the 5040 belongs to the inhabitant or to the whole family,
but is the public and private property of the state. Now the state should
seek to have its houses as holy and happy as possible. And if any one of
the houses be unfortunate, and stained with impiety, and the owner leave
no posterity, but dies unmarried, or married and childless, having
suffered death as the penalty of murder or some other crime committed
against the Gods or against his fellow-citizens, of which death is the
penalty distinctly laid down in the law; or if any of the citizens be in
perpetual exile, and also childless, that house shall first of all be
purified and undergo expiation according to law; and then let the kinsmen
of the house, as we were just now saying, and the guardians of the law,
meet and consider what family there is in the state which is of the
highest repute for virtue and also for good fortune, in which there are a
number of sons; from that family let them take one and introduce him to
the father and forefathers of the dead man as their son, and, for the sake
of the omen, let him be called so, that he may be the continuer of their
family, the keeper of their hearth, and the minister of their sacred rites
with better fortune than his father had; and when they have made this
supplication, they shall make him heir according to law, and the offending
person they shall leave nameless and childless and portionless when
calamities such as these overtake him.
Now the boundaries of some things do not touch one another, but there is a
borderland which comes in between, preventing them from touching. And we
were saying that actions done from passion are of this nature, and come in
between the voluntary and involuntary. If a person be convicted of having
inflicted wounds in a passion, in the first place he shall pay twice the
amount of the injury, if the wound be curable, or, if incurable, four
times the amount of the injury; or if the wound be curable, and at the
same time cause great and notable disgrace to the wounded person, he shall
pay fourfold. And whenever any one in wounding another injures not only
the sufferer, but also the city, and makes him incapable of defending his
country against the enemy, he, besides the other penalties, shall pay a
penalty for the loss which the state has incurred. And the penalty shall
be, that in addition to his own times of service, he shall serve on behalf
of the disabled person, and shall take his place in war; or, if he refuse,
he shall be liable to be convicted by law of refusal to serve. The
compensation for the injury, whether to be twofold or threefold or
fourfold, shall be fixed by the judges who convict him. And if, in like
manner, a brother wounds a brother, the parents and kindred of either sex,
including the children of cousins, whether on the male or female side,
shall meet, and when they have judged the cause, they shall entrust the
assessment of damages to the parents, as is natural; and if the estimate
be disputed, then the kinsmen on the male side shall make the estimate, or
if they cannot, they shall commit the matter to the guardians of the law.
And when similar charges of wounding are brought by children against their
parents, those who are more than sixty years of age, having children of
their own, not adopted, shall be required to decide; and if any one is
convicted, they shall determine whether he or she ought to die, or suffer
some other punishment either greater than death, or, at any rate, not much
less. A kinsman of the offender shall not be allowed to judge the cause,
not even if he be of the age which is prescribed by the law. If a slave in
a fit of anger wound a freeman, the owner of the slave shall give him up
to the wounded man, who may do as he pleases with him, and if he do not
give him up he shall himself make good the injury. And if any one says
that the slave and the wounded man are conspiring together, let him argue
the point, and if he is cast, he shall pay for the wrong three times over,
but if he gains his case, the freeman who conspired with the slave shall
be liable to an action for kidnapping. And if any one unintentionally
wounds another he shall simply pay for the harm, for no legislator is able
to control chance. In such a case the judges shall be the same as those
who are appointed in the case of children suing their parents; and they
shall estimate the amount of the injury.
All the preceding injuries and every kind of assault are deeds of
violence; and every man, woman, or child ought to consider that the elder
has the precedence of the younger in honour, both among the Gods and also
among men who would live in security and happiness. Wherefore it is a foul
thing and hateful to the Gods to see an elder man assaulted by a younger
in the city, and it is reasonable that a young man when struck by an elder
should lightly endure his anger, laying up in store for himself a like
honour when he is old. Let this be the law: Every one shall reverence his
elder in word and deed; he shall respect any one who is twenty years older
than himself, whether male or female, regarding him or her as his father
or mother; and he shall abstain from laying hands on any one who is of an
age to have been his father or mother, out of reverence to the Gods who
preside over birth; similarly he shall keep his hands from a stranger,
whether he be an old inhabitant or newly arrived; he shall not venture to
correct such an one by blows, either as the aggressor or in self-defence.
If he thinks that some stranger has struck him out of wantonness or
insolence, and ought to be punished, he shall take him to the wardens of
the city, but let him not strike him, that the stranger may be kept far
away from the possibility of lifting up his hand against a citizen, and
let the wardens of the city take the offender and examine him, not
forgetting their duty to the God of Strangers, and in case the stranger
appears to have struck the citizen unjustly, let them inflict upon him as
many blows with the scourge as he was himself inflicted, and quell his
presumption. But if he be innocent, they shall threaten and rebuke the man
who arrested him, and let them both go. If a person strikes another of the
same age or somewhat older than himself, who has no children, whether he
be an old man who strikes an old man or a young man who strikes a young
man, let the person struck defend himself in the natural way without a
weapon and with his hands only. He who, being more than forty years of
age, dares to fight with another, whether he be the aggressor or in self-
defence, shall be regarded as rude and ill-mannered and slavish--this will
be a disgraceful punishment, and therefore suitable to him. The obedient
nature will readily yield to such exhortations, but the disobedient, who
heeds not the prelude, shall have the law ready for him: If any man smite
another who is older than himself, either by twenty or by more years, in
the first place, he who is at hand, not being younger than the combatants,
nor their equal in age, shall separate them, or be disgraced according to
law; but if he be the equal in age of the person who is struck or younger,
he shall defend the person injured as he would a brother or father or
still older relative. Further, let him who dares to smite an elder be
tried for assault, as I have said, and if he be found guilty, let him be
imprisoned for a period of not less than a year, or if the judges approve
of a longer period, their decision shall be final. But if a stranger or
metic smite one who is older by twenty years or more, the same law shall
hold about the bystanders assisting, and he who is found guilty in such a
suit, if he be a stranger but not resident, shall be imprisoned during a
period of two years; and a metic who disobeys the laws shall be imprisoned
for three years, unless the court assign him a longer term. And let him
who was present in any of these cases and did not assist according to law
be punished, if he be of the highest class, by paying a fine of a mina; or
if he be of the second class, of fifty drachmas; or if of the third class,
by a fine of thirty drachmas; or if he be of the fourth class, by a fine
of twenty drachmas; and the generals and taxiarchs and phylarchs and
hipparchs shall form the court in such cases.
Laws are partly framed for the sake of good men, in order to instruct them
how they may live on friendly terms with one another, and partly for the
sake of those who refuse to be instructed, whose spirit cannot be subdued,
or softened, or hindered from plunging into evil. These are the persons
who cause the word to be spoken which I am about to utter; for them the
legislator legislates of necessity, and in the hope that there may be no
need of his laws. He who shall dare to lay violent hands upon his father
or mother, or any still older relative, having no fear either of the wrath
of the Gods above, or of the punishments that are spoken of in the world
below, but transgresses in contempt of ancient and universal traditions as
though he were too wise to believe in them, requires some extreme measure
of prevention. Now death is not the worst that can happen to men; far
worse are the punishments which are said to pursue them in the world
below. But although they are most true tales, they work on such souls no
prevention; for if they had any effect there would be no slayers of
mothers, or impious hands lifted up against parents; and therefore the
punishments of this world which are inflicted during life ought not in
such cases to fall short, if possible, of the terrors of the world below.
Let our enactment then be as follows: If a man dare to strike his father
or his mother, or their fathers or mothers, he being at the time of sound
mind, then let any one who is at hand come to the rescue as has been
already said, and the metic or stranger who comes to the rescue shall be
called to the first place in the games; but if he do not come he shall
suffer the punishment of perpetual exile. He who is not a metic, if he
comes to the rescue, shall have praise, and if he do not come, blame. And
if a slave come to the rescue, let him be made free, but if he do not come
to the rescue, let him receive 100 strokes of the whip, by order of the
wardens of the agora, if the occurrence take place in the agora; or if
somewhere in the city beyond the limits of the agora, any warden of the
city who is in residence shall punish him; or if in the country, then the
commanders of the wardens of the country. If those who are near at the
time be inhabitants of the same place, whether they be youths, or men, or
women, let them come to the rescue and denounce him as the impious one;
and he who does not come to the rescue shall fall under the curse of Zeus,
the God of kindred and of ancestors, according to law. And if any one is
found guilty of assaulting a parent, let him in the first place be forever
banished from the city into the country, and let him abstain from the
temples; and if he do not abstain, the wardens of the country shall punish
him with blows, or in any way which they please, and if he return he shall
be put to death. And if any freeman eat or drink, or have any other sort
of intercourse with him, or only meeting him have voluntarily touched him,
he shall not enter into any temple, nor into the agora, nor into the city,
until he is purified; for he should consider that he has become tainted by
a curse. And if he disobeys the law, and pollutes the city and the temples
contrary to law, and one of the magistrates sees him and does not indict
him, when he gives in his account this omission shall be a most serious
If a slave strike a freeman, whether a stranger or a citizen, let any one
who is present come to the rescue, or pay the penalty already mentioned;
and let the bystanders bind him, and deliver him up to the injured person,
and he receiving him shall put him in chains, and inflict on him as many
stripes as he pleases; but having punished him he must surrender him to
his master according to law, and not deprive him of his property. Let the
law be as follows: The slave who strikes a freeman, not at the command of
the magistrates, his owner shall receive bound from the man whom he has
stricken, and not release him until the slave has persuaded the man whom
he has stricken that he ought to be released. And let there be the same
laws about women in relation to women, and about men and women in relation
to one another.
