Part 5 out of 11
imposes upon them no tax but good behaviour, whereas at Athens they were
required to pay twelve drachmae per annum, and to have a patron: on the
other hand, he only allows them to reside in the Magnesian state on
condition of following a trade; they were required to depart when their
property exceeded that of the third class, and in any case after a
residence of twenty years, unless they could show that they had conferred
some great benefit on the state. This privileged position reflects that of
the isoteleis at Athens, who were excused from the metoikion. It is
Plato's greatest concession to the metic, as the bestowal of freedom is
his greatest concession to the slave.
Lastly, there is a more general point of view under which the Laws of
Plato may be considered,--the principles of Jurisprudence which are
contained in them. These are not formally announced, but are scattered up
and down, to be observed by the reflective reader for himself. Some of
them are only the common principles which all courts of justice have
gathered from experience; others are peculiar and characteristic. That
judges should sit at fixed times and hear causes in a regular order, that
evidence should be laid before them, that false witnesses should be
disallowed, and corruption punished, that defendants should be heard
before they are convicted,--these are the rules, not only of the Hellenic
courts, but of courts of law in all ages and countries. But there are also
points which are peculiar, and in which ancient jurisprudence differs
considerably from modern; some of them are of great importance...It could
not be said at Athens, nor was it ever contemplated by Plato, that all
men, including metics and slaves, should be equal 'in the eye of the law.'
There was some law for the slave, but not much; no adequate protection was
given him against the cruelty of his master...It was a singular privilege
granted, both by the Athenian and Magnesian law, to a murdered man, that
he might, before he died, pardon his murderer, in which case no legal
steps were afterwards to be taken against him. This law is the remnant of
an age in which the punishment of offences against the person was the
concern rather of the individual and his kinsmen than of the
state...Plato's division of crimes into voluntary and involuntary and
those done from passion, only partially agrees with the distinction which
modern law has drawn between murder and manslaughter; his attempt to
analyze them is confused by the Socratic paradox, that 'All vice is
involuntary'...It is singular that both in the Laws and at Athens theft is
commonly punished by a twofold restitution of the article stolen. The
distinction between civil and criminal courts or suits was not yet
recognized...Possession gives a right of property after a certain
time...The religious aspect under which certain offences were regarded
greatly interfered with a just and natural estimate of their guilt...As
among ourselves, the intent to murder was distinguished by Plato from
actual murder...We note that both in Plato and the laws of Athens, libel
in the market-place and personality in the theatre were forbidden...Both
in Plato and Athenian law, as in modern times, the accomplice of a crime
is to be punished as well as the principal...Plato does not allow a
witness in a cause to act as a judge of it...Oaths are not to be taken by
the parties to a suit...Both at Athens and in Plato's Laws capital
punishment for murder was not to be inflicted, if the offender was willing
to go into exile...Respect for the dead, duty towards parents, are to be
enforced by the law as well as by public opinion...Plato proclaims the
noble sentiment that the object of all punishment is the improvement of
the offender... Finally, he repeats twice over, as with the voice of a
prophet, that the crimes of the fathers are not to be visited upon the
children. In this respect he is nobly distinguished from the Oriental, and
indeed from the spirit of Athenian law (compare Telfy,--dei kai autous kai
tous ek touton atimous einai), as the Hebrew in the age of Ezekial is from
the Jewish people of former ages.
Of all Plato's provisions the object is to bring the practice of the law
more into harmony with reason and philosophy; to secure impartiality, and
while acknowledging that every citizen has a right to share in the
administration of justice, to counteract the tendency of the courts to
become mere popular assemblies.
Thus we have arrived at the end of the writings of Plato, and at the last
stage of philosophy which was really his. For in what followed, which we
chiefly gather from the uncertain intimations of Aristotle, the spirit of
the master no longer survived. The doctrine of Ideas passed into one of
numbers; instead of advancing from the abstract to the concrete, the
theories of Plato were taken out of their context, and either asserted or
refuted with a provoking literalism; the Socratic or Platonic element in
his teaching was absorbed into the Pythagorean or Megarian. His poetry was
converted into mysticism; his unsubstantial visions were assailed secundum
artem by the rules of logic. His political speculations lost their
interest when the freedom of Hellas had passed away. Of all his writings
the Laws were the furthest removed from the traditions of the Platonic
school in the next generation. Both his political and his metaphysical
philosophy are for the most part misinterpreted by Aristotle. The best of
him--his love of truth, and his 'contemplation of all time and all
existence,' was soonest lost; and some of his greatest thoughts have slept
in the ear of mankind almost ever since they were first uttered.