And now having spoken of assaults, let us sum up all acts of violence
under a single law, which shall be as follows: No one shall take or carry
away any of his neighbour's goods, neither shall he use anything which is
his neighbour's without the consent of the owner; for these are the
offences which are and have been, and will ever be, the source of all the
aforesaid evils. The greatest of them are excesses and insolences of
youth, and are offences against the greatest when they are done against
religion; and especially great when in violation of public and holy rites,
or of the partly-common rites in which tribes and phratries share; and in
the second degree great when they are committed against private rites and
sepulchres, and in the third degree (not to repeat the acts formerly
mentioned), when insults are offered to parents; the fourth kind of
violence is when any one, regardless of the authority of the rulers, takes
or carries away or makes use of anything which belongs to them, not having
their consent; and the fifth kind is when the violation of the civil
rights of an individual demands reparation. There should be a common law
embracing all these cases. For we have already said in general terms what
shall be the punishment of sacrilege, whether fraudulent or violent, and
now we have to determine what is to be the punishment of those who speak
or act insolently toward the Gods. But first we must give them an
admonition which may be in the following terms: No one who in obedience to
the laws believed that there were Gods, ever intentionally did any unholy
act, or uttered any unlawful word; but he who did must have supposed one
of three things--either that they did not exist--which is the first
possibility, or secondly, that, if they did, they took no care of man, or
thirdly, that they were easily appeased and turned aside from their
purpose by sacrifices and prayers.
CLEINIAS: What shall we say or do to these persons?
ATHENIAN: My good friend, let us first hear the jests which I suspect that
they in their superiority will utter against us.
CLEINIAS: What jests?
ATHENIAN: They will make some irreverent speech of this sort: 'O
inhabitants of Athens, and Sparta, and Cnosus,' they will reply, 'in that
you speak truly; for some of us deny the very existence of the Gods, while
others, as you say, are of opinion that they do not care about us; and
others that they are turned from their course by gifts. Now we have a
right to claim, as you yourself allowed, in the matter of laws, that
before you are hard upon us and threaten us, you should argue with us and
convince us--you should first attempt to teach and persuade us that there
are Gods by reasonable evidences, and also that they are too good to be
unrighteous, or to be propitiated, or turned from their course by gifts.
For when we hear such things said of them by those who are esteemed to be
the best of poets, and orators, and prophets, and priests, and by
innumerable others, the thoughts of most of us are not set upon abstaining
from unrighteous acts, but upon doing them and atoning for them. When
lawgivers profess that they are gentle and not stern, we think that they
should first of all use persuasion to us, and show us the existence of
Gods, if not in a better manner than other men, at any rate in a truer;
and who knows but that we shall hearken to you? If then our request is a
fair one, please to accept our challenge.
CLEINIAS: But is there any difficulty in proving the existence of the
ATHENIAN: How would you prove it?
CLEINIAS: How? In the first place, the earth and the sun, and the stars
and the universe, and the fair order of the seasons, and the division of
them into years and months, furnish proofs of their existence, and also
there is the fact that all Hellenes and barbarians believe in them.
ATHENIAN: I fear, my sweet friend, though I will not say that I much
regard, the contempt with which the profane will be likely to assail us.
For you do not understand the nature of their complaint, and you fancy
that they rush into impiety only from a love of sensual pleasure.
CLEINIAS: Why, Stranger, what other reason is there?
ATHENIAN: One which you who live in a different atmosphere would never
CLEINIAS: What is it?
ATHENIAN: A very grievous sort of ignorance which is imagined to be the
CLEINIAS: What do you mean?
ATHENIAN: At Athens there are tales preserved in writing which the virtue
of your state, as I am informed, refuses to admit. They speak of the Gods
in prose as well as verse, and the oldest of them tell of the origin of
the heavens and of the world, and not far from the beginning of their
story they proceed to narrate the birth of the Gods, and how after they
were born they behaved to one another. Whether these stories have in other
ways a good or a bad influence, I should not like to be severe upon them,
because they are ancient; but, looking at them with reference to the
duties of children to their parents, I cannot praise them, or think that
they are useful, or at all true. Of the words of the ancients I have
nothing more to say; and I should wish to say of them only what is
pleasing to the Gods. But as to our younger generation and their wisdom, I
cannot let them off when they do mischief. For do but mark the effect of
their words: when you and I argue for the existence of the Gods, and
produce the sun, moon, stars, and earth, claiming for them a divine being,
if we would listen to the aforesaid philosophers we should say that they
are earth and stones only, which can have no care at all of human affairs,
and that all religion is a cooking up of words and a make-believe.
CLEINIAS: One such teacher, O stranger, would be bad enough, and you imply
that there are many of them, which is worse.
ATHENIAN: Well, then; what shall we say or do? Shall we assume that some
one is accusing us among unholy men, who are trying to escape from the
effect of our legislation; and that they say of us--How dreadful that you
should legislate on the supposition that there are Gods! Shall we make a
defence of ourselves? or shall we leave them and return to our laws, lest
the prelude should become longer than the law? For the discourse will
certainly extend to great length, if we are to treat the impiously
disposed as they desire, partly demonstrating to them at some length the
things of which they demand an explanation, partly making them afraid or
dissatisfied, and then proceed to the requisite enactments.
CLEINIAS: Yes, Stranger; but then how often have we repeated already that
on the present occasion there is no reason why brevity should be preferred
to length; for who is 'at our heels?' as the saying goes, and it would be
paltry and ridiculous to prefer the shorter to the better. It is a matter
of no small consequence, in some way or other to prove that there are
Gods, and that they are good, and regard justice more than men do. The
demonstration of this would be the best and noblest prelude of all our
laws. And therefore, without impatience, and without hurry, let us
unreservedly consider the whole matter, summoning up all the power of
persuasion which we possess.
ATHENIAN: Seeing you thus in earnest, I would fain offer up a prayer that
I may succeed: but I must proceed at once. Who can be calm when he is
called upon to prove the existence of the Gods? Who can avoid hating and
abhorring the men who are and have been the cause of this argument; I
speak of those who will not believe the tales which they have heard as
babes and sucklings from their mothers and nurses, repeated by them both
in jest and earnest, like charms, who have also heard them in the
sacrificial prayers, and seen sights accompanying them--sights and sounds
delightful to children--and their parents during the sacrifices showing an
intense earnestness on behalf of their children and of themselves, and
with eager interest talking to the Gods, and beseeching them, as though
they were firmly convinced of their existence; who likewise see and hear
the prostrations and invocations which are made by Hellenes and barbarians
at the rising and setting of the sun and moon, in all the vicissitudes of
life, not as if they thought that there were no Gods, but as if there
could be no doubt of their existence, and no suspicion of their non-
existence; when men, knowing all these things, despise them on no real
grounds, as would be admitted by all who have any particle of
intelligence, and when they force us to say what we are now saying, how
can any one in gentle terms remonstrate with the like of them, when he has
to begin by proving to them the very existence of the Gods? Yet the
attempt must be made; for it would be unseemly that one half of mankind
should go mad in their lust of pleasure, and the other half in their
indignation at such persons. Our address to these lost and perverted
natures should not be spoken in passion; let us suppose ourselves to
select some one of them, and gently reason with him, smothering our anger:
O my son, we will say to him, you are young, and the advance of time will
make you reverse many of the opinions which you now hold. Wait awhile, and
do not attempt to judge at present of the highest things; and that is the
highest of which you now think nothing--to know the Gods rightly and to
live accordingly. And in the first place let me indicate to you one point
which is of great importance, and about which I cannot be deceived: You
and your friends are not the first who have held this opinion about the
Gods. There have always been persons more or less numerous who have had
the same disorder. I have known many of them, and can tell you, that no
one who had taken up in youth this opinion, that the Gods do not exist,
ever continued in the same until he was old; the two other notions
certainly do continue in some cases, but not in many; the notion, I mean,
that the Gods exist, but take no heed of human things, and the other
notion that they do take heed of them, but are easily propitiated with
sacrifices and prayers. As to the opinion about the Gods which may some
day become clear to you, I advise you to wait and consider if it be true
or not; ask of others, and above all of the legislator. In the meantime
take care that you do not offend against the Gods. For the duty of the
legislator is and always will be to teach you the truth of these matters.
CLEINIAS: Our address, Stranger, thus far, is excellent.
ATHENIAN: Quite true, Megillus and Cleinias, but I am afraid that we have
unconsciously lighted on a strange doctrine.
CLEINIAS: What doctrine do you mean?
ATHENIAN: The wisest of all doctrines, in the opinion of many.
CLEINIAS: I wish that you would speak plainer.
ATHENIAN: The doctrine that all things do become, have become, and will
become, some by nature, some by art, and some by chance.
CLEINIAS: Is not that true?
ATHENIAN: Well, philosophers are probably right; at any rate we may as
well follow in their track, and examine what is the meaning of them and
CLEINIAS: By all means.
ATHENIAN: They say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of
nature and of chance, the lesser of art, which, receiving from nature the
greater and primeval creations, moulds and fashions all those lesser works
which are generally termed artificial.
CLEINIAS: How is that?
ATHENIAN: I will explain my meaning still more clearly. They say that fire
and water, and earth and air, all exist by nature and chance, and none of
them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order--earth,
and sun, and moon, and stars--they have been created by means of these
absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by
chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them
--of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and
according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have
been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole
heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals
and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the
action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was
saying, by nature and chance only. Art sprang up afterwards and out of
these, mortal and of mortal birth, and produced in play certain images and
very partial imitations of the truth, having an affinity to one another,
such as music and painting create and their companion arts. And there are
other arts which have a serious purpose, and these co-operate with nature,
such, for example, as medicine, and husbandry, and gymnastic. And they say
that politics co-operate with nature, but in a less degree, and have more
of art; also that legislation is entirely a work of art, and is based on
assumptions which are not true.
CLEINIAS: How do you mean?
ATHENIAN: In the first place, my dear friend, these people would say that
the Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which
are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who
make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another
thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all
in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering
them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no
basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at
which they are made. These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets
and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told
by them that the highest right is might, and in this way the young fall
into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids
them imagine; and hence arise factions, these philosophers inviting them
to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion
over others, and not in legal subjection to them.
CLEINIAS: What a dreadful picture, Stranger, have you given, and how great
is the injury which is thus inflicted on young men to the ruin both of
states and families!
ATHENIAN: True, Cleinias; but then what should the lawgiver do when this
evil is of long standing? should he only rise up in the state and threaten
all mankind, proclaiming that if they will not say and think that the Gods
are such as the law ordains (and this may be extended generally to the
honourable, the just, and to all the highest things, and to all that
relates to virtue and vice), and if they will not make their actions
conform to the copy which the law gives them, then he who refuses to obey
the law shall die, or suffer stripes and bonds, or privation of
citizenship, or in some cases be punished by loss of property and exile?
Should he not rather, when he is making laws for men, at the same time
infuse the spirit of persuasion into his words, and mitigate the severity
of them as far as he can?
CLEINIAS: Why, Stranger, if such persuasion be at all possible, then a
legislator who has anything in him ought never to weary of persuading men;
he ought to leave nothing unsaid in support of the ancient opinion that
there are Gods, and of all those other truths which you were just now
mentioning; he ought to support the law and also art, and acknowledge that
both alike exist by nature, and no less than nature, if they are the
creations of mind in accordance with right reason, as you appear to me to
maintain, and I am disposed to agree with you in thinking.
ATHENIAN: Yes, my enthusiastic Cleinias; but are not these things when
spoken to a multitude hard to be understood, not to mention that they take
up a dismal length of time?
CLEINIAS: Why, Stranger, shall we, whose patience failed not when drinking
or music were the themes of discourse, weary now of discoursing about the
Gods, and about divine things? And the greatest help to rational
legislation is that the laws when once written down are always at rest;
they can be put to the test at any future time, and therefore, if on first
hearing they seem difficult, there is no reason for apprehension about
them, because any man however dull can go over them and consider them
again and again; nor if they are tedious but useful, is there any reason
or religion, as it seems to me, in any man refusing to maintain the
principles of them to the utmost of his power.
MEGILLUS: Stranger, I like what Cleinias is saying.
ATHENIAN: Yes, Megillus, and we should do as he proposes; for if impious
discourses were not scattered, as I may say, throughout the world, there
would have been no need for any vindication of the existence of the Gods--
but seeing that they are spread far and wide, such arguments are needed;
and who should come to the rescue of the greatest laws, when they are
being undermined by bad men, but the legislator himself?
MEGILLUS: There is no more proper champion of them.
ATHENIAN: Well, then, tell me, Cleinias--for I must ask you to be my
partner--does not he who talks in this way conceive fire and water and
earth and air to be the first elements of all things? these he calls
nature, and out of these he supposes the soul to be formed afterwards; and
this is not a mere conjecture of ours about his meaning, but is what he
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: Then, by Heaven, we have discovered the source of this vain
opinion of all those physical investigators; and I would have you examine
their arguments with the utmost care, for their impiety is a very serious
matter; they not only make a bad and mistaken use of argument, but they
lead away the minds of others: that is my opinion of them.
CLEINIAS: You are right; but I should like to know how this happens.
ATHENIAN: I fear that the argument may seem singular.
CLEINIAS: Do not hesitate, Stranger; I see that you are afraid of such a
discussion carrying you beyond the limits of legislation. But if there be
no other way of showing our agreement in the belief that there are Gods,
of whom the law is said now to approve, let us take this way, my good sir.
ATHENIAN: Then I suppose that I must repeat the singular argument of those
who manufacture the soul according to their own impious notions; they
affirm that which is the first cause of the generation and destruction of
all things, to be not first, but last, and that which is last to be first,
and hence they have fallen into error about the true nature of the Gods.
CLEINIAS: Still I do not understand you.
ATHENIAN: Nearly all of them, my friends, seem to be ignorant of the
nature and power of the soul, especially in what relates to her origin:
they do not know that she is among the first of things, and before all
bodies, and is the chief author of their changes and transpositions. And
if this is true, and if the soul is older than the body, must not the
things which are of the soul's kindred be of necessity prior to those
which appertain to the body?
ATHENIAN: Then thought and attention and mind and art and law will be
prior to that which is hard and soft and heavy and light; and the great
and primitive works and actions will be works of art; they will be the
first, and after them will come nature and works of nature, which however
is a wrong term for men to apply to them; these will follow, and will be
under the government of art and mind.
CLEINIAS: But why is the word 'nature' wrong?
ATHENIAN: Because those who use the term mean to say that nature is the
first creative power; but if the soul turn out to be the primeval element,
and not fire or air, then in the truest sense and beyond other things the
soul may be said to exist by nature; and this would be true if you proved
that the soul is older than the body, but not otherwise.
CLEINIAS: You are quite right.
ATHENIAN: Shall we, then, take this as the next point to which our
attention should be directed?
CLEINIAS: By all means.
ATHENIAN: Let us be on our guard lest this most deceptive argument with
its youthful looks, beguiling us old men, give us the slip and make a
laughing-stock of us. Who knows but we may be aiming at the greater, and
fail of attaining the lesser? Suppose that we three have to pass a rapid
river, and I, being the youngest of the three and experienced in rivers,
take upon me the duty of making the attempt first by myself; leaving you
in safety on the bank, I am to examine whether the river is passable by
older men like yourselves, and if such appears to be the case then I shall
invite you to follow, and my experience will help to convey you across;
but if the river is impassable by you, then there will have been no danger
to anybody but myself--would not that seem to be a very fair proposal? I
mean to say that the argument in prospect is likely to be too much for
you, out of your depth and beyond your strength, and I should be afraid
that the stream of my questions might create in you who are not in the
habit of answering, giddiness and confusion of mind, and hence a feeling
of unpleasantness and unsuitableness might arise. I think therefore that I
had better first ask the questions and then answer them myself while you
listen in safety; in that way I can carry on the argument until I have
completed the proof that the soul is prior to the body.
CLEINIAS: Excellent, Stranger, and I hope that you will do as you propose.
ATHENIAN: Come, then, and if ever we are to call upon the Gods, let us
call upon them now in all seriousness to come to the demonstration of
their own existence. And so holding fast to the rope we will venture upon
the depths of the argument. When questions of this sort are asked of me,
my safest answer would appear to be as follows: Some one says to me, 'O
Stranger, are all things at rest and nothing in motion, or is the exact
opposite of this true, or are some things in motion and others at rest?'
To this I shall reply that some things are in motion and others at rest.
'And do not things which move move in a place, and are not the things
which are at rest at rest in a place?' Certainly. 'And some move or rest
in one place and some in more places than one?' You mean to say, we shall
rejoin, that those things which rest at the centre move in one place, just
as the circumference goes round of globes which are said to be at rest?
'Yes.' And we observe that, in the revolution, the motion which carries
round the larger and the lesser circle at the same time is proportionally
distributed to greater and smaller, and is greater and smaller in a
certain proportion. Here is a wonder which might be thought an
impossibility, that the same motion should impart swiftness and slowness
in due proportion to larger and lesser circles. 'Very true.' And when you
speak of bodies moving in many places, you seem to me to mean those which
move from one place to another, and sometimes have one centre of motion
and sometimes more than one because they turn upon their axis; and
whenever they meet anything, if it be stationary, they are divided by it;
but if they get in the midst between bodies which are approaching and
moving towards the same spot from opposite directions, they unite with
them. 'I admit the truth of what you are saying.' Also when they unite
they grow, and when they are divided they waste away--that is, supposing
the constitution of each to remain, or if that fails, then there is a
second reason of their dissolution. 'And when are all things created and
how?' Clearly, they are created when the first principle receives increase
and attains to the second dimension, and from this arrives at the one
which is neighbour to this, and after reaching the third becomes
perceptible to sense. Everything which is thus changing and moving is in
process of generation; only when at rest has it real existence, but when
passing into another state it is destroyed utterly. Have we not mentioned
all motions that there are, and comprehended them under their kinds and
numbered them with the exception, my friends, of two?
CLEINIAS: Which are they?
ATHENIAN: Just the two, with which our present enquiry is concerned.
CLEINIAS: Speak plainer.
ATHENIAN: I suppose that our enquiry has reference to the soul?
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: Let us assume that there is a motion able to move other things,
but not to move itself; that is one kind; and there is another kind which
can move itself as well as other things, working in composition and
decomposition, by increase and diminution and generation and destruction--
that is also one of the many kinds of motion.
ATHENIAN: And we will assume that which moves other, and is changed by
other, to be the ninth, and that which changes itself and others, and is
coincident with every action and every passion, and is the true principle
of change and motion in all that is--that we shall be inclined to call the
ATHENIAN: And which of these ten motions ought we to prefer as being the
mightiest and most efficient?
CLEINIAS: I must say that the motion which is able to move itself is ten
thousand times superior to all the others.
ATHENIAN: Very good; but may I make one or two corrections in what I have
CLEINIAS: What are they?
ATHENIAN: When I spoke of the tenth sort of motion, that was not quite
CLEINIAS: What was the error?
ATHENIAN: According to the true order, the tenth was really the first in
generation and power; then follows the second, which was strangely enough
termed the ninth by us.
CLEINIAS: What do you mean?
ATHENIAN: I mean this: when one thing changes another, and that another,
of such will there be any primary changing element? How can a thing which
is moved by another ever be the beginning of change? Impossible. But when
the self-moved changes other, and that again other, and thus thousands
upon tens of thousands of bodies are set in motion, must not the beginning
of all this motion be the change of the self-moving principle?
CLEINIAS: Very true, and I quite agree.
ATHENIAN: Or, to put the question in another way, making answer to
ourselves: If, as most of these philosophers have the audacity to affirm,
all things were at rest in one mass, which of the above-mentioned
principles of motion would first spring up among them?