We have followed him during his forty or fifty years of authorship, from
the beginning when he first attempted to depict the teaching of Socrates
in a dramatic form, down to the time at which the character of Socrates
had disappeared, and we have the latest reflections of Plato's own mind
upon Hellas and upon philosophy. He, who was 'the last of the poets,' in
his book of Laws writes prose only; he has himself partly fallen under the
rhetorical influences which in his earlier dialogues he was combating. The
progress of his writings is also the history of his life; we have no other
authentic life of him. They are the true self of the philosopher, stripped
of the accidents of time and place. The great effort which he makes is,
first, to realize abstractions, secondly, to connect them. In the attempt
to realize them, he was carried into a transcendental region in which he
isolated them from experience, and we pass out of the range of science
into poetry or fiction. The fancies of mythology for a time cast a veil
over the gulf which divides phenomena from onta (Meno, Phaedrus,
Symposium, Phaedo). In his return to earth Plato meets with a difficulty
which has long ceased to be a difficulty to us. He cannot understand how
these obstinate, unmanageable ideas, residing alone in their heaven of
abstraction, can be either combined with one another, or adapted to
phenomena (Parmenides, Philebus, Sophist). That which is the most familiar
process of our own minds, to him appeared to be the crowning achievement
of the dialectical art. The difficulty which in his own generation
threatened to be the destruction of philosophy, he has rendered unmeaning
and ridiculous. For by his conquests in the world of mind our thoughts are
widened, and he has furnished us with new dialectical instruments which
are of greater compass and power. We have endeavoured to see him as he
truly was, a great original genius struggling with unequal conditions of
knowledge, not prepared with a system nor evolving in a series of
dialogues ideas which he had long conceived, but contradictory, enquiring
as he goes along, following the argument, first from one point of view and
then from another, and therefore arriving at opposite conclusions,
hovering around the light, and sometimes dazzled with excess of light, but
always moving in the same element of ideal truth. We have seen him also in
his decline, when the wings of his imagination have begun to droop, but
his experience of life remains, and he turns away from the contemplation
of the eternal to take a last sad look at human affairs.
And so having brought into the world 'noble children' (Phaedr.), he rests
from the labours of authorship. More than two thousand two hundred years
have passed away since he returned to the place of Apollo and the Muses.
Yet the echo of his words continues to be heard among men, because of all
philosophers he has the most melodious voice. He is the inspired prophet
or teacher who can never die, the only one in whom the outward form
adequately represents the fair soul within; in whom the thoughts of all
who went before him are reflected and of all who come after him are partly
anticipated. Other teachers of philosophy are dried up and withered,--
after a few centuries they have become dust; but he is fresh and blooming,
and is always begetting new ideas in the minds of men. They are one-sided
and abstract; but he has many sides of wisdom. Nor is he always consistent
with himself, because he is always moving onward, and knows that there are
many more things in philosophy than can be expressed in words, and that
truth is greater than consistency. He who approaches him in the most
reverent spirit shall reap most of the fruit of his wisdom; he who reads
him by the light of ancient commentators will have the least understanding
We may see him with the eye of the mind in the groves of the Academy, or
on the banks of the Ilissus, or in the streets of Athens, alone or walking
with Socrates, full of those thoughts which have since become the common
possession of mankind. Or we may compare him to a statue hid away in some
temple of Zeus or Apollo, no longer existing on earth, a statue which has
a look as of the God himself. Or we may once more imagine him following in
another state of being the great company of heaven which he beheld of old
in a vision (Phaedr.). So, 'partly trifling, but with a certain degree of
seriousness' (Symp.), we linger around the memory of a world which has
passed away (Phaedr.).
Translated by Benjamin Jowett
PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: An Athenian Stranger, Cleinias (a Cretan),
Megillus (a Lacedaemonian).