CLEINIAS: Clearly the self-moving; for there could be no change in them
arising out of any external cause; the change must first take place in
ATHENIAN: Then we must say that self-motion being the origin of all
motions, and the first which arises among things at rest as well as among
things in motion, is the eldest and mightiest principle of change, and
that which is changed by another and yet moves other is second.
CLEINIAS: Quite true.
ATHENIAN: At this stage of the argument let us put a question.
CLEINIAS: What question?
ATHENIAN: If we were to see this power existing in any earthy, watery, or
fiery substance, simple or compound--how should we describe it?
CLEINIAS: You mean to ask whether we should call such a self-moving power
ATHENIAN: I do.
CLEINIAS: Certainly we should.
ATHENIAN: And when we see soul in anything, must we not do the same--must
we not admit that this is life?
CLEINIAS: We must.
ATHENIAN: And now, I beseech you, reflect--you would admit that we have a
threefold knowledge of things?
CLEINIAS: What do you mean?
ATHENIAN: I mean that we know the essence, and that we know the definition
of the essence, and the name--these are the three; and there are two
questions which may be raised about anything.
CLEINIAS: How two?
ATHENIAN: Sometimes a person may give the name and ask the definition; or
he may give the definition and ask the name. I may illustrate what I mean
in this way.
ATHENIAN: Number like some other things is capable of being divided into
equal parts; when thus divided, number is named 'even,' and the definition
of the name 'even' is 'number divisible into two equal parts'?
ATHENIAN: I mean, that when we are asked about the definition and give the
name, or when we are asked about the name and give the definition--in
either case, whether we give name or definition, we speak of the same
thing, calling 'even' the number which is divided into two equal parts.
CLEINIAS: Quite true.
ATHENIAN: And what is the definition of that which is named 'soul'? Can we
conceive of any other than that which has been already given--the motion
which can move itself?
CLEINIAS: You mean to say that the essence which is defined as the self-
moved is the same with that which has the name soul?
ATHENIAN: Yes; and if this is true, do we still maintain that there is
anything wanting in the proof that the soul is the first origin and moving
power of all that is, or has become, or will be, and their contraries,
when she has been clearly shown to be the source of change and motion in
CLEINIAS: Certainly not; the soul as being the source of motion, has been
most satisfactorily shown to be the oldest of all things.
ATHENIAN: And is not that motion which is produced in another, by reason
of another, but never has any self-moving power at all, being in truth the
change of an inanimate body, to be reckoned second, or by any lower number
which you may prefer?
ATHENIAN: Then we are right, and speak the most perfect and absolute
truth, when we say that the soul is prior to the body, and that the body
is second and comes afterwards, and is born to obey the soul, which is the
CLEINIAS: Nothing can be more true.
ATHENIAN: Do you remember our old admission, that if the soul was prior to
the body the things of the soul were also prior to those of the body?
ATHENIAN: Then characters and manners, and wishes and reasonings, and true
opinions, and reflections, and recollections are prior to length and
breadth and depth and strength of bodies, if the soul is prior to the
CLEINIAS: To be sure.
ATHENIAN: In the next place, we must not of necessity admit that the soul
is the cause of good and evil, base and honourable, just and unjust, and
of all other opposites, if we suppose her to be the cause of all things?
CLEINIAS: We must.
ATHENIAN: And as the soul orders and inhabits all things that move,
however moving, must we not say that she orders also the heavens?
CLEINIAS: Of course.
ATHENIAN: One soul or more? More than one--I will answer for you; at any
rate, we must not suppose that there are less than two--one the author of
good, and the other of evil.
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: Yes, very true; the soul then directs all things in heaven, and
earth, and sea by her movements, and these are described by the terms--
will, consideration, attention, deliberation, opinion true and false, joy
and sorrow, confidence, fear, hatred, love, and other primary motions akin
to these; which again receive the secondary motions of corporeal
substances, and guide all things to growth and decay, to composition and
decomposition, and to the qualities which accompany them, such as heat and
cold, heaviness and lightness, hardness and softness, blackness and
whiteness, bitterness and sweetness, and all those other qualities which
the soul uses, herself a goddess, when truly receiving the divine mind she
disciplines all things rightly to their happiness; but when she is the
companion of folly, she does the very contrary of all this. Shall we
assume so much, or do we still entertain doubts?
CLEINIAS: There is no room at all for doubt.
ATHENIAN: Shall we say then that it is the soul which controls heaven and
earth, and the whole world? that it is a principle of wisdom and virtue,
or a principle which has neither wisdom nor virtue? Suppose that we make
answer as follows:
CLEINIAS: How would you answer?
ATHENIAN: If, my friend, we say that the whole path and movement of
heaven, and of all that is therein, is by nature akin to the movement and
revolution and calculation of mind, and proceeds by kindred laws, then, as
is plain, we must say that the best soul takes care of the world and
guides it along the good path.
ATHENIAN: But if the world moves wildly and irregularly, then the evil
soul guides it.
CLEINIAS: True again.
ATHENIAN: Of what nature is the movement of mind? To this question it is
not easy to give an intelligent answer; and therefore I ought to assist
you in framing one.
CLEINIAS: Very good.
ATHENIAN: Then let us not answer as if we would look straight at the sun,
making ourselves darkness at midday--I mean as if we were under the
impression that we could see with mortal eyes, or know adequately the
nature of mind--it will be safer to look at the image only.
CLEINIAS: What do you mean?
ATHENIAN: Let us select of the ten motions the one which mind chiefly
resembles; this I will bring to your recollection, and will then make the
answer on behalf of us all.
CLEINIAS: That will be excellent.
ATHENIAN: You will surely remember our saying that all things were either
at rest or in motion?
CLEINIAS: I do.
ATHENIAN: And that of things in motion some were moving in one place, and
others in more than one?
ATHENIAN: Of these two kinds of motion, that which moves in one place must
move about a centre like globes made in a lathe, and is most entirely akin
and similar to the circular movement of mind.
CLEINIAS: What do you mean?
ATHENIAN: In saying that both mind and the motion which is in one place
move in the same and like manner, in and about the same, and in relation
to the same, and according to one proportion and order, and are like the
motion of a globe, we invented a fair image, which does no discredit to
CLEINIAS: It does us great credit.
ATHENIAN: And the motion of the other sort which is not after the same
manner, nor in the same, nor about the same, nor in relation to the same,
nor in one place, nor in order, nor according to any rule or proportion,
may be said to be akin to senselessness and folly?
CLEINIAS: That is most true.
ATHENIAN: Then, after what has been said, there is no difficulty in
distinctly stating, that since soul carries all things round, either the
best soul or the contrary must of necessity carry round and order and
arrange the revolution of the heaven.
CLEINIAS: And judging from what has been said, Stranger, there would be
impiety in asserting that any but the most perfect soul or souls carries
round the heavens.
ATHENIAN: You have understood my meaning right well, Cleinias, and now let
me ask you another question.
CLEINIAS: What are you going to ask?
ATHENIAN: If the soul carries round the sun and moon, and the other stars,
does she not carry round each individual of them?
ATHENIAN: Then of one of them let us speak, and the same argument will
apply to all.
CLEINIAS: Which will you take?
ATHENIAN: Every one sees the body of the sun, but no one sees his soul,
nor the soul of any other body living or dead; and yet there is great
reason to believe that this nature, unperceived by any of our senses, is
circumfused around them all, but is perceived by mind; and therefore by
mind and reflection only let us apprehend the following point.
CLEINIAS: What is that?
ATHENIAN: If the soul carries round the sun, we shall not be far wrong in
supposing one of three alternatives.
CLEINIAS: What are they?
ATHENIAN: Either the soul which moves the sun this way and that, resides
within the circular and visible body, like the soul which carries us about
every way; or the soul provides herself with an external body of fire or
air, as some affirm, and violently propels body by body; or thirdly, she
is without such a body, but guides the sun by some extraordinary and
CLEINIAS: Yes, certainly; the soul can only order all things in one of
these three ways.
ATHENIAN: And this soul of the sun, which is therefore better than the
sun, whether taking the sun about in a chariot to give light to men, or
acting from without, or in whatever way, ought by every man to be deemed a
CLEINIAS: Yes, by every man who has the least particle of sense.
ATHENIAN: And of the stars too, and of the moon, and of the years and
months and seasons, must we not say in like manner, that since a soul or
souls having every sort of excellence are the causes of all of them, those
souls are Gods, whether they are living beings and reside in bodies, and
in this way order the whole heaven, or whatever be the place and mode of
their existence--and will any one who admits all this venture to deny that
all things are full of Gods?
CLEINIAS: No one, Stranger, would be such a madman.
ATHENIAN: And now, Megillus and Cleinias, let us offer terms to him who
has hitherto denied the existence of the Gods, and leave him.
CLEINIAS: What terms?
ATHENIAN: Either he shall teach us that we were wrong in saying that the
soul is the original of all things, and arguing accordingly; or, if he be
not able to say anything better, then he must yield to us and live for the
remainder of his life in the belief that there are Gods. Let us see, then,
whether we have said enough or not enough to those who deny that there are
CLEINIAS: Certainly, quite enough, Stranger.
ATHENIAN: Then to them we will say no more. And now we are to address him
who, believing that there are Gods, believes also that they take no heed
of human affairs: To him we say--O thou best of men, in believing that
there are Gods you are led by some affinity to them, which attracts you
towards your kindred and makes you honour and believe in them. But the
fortunes of evil and unrighteous men in private as well as public life,
which, though not really happy, are wrongly counted happy in the judgment
of men, and are celebrated both by poets and prose writers--these draw you
aside from your natural piety. Perhaps you have seen impious men growing
old and leaving their children's children in high offices, and their
prosperity shakes your faith--you have known or heard or been yourself an
eyewitness of many monstrous impieties, and have beheld men by such
criminal means from small beginnings attaining to sovereignty and the
pinnacle of greatness; and considering all these things you do not like to
accuse the Gods of them, because they are your relatives; and so from some
want of reasoning power, and also from an unwillingness to find fault with
them, you have come to believe that they exist indeed, but have no thought
or care of human things. Now, that your present evil opinion may not grow
to still greater impiety, and that we may if possible use arguments which
may conjure away the evil before it arrives, we will add another argument
to that originally addressed to him who utterly denied the existence of
the Gods. And do you, Megillus and Cleinias, answer for the young man as
you did before; and if any impediment comes in our way, I will take the
word out of your mouths, and carry you over the river as I did just now.
CLEINIAS: Very good; do as you say, and we will help you as well as we
ATHENIAN: There will probably be no difficulty in proving to him that the
Gods care about the small as well as about the great. For he was present
and heard what was said, that they are perfectly good, and that the care
of all things is most entirely natural to them.
CLEINIAS: No doubt he heard that.
ATHENIAN: Let us consider together in the next place what we mean by this
virtue which we ascribe to them. Surely we should say that to be temperate
and to possess mind belongs to virtue, and the contrary to vice?
ATHENIAN: Yes; and courage is a part of virtue, and cowardice of vice?
ATHENIAN: And the one is honourable, and the other dishonourable?
CLEINIAS: To be sure.
ATHENIAN: And the one, like other meaner things, is a human quality, but
the Gods have no part in anything of the sort?
CLEINIAS: That again is what everybody will admit.
ATHENIAN: But do we imagine carelessness and idleness and luxury to be
virtues? What do you think?
CLEINIAS: Decidedly not.
ATHENIAN: They rank under the opposite class?
ATHENIAN: And their opposites, therefore, would fall under the opposite
ATHENIAN: But are we to suppose that one who possesses all these good
qualities will be luxurious and heedless and idle, like those whom the
poet compares to stingless drones?
CLEINIAS: And the comparison is a most just one.
ATHENIAN: Surely God must not be supposed to have a nature which He
Himself hates? he who dares to say this sort of thing must not be
tolerated for a moment.
CLEINIAS: Of course not. How could he have?
ATHENIAN: Should we not on any principle be entirely mistaken in praising
any one who has some special business entrusted to him, if he have a mind
which takes care of great matters and no care of small ones? Reflect; he
who acts in this way, whether he be God or man, must act from one of two
CLEINIAS: What are they?
ATHENIAN: Either he must think that the neglect of the small matters is of
no consequence to the whole, or if he knows that they are of consequence,
and he neglects them, his neglect must be attributed to carelessness and
indolence. Is there any other way in which his neglect can be explained?
For surely, when it is impossible for him to take care of all, he is not
negligent if he fails to attend to these things great or small, which a
God or some inferior being might be wanting in strength or capacity to
CLEINIAS: Certainly not.
ATHENIAN: Now, then, let us examine the offenders, who both alike confess
that there are Gods, but with a difference--the one saying that they may
be appeased, and the other that they have no care of small matters: there
are three of us and two of them, and we will say to them--In the first
place, you both acknowledge that the Gods hear and see and know all
things, and that nothing can escape them which is matter of sense and
knowledge: do you admit this?
ATHENIAN: And do you admit also that they have all power which mortals and
immortals can have?
CLEINIAS: They will, of course, admit this also.
ATHENIAN: And surely we three and they two--five in all--have acknowledged
that they are good and perfect?
ATHENIAN: But, if they are such as we conceive them to be, can we possibly
suppose that they ever act in the spirit of carelessness and indolence?
For in us inactivity is the child of cowardice, and carelessness of
inactivity and indolence.
CLEINIAS: Most true.
ATHENIAN: Then not from inactivity and carelessness is any God ever
negligent; for there is no cowardice in them.
CLEINIAS: That is very true.
ATHENIAN: Then the alternative which remains is, that if the Gods neglect
the lighter and lesser concerns of the universe, they neglect them because
they know that they ought not to care about such matters--what other
alternative is there but the opposite of their knowing?
CLEINIAS: There is none.
ATHENIAN: And, O most excellent and best of men, do I understand you to
mean that they are careless because they are ignorant, and do not know
that they ought to take care, or that they know, and yet like the meanest
sort of men, knowing the better, choose the worse because they are
overcome by pleasures and pains?
ATHENIAN: Do not all human things partake of the nature of soul? And is
not man the most religious of all animals?
CLEINIAS: That is not to be denied.
ATHENIAN: And we acknowledge that all mortal creatures are the property of
the Gods, to whom also the whole of heaven belongs?
ATHENIAN: And, therefore, whether a person says that these things are to
the Gods great or small--in either case it would not be natural for the
Gods who own us, and who are the most careful and the best of owners, to
neglect us. There is also a further consideration.
CLEINIAS: What is it?
ATHENIAN: Sensation and power are in an inverse ratio to each other in
respect to their ease and difficulty.
CLEINIAS: What do you mean?
ATHENIAN: I mean that there is greater difficulty in seeing and hearing
the small than the great, but more facility in moving and controlling and
taking care of small and unimportant things than of their opposites.
CLEINIAS: Far more.
ATHENIAN: Suppose the case of a physician who is willing and able to cure
some living thing as a whole--how will the whole fare at his hands if he
takes care only of the greater and neglects the parts which are lesser?
CLEINIAS: Decidedly not well.
ATHENIAN: No better would be the result with pilots or generals, or
householders or statesmen, or any other such class, if they neglected the
small and regarded only the great--as the builders say, the larger stones
do not lie well without the lesser.
CLEINIAS: Of course not.
ATHENIAN: Let us not, then, deem God inferior to human workmen, who, in
proportion to their skill, finish and perfect their works, small as well
as great, by one and the same art; or that God, the wisest of beings, who
is both willing and able to take care, is like a lazy good-for-nothing, or
a coward, who turns his back upon labour and gives no thought to smaller
and easier matters, but to the greater only.
CLEINIAS: Never, Stranger, let us admit a supposition about the Gods which
is both impious and false.
ATHENIAN: I think that we have now argued enough with him who delights to
accuse the Gods of neglect.
ATHENIAN: He has been forced to acknowledge that he is in error, but he
still seems to me to need some words of consolation.
CLEINIAS: What consolation will you offer him?
ATHENIAN: Let us say to the youth: The ruler of the universe has ordered
all things with a view to the excellence and preservation of the whole,
and each part, as far as may be, has an action and passion appropriate to
it. Over these, down to the least fraction of them, ministers have been
appointed to preside, who have wrought out their perfection with
infinitesimal exactness. And one of these portions of the universe is
thine own, unhappy man, which, however little, contributes to the whole;
and you do not seem to be aware that this and every other creation is for
the sake of the whole, and in order that the life of the whole may be
blessed; and that you are created for the sake of the whole, and not the
whole for the sake of you. For every physician and every skilled artist
does all things for the sake of the whole, directing his effort towards
the common good, executing the part for the sake of the whole, and not the
whole for the sake of the part. And you are annoyed because you are
ignorant how what is best for you happens to you and to the universe, as
far as the laws of the common creation admit. Now, as the soul combining
first with one body and then with another undergoes all sorts of changes,
either of herself, or through the influence of another soul, all that
remains to the player of the game is that he should shift the pieces;
sending the better nature to the better place, and the worse to the worse,
and so assigning to them their proper portion.
CLEINIAS: In what way do you mean?
ATHENIAN: In a way which may be supposed to make the care of all things
easy to the Gods. If any one were to form or fashion all things without
any regard to the whole--if, for example, he formed a living element of
water out of fire, instead of forming many things out of one or one out of
many in regular order attaining to a first or second or third birth, the
transmutation would have been infinite; but now the ruler of the world has
a wonderfully easy task.
CLEINIAS: How so?
ATHENIAN: I will explain: When the king saw that our actions had life, and
that there was much virtue in them and much vice, and that the soul and
body, although not, like the Gods of popular opinion, eternal, yet having
once come into existence, were indestructible (for if either of them had
been destroyed, there would have been no generation of living beings); and
when he observed that the good of the soul was ever by nature designed to
profit men, and the evil to harm them--he, seeing all this, contrived so
to place each of the parts that their position might in the easiest and
best manner procure the victory of good and the defeat of evil in the
whole. And he contrived a general plan by which a thing of a certain
nature found a certain seat and room. But the formation of qualities he
left to the wills of individuals. For every one of us is made pretty much
what he is by the bent of his desires and the nature of his soul.
CLEINIAS: Yes, that is probably true.
ATHENIAN: Then all things which have a soul change, and possess in
themselves a principle of change, and in changing move according to law
and to the order of destiny: natures which have undergone a lesser change
move less and on the earth's surface, but those which have suffered more
change and have become more criminal sink into the abyss, that is to say,
into Hades and other places in the world below, of which the very names
terrify men, and which they picture to themselves as in a dream, both
while alive and when released from the body. And whenever the soul
receives more of good or evil from her own energy and the strong influence
of others--when she has communion with divine virtue and becomes divine,
she is carried into another and better place, which is perfect in
holiness; but when she has communion with evil, then she also changes the
place of her life.
'This is the justice of the Gods who inhabit Olympus.'
O youth or young man, who fancy that you are neglected by the Gods, know
that if you become worse you shall go to the worse souls, or if better to
the better, and in every succession of life and death you will do and
suffer what like may fitly suffer at the hands of like. This is the
justice of heaven, which neither you nor any other unfortunate will ever
glory in escaping, and which the ordaining powers have specially ordained;
take good heed thereof, for it will be sure to take heed of you. If you
say: I am small and will creep into the depths of the earth, or I am high
and will fly up to heaven, you are not so small or so high but that you
shall pay the fitting penalty, either here or in the world below or in
some still more savage place whither you shall be conveyed. This is also
the explanation of the fate of those whom you saw, who had done unholy and
evil deeds, and from small beginnings had grown great, and you fancied
that from being miserable they had become happy; and in their actions, as
in a mirror, you seemed to see the universal neglect of the Gods, not
knowing how they make all things work together and contribute to the great
whole. And thinkest thou, bold man, that thou needest not to know this? he
who knows it not can never form any true idea of the happiness or
unhappiness of life or hold any rational discourse respecting either. If
Cleinias and this our reverend company succeed in proving to you that you
know not what you say of the Gods, then will God help you; but should you
desire to hear more, listen to what we say to the third opponent, if you
have any understanding whatsoever. For I think that we have sufficiently
proved the existence of the Gods, and that they care for men: The other
notion that they are appeased by the wicked, and take gifts, is what we
must not concede to any one, and what every man should disprove to the
utmost of his power.