ATHENIAN: Tell me, Strangers, is a God or some man supposed to be the
author of your laws?
CLEINIAS: A God, Stranger; in very truth a God: among us Cretans he is
said to have been Zeus, but in Lacedaemon, whence our friend here comes, I
believe they would say that Apollo is their lawgiver: would they not,
ATHENIAN: And do you, Cleinias, believe, as Homer tells, that every ninth
year Minos went to converse with his Olympian sire, and was inspired by
him to make laws for your cities?
CLEINIAS: Yes, that is our tradition; and there was Rhadamanthus, a
brother of his, with whose name you are familiar; he is reputed to have
been the justest of men, and we Cretans are of opinion that he earned this
reputation from his righteous administration of justice when he was alive.
ATHENIAN: Yes, and a noble reputation it was, worthy of a son of Zeus. As
you and Megillus have been trained in these institutions, I dare say that
you will not be unwilling to give an account of your government and laws;
on our way we can pass the time pleasantly in talking about them, for I am
told that the distance from Cnosus to the cave and temple of Zeus is
considerable; and doubtless there are shady places under the lofty trees,
which will protect us from this scorching sun. Being no longer young, we
may often stop to rest beneath them, and get over the whole journey
without difficulty, beguiling the time by conversation.
CLEINIAS: Yes, Stranger, and if we proceed onward we shall come to groves
of cypresses, which are of rare height and beauty, and there are green
meadows, in which we may repose and converse.
ATHENIAN: Very good.
CLEINIAS: Very good, indeed; and still better when we see them; let us
move on cheerily.
ATHENIAN: I am willing--And first, I want to know why the law has ordained
that you shall have common meals and gymnastic exercises, and wear arms.
CLEINIAS: I think, Stranger, that the aim of our institutions is easily
intelligible to any one. Look at the character of our country: Crete is
not like Thessaly, a large plain; and for this reason they have horsemen
in Thessaly, and we have runners--the inequality of the ground in our
country is more adapted to locomotion on foot; but then, if you have
runners you must have light arms--no one can carry a heavy weight when
running, and bows and arrows are convenient because they are light. Now
all these regulations have been made with a view to war, and the
legislator appears to me to have looked to this in all his arrangements:--
the common meals, if I am not mistaken, were instituted by him for a
similar reason, because he saw that while they are in the field the
citizens are by the nature of the case compelled to take their meals
together for the sake of mutual protection. He seems to me to have thought
the world foolish in not understanding that all men are always at war with
one another; and if in war there ought to be common meals and certain
persons regularly appointed under others to protect an army, they should
be continued in peace. For what men in general term peace would be said by
him to be only a name; in reality every city is in a natural state of war
with every other, not indeed proclaimed by heralds, but everlasting. And
if you look closely, you will find that this was the intention of the
Cretan legislator; all institutions, private as well as public, were
arranged by him with a view to war; in giving them he was under the
impression that no possessions or institutions are of any value to him who
is defeated in battle; for all the good things of the conquered pass into
the hands of the conquerors.
ATHENIAN: You appear to me, Stranger, to have been thoroughly trained in
the Cretan institutions, and to be well informed about them; will you tell
me a little more explicitly what is the principle of government which you
would lay down? You seem to imagine that a well-governed state ought to be
so ordered as to conquer all other states in war: am I right in supposing
this to be your meaning?
CLEINIAS: Certainly; and our Lacedaemonian friend, if I am not mistaken,
will agree with me.
MEGILLUS: Why, my good friend, how could any Lacedaemonian say anything
ATHENIAN: And is what you say applicable only to states, or also to
CLEINIAS: To both alike.
ATHENIAN: The case is the same?
ATHENIAN: And in the village will there be the same war of family against
family, and of individual against individual?
CLEINIAS: The same.
ATHENIAN: And should each man conceive himself to be his own enemy:--what
shall we say?
CLEINIAS: O Athenian Stranger--inhabitant of Attica I will not call you,
for you seem to deserve rather to be named after the goddess herself,
because you go back to first principles,--you have thrown a light upon the
argument, and will now be better able to understand what I was just
saying,--that all men are publicly one another's enemies, and each man
privately his own.