CLEINIAS: Very good; let us do as you say.
ATHENIAN: Well, then, by the Gods themselves I conjure you to tell me--if
they are to be propitiated, how are they to be propitiated? Who are they,
and what is their nature? Must they not be at least rulers who have to
order unceasingly the whole heaven?
ATHENIAN: And to what earthly rulers can they be compared, or who to them?
How in the less can we find an image of the greater? Are they charioteers
of contending pairs of steeds, or pilots of vessels? Perhaps they might be
compared to the generals of armies, or they might be likened to physicians
providing against the diseases which make war upon the body, or to
husbandmen observing anxiously the effects of the seasons on the growth of
plants; or perhaps to shepherds of flocks. For as we acknowledge the world
to be full of many goods and also of evils, and of more evils than goods,
there is, as we affirm, an immortal conflict going on among us, which
requires marvellous watchfulness; and in that conflict the Gods and
demigods are our allies, and we are their property. Injustice and
insolence and folly are the destruction of us, and justice and temperance
and wisdom are our salvation; and the place of these latter is in the life
of the Gods, although some vestige of them may occasionally be discerned
among mankind. But upon this earth we know that there dwell souls
possessing an unjust spirit, who may be compared to brute animals, which
fawn upon their keepers, whether dogs or shepherds, or the best and most
perfect masters; for they in like manner, as the voices of the wicked
declare, prevail by flattery and prayers and incantations, and are allowed
to make their gains with impunity. And this sin, which is termed
dishonesty, is an evil of the same kind as what is termed disease in
living bodies or pestilence in years or seasons of the year, and in cities
and governments has another name, which is injustice.
CLEINIAS: Quite true.
ATHENIAN: What else can he say who declares that the Gods are always
lenient to the doers of unjust acts, if they divide the spoil with them?
As if wolves were to toss a portion of their prey to the dogs, and they,
mollified by the gift, suffered them to tear the flocks. Must not he who
maintains that the Gods can be propitiated argue thus?
CLEINIAS: Precisely so.
ATHENIAN: And to which of the above-mentioned classes of guardians would
any man compare the Gods without absurdity? Will he say that they are like
pilots, who are themselves turned away from their duty by 'libations of
wine and the savour of fat,' and at last overturn both ship and sailors?
CLEINIAS: Assuredly not.
ATHENIAN: And surely they are not like charioteers who are bribed to give
up the victory to other chariots?
CLEINIAS: That would be a fearful image of the Gods.
ATHENIAN: Nor are they like generals, or physicians, or husbandmen, or
shepherds; and no one would compare them to dogs who have been silenced by
CLEINIAS: A thing not to be spoken of.
ATHENIAN: And are not all the Gods the chiefest of all guardians, and do
they not guard our highest interests?
CLEINIAS: Yes; the chiefest.
ATHENIAN: And shall we say that those who guard our noblest interests, and
are the best of guardians, are inferior in virtue to dogs, and to men even
of moderate excellence, who would never betray justice for the sake of
gifts which unjust men impiously offer them?
CLEINIAS: Certainly not; nor is such a notion to be endured, and he who
holds this opinion may be fairly singled out and characterized as of all
impious men the wickedest and most impious.
ATHENIAN: Then are the three assertions--that the Gods exist, and that
they take care of men, and that they can never be persuaded to do
injustice, now sufficiently demonstrated? May we say that they are?
CLEINIAS: You have our entire assent to your words.
ATHENIAN: I have spoken with vehemence because I am zealous against evil
men; and I will tell you, dear Cleinias, why I am so. I would not have the
wicked think that, having the superiority in argument, they may do as they
please and act according to their various imaginations about the Gods; and
this zeal has led me to speak too vehemently; but if we have at all
succeeded in persuading the men to hate themselves and love their
opposites, the prelude of our laws about impiety will not have been spoken
CLEINIAS: So let us hope; and even if we have failed, the style of our
argument will not discredit the lawgiver.
ATHENIAN: After the prelude shall follow a discourse, which will be the
interpreter of the law; this shall proclaim to all impious persons that
they must depart from their ways and go over to the pious. And to those
who disobey, let the law about impiety be as follows: If a man is guilty
of any impiety in word or deed, any one who happens to be present shall
give information to the magistrates, in aid of the law; and let the
magistrates who first receive the information bring him before the
appointed court according to the law; and if a magistrate, after receiving
information, refuses to act, he shall be tried for impiety at the instance
of any one who is willing to vindicate the laws; and if any one be cast,
the court shall estimate the punishment of each act of impiety; and let
all such criminals be imprisoned. There shall be three prisons in the
state: the first of them is to be the common prison in the neighbourhood
of the agora for the safe-keeping of the generality of offenders; another
is to be in the neighbourhood of the nocturnal council, and is to be
called the 'House of Reformation'; another, to be situated in some wild
and desolate region in the centre of the country, shall be called by some
name expressive of retribution. Now, men fall into impiety from three
causes, which have been already mentioned, and from each of these causes
arise two sorts of impiety, in all six, which are worth distinguishing,
and should not all have the same punishment. For he who does not believe
in the Gods, and yet has a righteous nature, hates the wicked and dislikes
and refuses to do injustice, and avoids unrighteous men, and loves the
righteous. But they who besides believing that the world is devoid of Gods
are intemperate, and have at the same time good memories and quick wits,
are worse; although both of them are unbelievers, much less injury is done
by the one than by the other. The one may talk loosely about the Gods and
about sacrifices and oaths, and perhaps by laughing at other men he may
make them like himself, if he be not punished. But the other who holds the
same opinions and is called a clever man, is full of stratagem and deceit
--men of this class deal in prophecy and jugglery of all kinds, and out
of their ranks sometimes come tyrants and demagogues and generals and
hierophants of private mysteries and the Sophists, as they are termed,
with their ingenious devices. There are many kinds of unbelievers, but two
only for whom legislation is required; one the hypocritical sort, whose
crime is deserving of death many times over, while the other needs only
bonds and admonition. In like manner also the notion that the Gods take no
thought of men produces two other sorts of crimes, and the notion that
they may be propitiated produces two more. Assuming these divisions, let
those who have been made what they are only from want of understanding,
and not from malice or an evil nature, be placed by the judge in the House
of Reformation, and ordered to suffer imprisonment during a period of not
less than five years. And in the meantime let them have no intercourse
with the other citizens, except with members of the nocturnal council, and
with them let them converse with a view to the improvement of their soul's
health. And when the time of their imprisonment has expired, if any of
them be of sound mind let him be restored to sane company, but if not, and
if he be condemned a second time, let him be punished with death. As to
that class of monstrous natures who not only believe that there are no
Gods, or that they are negligent, or to be propitiated, but in contempt of
mankind conjure the souls of the living and say that they can conjure the
dead and promise to charm the Gods with sacrifices and prayers, and will
utterly overthrow individuals and whole houses and states for the sake of
money--let him who is guilty of any of these things be condemned by the
court to be bound according to law in the prison which is in the centre of
the land, and let no freeman ever approach him, but let him receive the
rations of food appointed by the guardians of the law from the hands of
the public slaves; and when he is dead let him be cast beyond the borders
unburied, and if any freeman assist in burying him, let him pay the
penalty of impiety to any one who is willing to bring a suit against him.
But if he leaves behind him children who are fit to be citizens, let the
guardians of orphans take care of them, just as they would of any other
orphans, from the day on which their father is convicted.
In all these cases there should be one law, which will make men in general
less liable to transgress in word or deed, and less foolish, because they
will not be allowed to practise religious rites contrary to law. And let
this be the simple form of the law: No man shall have sacred rites in a
private house. When he would sacrifice, let him go to the temples and hand
over his offerings to the priests and priestesses, who see to the sanctity
of such things, and let him pray himself, and let any one who pleases join
with him in prayer. The reason of this is as follows: Gods and temples are
not easily instituted, and to establish them rightly is the work of a
mighty intellect. And women especially, and men too, when they are sick or
in danger, or in any sort of difficulty, or again on their receiving any
good fortune, have a way of consecrating the occasion, vowing sacrifices,
and promising shrines to Gods, demigods, and sons of Gods; and when they
are awakened by terrible apparitions and dreams or remember visions, they
find in altars and temples the remedies of them, and will fill every house
and village with them, placing them in the open air, or wherever they may
have had such visions; and with a view to all these cases we should obey
the law. The law has also regard to the impious, and would not have them
fancy that by the secret performance of these actions--by raising temples
and by building altars in private houses, they can propitiate the God
secretly with sacrifices and prayers, while they are really multiplying
their crimes infinitely, bringing guilt from heaven upon themselves, and
also upon those who permit them, and who are better men than they are; and
the consequence is that the whole state reaps the fruit of their impiety,
which, in a certain sense, is deserved. Assuredly God will not blame the
legislator, who will enact the following law: No one shall possess shrines
of the Gods in private houses, and he who is found to possess them, and
perform any sacred rites not publicly authorised--supposing the offender
to be some man or woman who is not guilty of any other great and impious
crime--shall be informed against by him who is acquainted with the fact,
which shall be announced by him to the guardians of the law; and let them
issue orders that he or she shall carry away their private rites to the
public temples, and if they do not persuade them, let them inflict a
penalty on them until they comply. And if a person be proven guilty of
impiety, not merely from childish levity, but such as grown-up men may be
guilty of, whether he have sacrificed publicly or privately to any Gods,
let him be punished with death, for his sacrifice is impure. Whether the
deed has been done in earnest, or only from childish levity, let the
guardians of the law determine, before they bring the matter into court
and prosecute the offender for impiety.
In the next place, dealings between man and man require to be suitably
regulated. The principle of them is very simple: Thou shalt not, if thou
canst help, touch that which is mine, or remove the least thing which
belongs to me without my consent; and may I be of a sound mind, and do to
others as I would that they should do to me. First, let us speak of
treasure-trove: May I never pray the Gods to find the hidden treasure,
which another has laid up for himself and his family, he not being one of
my ancestors, nor lift, if I should find, such a treasure. And may I never
have any dealings with those who are called diviners, and who in any way
or manner counsel me to take up the deposit entrusted to the earth, for I
should not gain so much in the increase of my possessions, if I take up
the prize, as I should grow in justice and virtue of soul, if I abstain;
and this will be a better possession to me than the other in a better part
of myself; for the possession of justice in the soul is preferable to the
possession of wealth. And of many things it is well said--'Move not the
immovables,' and this may be regarded as one of them. And we shall do well
to believe the common tradition which says, that such deeds prevent a man
from having a family. Now as to him who is careless about having children
and regardless of the legislator, taking up that which neither he
deposited, nor any ancestor of his, without the consent of the depositor,
violating the simplest and noblest of laws which was the enactment of no
mean man: 'Take not up that which was not laid down by thee'--of him, I
say, who despises these two legislators, and takes up, not some small
matter which he has not deposited, but perhaps a great heap of treasure,
what he ought to suffer at the hands of the Gods, God only knows; but I
would have the first person who sees him go and tell the wardens of the
city, if the occurrence has taken place in the city, or if the occurrence
has taken place in the agora he shall tell the wardens of the agora, or if
in the country he shall tell the wardens of the country and their
commanders. When information has been received the city shall send to
Delphi, and, whatever the God answers about the money and the remover of
the money, that the city shall do in obedience to the oracle; the
informer, if he be a freeman, shall have the honour of doing rightly, and
he who informs not, the dishonour of doing wrongly; and if he be a slave
who gives information, let him be freed, as he ought to be, by the state,
which shall give his master the price of him; but if he do not inform he
shall be punished with death. Next in order shall follow a similar law,
which shall apply equally to matters great and small: If a man happens to
leave behind him some part of his property, whether intentionally or
unintentionally, let him who may come upon the left property suffer it to
remain, reflecting that such things are under the protection of the
Goddess of ways, and are dedicated to her by the law. But if any one
defies the law, and takes the property home with him, let him, if the
thing is of little worth, and the man who takes it a slave, be beaten with
many stripes by him who meets him, being a person of not less than thirty
years of age. Or if he be a freeman, in addition to being thought a mean
person and a despiser of the laws, let him pay ten times the value of the
treasure which he has moved to the leaver. And if some one accuses another
of having anything which belongs to him, whether little or much, and the
other admits that he has this thing, but denies that the property in
dispute belongs to the other, if the property be registered with the
magistrates according to law, the claimant shall summon the possessor, who
shall bring it before the magistrates; and when it is brought into court,
if it be registered in the public registers, to which of the litigants it
belonged, let him take it and go his way. Or if the property be registered
as belonging to some one who is not present, whoever will offer sufficient
surety on behalf of the absent person that he will give it up to him,
shall take it away as the representative of the other. But if the property
which is deposited be not registered with the magistrates, let it remain
until the time of trial with three of the eldest of the magistrates; and
if it be an animal which is deposited, then he who loses the suit shall
pay the magistrates for its keep, and they shall determine the cause
within three days.
Any one who is of sound mind may arrest his own slave, and do with him
whatever he will of such things as are lawful; and he may arrest the
runaway slave of any of his friends or kindred with a view to his safe-
keeping. And if any one takes away him who is being carried off as a
slave, intending to liberate him, he who is carrying him off shall let him
go; but he who takes him away shall give three sufficient sureties; and if
he give them, and not without giving them, he may take him away, but if he
take him away after any other manner he shall be deemed guilty of
violence, and being convicted shall pay as a penalty double the amount of
the damages claimed to him who has been deprived of the slave. Any man may
also carry off a freedman, if he do not pay respect or sufficient respect
to him who freed him. Now the respect shall be, that the freedman go three
times in the month to the hearth of the person who freed him, and offer to
do whatever he ought, so far as he can; and he shall agree to make such a
marriage as his former master approves. He shall not be permitted to have
more property than he who gave him liberty, and what more he has shall
belong to his master. The freedman shall not remain in the state more than
twenty years, but like other foreigners shall go away, taking his entire
property with him, unless he has the consent of the magistrates and of his
former master to remain. If a freedman or any other stranger has a
property greater than the census of the third class, at the expiration of
thirty days from the day on which this comes to pass, he shall take that
which is his and go his way, and in this case he shall not be allowed to
remain any longer by the magistrates. And if any one disobeys this
regulation, and is brought into court and convicted, he shall be punished
with death, and his property shall be confiscated. Suits about these
matters shall take place before the tribes, unless the plaintiff and
defendant have got rid of the accusation either before their neighbours or
before judges chosen by them. If a man lay claim to any animal or anything
else which he declares to be his, let the possessor refer to the seller or
to some honest and trustworthy person, who has given, or in some
legitimate way made over the property to him; if he be a citizen or a
metic, sojourning in the city, within thirty days, or, if the property
have been delivered to him by a stranger, within five months, of which the
middle month shall include the summer solstice. When goods are exchanged
by selling and buying, a man shall deliver them, and receive the price of
them, at a fixed place in the agora, and have done with the matter; but he
shall not buy or sell anywhere else, nor give credit. And if in any other
manner or in any other place there be an exchange of one thing for
another, and the seller give credit to the man who buys from him, he must
do this on the understanding that the law gives no protection in cases of
things sold not in accordance with these regulations. Again, as to
contributions, any man who likes may go about collecting contributions as
a friend among friends, but if any difference arises about the collection,
he is to act on the understanding that the law gives no protection in such
cases. He who sells anything above the value of fifty drachmas shall be
required to remain in the city for ten days, and the purchaser shall be
informed of the house of the seller, with a view to the sort of charges
which are apt to arise in such cases, and the restitutions which the law
allows. And let legal restitution be on this wise: If a man sells a slave
who is in a consumption, or who has the disease of the stone, or of
strangury, or epilepsy, or some other tedious and incurable disorder of
body or mind, which is not discernible to the ordinary man, if the
purchaser be a physician or trainer, he shall have no right of
restitution; nor shall there be any right of restitution if the seller has
told the truth beforehand to the buyer. But if a skilled person sells to
another who is not skilled, let the buyer appeal for restitution within
six months, except in the case of epilepsy, and then the appeal may be
made within a year. The cause shall be determined by such physicians as
the parties may agree to choose; and the defendant, if he lose the suit,
shall pay double the price at which he sold. If a private person sell to
another private person, he shall have the right of restitution, and the
decision shall be given as before, but the defendant, if he be cast, shall
only pay back the price of the slave. If a person sells a homicide to
another, and they both know of the fact, let there be no restitution in
such a case, but if he do not know of the fact, there shall be a right of
restitution, whenever the buyer makes the discovery; and the decision
shall rest with the five youngest guardians of the law, and if the
decision be that the seller was cognisant of the fact, he shall purify the
house of the purchaser, according to the law of the interpreters, and
shall pay back three times the purchase-money.
If a man exchanges either money for money, or anything whatever for
anything else, either with or without life, let him give and receive them
genuine and unadulterated, in accordance with the law. And let us have a
prelude about all this sort of roguery, like the preludes of our other
laws. Every man should regard adulteration as of one and the same class
with falsehood and deceit, concerning which the many are too fond of
saying that at proper times and places the practice may often be right.
But they leave the occasion, and the when, and the where, undefined and
unsettled, and from this want of definiteness in their language they do a
great deal of harm to themselves and to others. Now a legislator ought not
to leave the matter undetermined; he ought to prescribe some limit, either
greater or less. Let this be the rule prescribed: No one shall call the
Gods to witness, when he says or does anything false or deceitful or
dishonest, unless he would be the most hateful of mankind to them. And he
is most hateful to them who takes a false oath, and pays no heed to the
Gods; and in the next degree, he who tells a falsehood in the presence of
his superiors. Now better men are the superiors of worse men, and in
general elders are the superiors of the young; wherefore also parents are
the superiors of their offspring, and men of women and children, and
rulers of their subjects; for all men ought to reverence any one who is in
any position of authority, and especially those who are in state offices.
And this is the reason why I have spoken of these matters. For every one
who is guilty of adulteration in the agora tells a falsehood, and
deceives, and when he invokes the Gods, according to the customs and
cautions of the wardens of the agora, he does but swear without any
respect for God or man. Certainly, it is an excellent rule not lightly to
defile the names of the Gods, after the fashion of men in general, who
care little about piety and purity in their religious actions. But if a
man will not conform to this rule, let the law be as follows: He who sells
anything in the agora shall not ask two prices for that which he sells,
but he shall ask one price, and if he do not obtain this, he shall take
away his goods; and on that day he shall not value them either at more or
less; and there shall be no praising of any goods, or oath taken about
them. If a person disobeys this command, any citizen who is present, not
being less than thirty years of age, may with impunity chastise and beat
the swearer, but if instead of obeying the laws he takes no heed, he shall
be liable to the charge of having betrayed them. If a man sells any
adulterated goods and will not obey these regulations, he who knows and
can prove the fact, and does prove it in the presence of the magistrates,
if he be a slave or a metic, shall have the adulterated goods; but if he
be a citizen, and do not pursue the charge, he shall be called a rogue,
and deemed to have robbed the Gods of the agora; or if he proves the
charge, he shall dedicate the goods to the Gods of the agora. He who is
proved to have sold any adulterated goods, in addition to losing the goods
themselves, shall be beaten with stripes--a stripe for a drachma,
according to the price of the goods; and the herald shall proclaim in the
agora the offence for which he is going to be beaten. The wardens of the
agora and the guardians of the law shall obtain information from
experienced persons about the rogueries and adulterations of the sellers,
and shall write up what the seller ought and ought not to do in each case;
and let them inscribe their laws on a column in front of the court of the
wardens of the agora, that they may be clear instructors of those who have
business in the agora. Enough has been said in what has preceded about the
wardens of the city, and if anything seems to be wanting, let them
communicate with the guardians of the law, and write down the omission,
and place on a column in the court of the wardens of the city the primary
and secondary regulations which are laid down for them about their office.
After the practices of adulteration naturally follow the practices of
retail trade. Concerning these, we will first of all give a word of
counsel and reason, and the law shall come afterwards. Retail trade in a
city is not by nature intended to do any harm, but quite the contrary; for
is not he a benefactor who reduces the inequalities and
incommensurabilities of goods to equality and common measure? And this is
what the power of money accomplishes, and the merchant may be said to be
appointed for this purpose. The hireling and the tavern-keeper, and many
other occupations, some of them more and others less seemly--all alike
have this object--they seek to satisfy our needs and equalize our
possessions. Let us then endeavour to see what has brought retail trade
into ill-odour, and wherein lies the dishonour and unseemliness of it, in
order that if not entirely, we may yet partially, cure the evil by
legislation. To effect this is no easy matter, and requires a great deal
CLEINIAS: What do you mean?
ATHENIAN: Dear Cleinias, the class of men is small--they must have been
rarely gifted by nature, and trained by education--who, when assailed by
wants and desires, are able to hold out and observe moderation, and when
they might make a great deal of money are sober in their wishes, and
prefer a moderate to a large gain. But the mass of mankind are the very
opposite: their desires are unbounded, and when they might gain in
moderation they prefer gains without limit; wherefore all that relates to
retail trade, and merchandise, and the keeping of taverns, is denounced
and numbered among dishonourable things. For if what I trust may never be
and will not be, we were to compel, if I may venture to say a ridiculous
thing, the best men everywhere to keep taverns for a time, or carry on
retail trade, or do anything of that sort; or if, in consequence of some
fate or necessity, the best women were compelled to follow similar
callings, then we should know how agreeable and pleasant all these things
are; and if all such occupations were managed on incorrupt principles,
they would be honoured as we honour a mother or a nurse. But now that a
man goes to desert places and builds houses which can only be reached by
long journeys, for the sake of retail trade, and receives strangers who
are in need at the welcome resting-place, and gives them peace and calm
when they are tossed by the storm, or cool shade in the heat; and then
instead of behaving to them as friends, and showing the duties of
hospitality to his guests, treats them as enemies and captives who are at
his mercy, and will not release them until they have paid the most unjust,
abominable, and extortionate ransom--these are the sort of practises, and
foul evils they are, which cast a reproach upon the succour of adversity.
And the legislator ought always to be devising a remedy for evils of this
nature. There is an ancient saying, which is also a true one--'To fight
against two opponents is a difficult thing,' as is seen in diseases and in
many other cases. And in this case also the war is against two enemies--
wealth and poverty; one of whom corrupts the soul of man with luxury,
while the other drives him by pain into utter shamelessness. What remedy
can a city of sense find against this disease? In the first place, they
must have as few retail traders as possible; and in the second place, they
must assign the occupation to that class of men whose corruption will be
the least injury to the state; and in the third place, they must devise
some way whereby the followers of these occupations themselves will not
readily fall into habits of unbridled shamelessness and meanness.
After this preface let our law run as follows, and may fortune favour us:
No landowner among the Magnetes, whose city the God is restoring and
resettling--no one, that is, of the 5040 families, shall become a retail
trader either voluntarily or involuntarily; neither shall he be a
merchant, or do any service for private persons unless they equally serve
him, except for his father or his mother, and their fathers and mothers;
and in general for his elders who are freemen, and whom he serves as a
freeman. Now it is difficult to determine accurately the things which are
worthy or unworthy of a freeman, but let those who have obtained the prize
of virtue give judgment about them in accordance with their feelings of
right and wrong. He who in any way shares in the illiberality of retail
trades may be indicted for dishonouring his race by any one who likes,
before those who have been judged to be the first in virtue; and if he
appear to throw dirt upon his father's house by an unworthy occupation,
let him be imprisoned for a year and abstain from that sort of thing; and
if he repeat the offence, for two years; and every time that he is
convicted let the length of his imprisonment be doubled. This shall be the
second law: He who engages in retail trade must be either a metic or a
stranger. And a third law shall be: In order that the retail trader who
dwells in our city may be as good or as little bad as possible, the
guardians of the law shall remember that they are not only guardians of
those who may be easily watched and prevented from becoming lawless or
bad, because they are well-born and bred; but still more should they have
a watch over those who are of another sort, and follow pursuits which have
a very strong tendency to make men bad. And, therefore, in respect of the
multifarious occupations of retail trade, that is to say, in respect of
such of them as are allowed to remain, because they seem to be quite
necessary in a state--about these the guardians of the law should meet and
take counsel with those who have experience of the several kinds of retail
trade, as we before commanded concerning adulteration (which is a matter
akin to this), and when they meet they shall consider what amount of
receipts, after deducting expenses, will produce a moderate gain to the
retail trades, and they shall fix in writing and strictly maintain what
they find to be the right percentage of profit; this shall be seen to by
the wardens of the agora, and by the wardens of the city, and by the
wardens of the country. And so retail trade will benefit every one, and do
the least possible injury to those in the state who practise it.
When a man makes an agreement which he does not fulfil, unless the
agreement be of a nature which the law or a vote of the assembly does not
allow, or which he has made under the influence of some unjust compulsion,
or which he is prevented from fulfilling against his will by some
unexpected chance, the other party may go to law with him in the courts of
the tribes, for not having completed his agreement, if the parties are not
able previously to come to terms before arbiters or before their
neighbours. The class of craftsmen who have furnished human life with the
arts is dedicated to Hephaestus and Athene; and there is a class of
craftsmen who preserve the works of all craftsmen by arts of defence, the
votaries of Ares and Athene, to which divinities they too are rightly
dedicated. All these continue through life serving the country and the
people; some of them are leaders in battle; others make for hire
implements and works, and they ought not to deceive in such matters, out
of respect to the Gods who are their ancestors. If any craftsman through
indolence omit to execute his work in a given time, not reverencing the
God who gives him the means of life, but considering, foolish fellow, that
he is his own God and will let him off easily, in the first place, he
shall suffer at the hands of the God, and in the second place, the law
shall follow in a similar spirit. He shall owe to him who contracted with
him the price of the works which he has failed in performing, and he shall
begin again and execute them gratis in the given time. When a man
undertakes a work, the law gives him the same advice which was given to
the seller, that he should not attempt to raise the price, but simply ask
the value; this the law enjoins also on the contractor; for the craftsman
assuredly knows the value of his work. Wherefore, in free states the man
of art ought not to attempt to impose upon private individuals by the help
of his art, which is by nature a true thing; and he who is wronged in a
matter of this sort, shall have a right of action against the party who
has wronged him. And if any one lets out work to a craftsman, and does not
pay him duly according to the lawful agreement, disregarding Zeus the
guardian of the city and Athene, who are the partners of the state, and
overthrows the foundations of society for the sake of a little gain, in
his case let the law and the Gods maintain the common bonds of the state.
And let him who, having already received the work in exchange, does not
pay the price in the time agreed, pay double the price; and if a year has
elapsed, although interest is not to be taken on loans, yet for every
drachma which he owes to the contractor let him pay a monthly interest of
an obol. Suits about these matters are to be decided by the courts of the
tribes; and by the way, since we have mentioned craftsmen at all, we must
not forget that other craft of war, in which generals and tacticians are
the craftsmen, who undertake voluntarily or involuntarily the work of our
safety, as other craftsmen undertake other public works--if they execute
their work well the law will never tire of praising him who gives them
those honours which are the just rewards of the soldier; but if any one,
having already received the benefit of any noble service in war, does not
make the due return of honour, the law will blame him. Let this then be
the law, having an ingredient of praise, not compelling but advising the
great body of the citizens to honour the brave men who are the saviours of
the whole state, whether by their courage or by their military skill--they
should honour them, I say, in the second place; for the first and highest
tribute of respect is to be given to those who are able above other men to
honour the words of good legislators.
The greater part of the dealings between man and man have been now
regulated by us with the exception of those that relate to orphans and the
supervision of orphans by their guardians. These follow next in order, and
must be regulated in some way. But to arrive at them we must begin with
the testamentary wishes of the dying and the case of those who may have
happened to die intestate. When I said, Cleinias, that we must regulate
them, I had in my mind the difficulty and perplexity in which all such
matters are involved. You cannot leave them unregulated, for individuals
would make regulations at variance with one another, and repugnant to the
laws and habits of the living and to their own previous habits, if a
person were simply allowed to make any will which he pleased, and this
were to take effect in whatever state he may have been at the end of his
life; for most of us lose our senses in a manner, and feel crushed when we
think that we are about to die.
CLEINIAS: What do you mean, Stranger?
ATHENIAN: O Cleinias, a man when he is about to die is an intractable
creature, and is apt to use language which causes a great deal of anxiety
and trouble to the legislator.
CLEINIAS: In what way?
ATHENIAN: He wants to have the entire control of all his property, and
will use angry words.
CLEINIAS: Such as what?
ATHENIAN: O ye Gods, he will say, how monstrous that I am not allowed to
give, or not to give, my own to whom I will--less to him who has been bad
to me, and more to him who has been good to me, and whose badness and
goodness have been tested by me in time of sickness or in old age and in
every other sort of fortune!