(ATHENIAN: My good sir, what do you mean?)--
CLEINIAS:...Moreover, there is a victory and defeat--the first and best of
victories, the lowest and worst of defeats--which each man gains or
sustains at the hands, not of another, but of himself; this shows that
there is a war against ourselves going on within every one of us.
ATHENIAN: Let us now reverse the order of the argument: Seeing that every
individual is either his own superior or his own inferior, may we say that
there is the same principle in the house, the village, and the state?
CLEINIAS: You mean that in each of them there is a principle of
superiority or inferiority to self?
CLEINIAS: You are quite right in asking the question, for there certainly
is such a principle, and above all in states; and the state in which the
better citizens win a victory over the mob and over the inferior classes
may be truly said to be better than itself, and may be justly praised,
where such a victory is gained, or censured in the opposite case.
ATHENIAN: Whether the better is ever really conquered by the worse, is a
question which requires more discussion, and may be therefore left for the
present. But I now quite understand your meaning when you say that
citizens who are of the same race and live in the same cities may unjustly
conspire, and having the superiority in numbers may overcome and enslave
the few just; and when they prevail, the state may be truly called its own
inferior and therefore bad; and when they are defeated, its own superior
and therefore good.
CLEINIAS: Your remark, Stranger, is a paradox, and yet we cannot possibly
ATHENIAN: Here is another case for consideration;--in a family there may
be several brothers, who are the offspring of a single pair; very possibly
the majority of them may be unjust, and the just may be in a minority.
CLEINIAS: Very possibly.
ATHENIAN: And you and I ought not to raise a question of words as to
whether this family and household are rightly said to be superior when
they conquer, and inferior when they are conquered; for we are not now
considering what may or may not be the proper or customary way of
speaking, but we are considering the natural principles of right and wrong
CLEINIAS: What you say, Stranger, is most true.
MEGILLUS: Quite excellent, in my opinion, as far as we have gone.
ATHENIAN: Again; might there not be a judge over these brethren, of whom
we were speaking?
ATHENIAN: Now, which would be the better judge--one who destroyed the bad
and appointed the good to govern themselves; or one who, while allowing
the good to govern, let the bad live, and made them voluntarily submit? Or
third, I suppose, in the scale of excellence might be placed a judge, who,
finding the family distracted, not only did not destroy any one, but
reconciled them to one another for ever after, and gave them laws which
they mutually observed, and was able to keep them friends.
CLEINIAS: The last would be by far the best sort of judge and legislator.
ATHENIAN: And yet the aim of all the laws which he gave would be the
reverse of war.
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: And will he who constitutes the state and orders the life of man
have in view external war, or that kind of intestine war called civil,
which no one, if he could prevent, would like to have occurring in his own
state; and when occurring, every one would wish to be quit of as soon as
CLEINIAS: He would have the latter chiefly in view.
ATHENIAN: And would he prefer that this civil war should be terminated by
the destruction of one of the parties, and by the victory of the other, or
that peace and friendship should be re-established, and that, being
reconciled, they should give their attention to foreign enemies?
CLEINIAS: Every one would desire the latter in the case of his own state.
ATHENIAN: And would not that also be the desire of the legislator?
ATHENIAN: And would not every one always make laws for the sake of the
CLEINIAS: To be sure.
ATHENIAN: But war, whether external or civil, is not the best, and the
need of either is to be deprecated; but peace with one another, and good
will, are best. Nor is the victory of the state over itself to be regarded
as a really good thing, but as a necessity; a man might as well say that
the body was in the best state when sick and purged by medicine,
forgetting that there is also a state of the body which needs no purge.
And in like manner no one can be a true statesman, whether he aims at the
happiness of the individual or state, who looks only, or first of all, to
external warfare; nor will he ever be a sound legislator who orders peace
for the sake of war, and not war for the sake of peace.
CLEINIAS: I suppose that there is truth, Stranger, in that remark of
yours; and yet I am greatly mistaken if war is not the entire aim and
object of our own institutions, and also of the Lacedaemonian.
ATHENIAN: I dare say; but there is no reason why we should rudely quarrel
with one another about your legislators, instead of gently questioning
them, seeing that both we and they are equally in earnest. Please follow
me and the argument closely:--And first I will put forward Tyrtaeus, an
Athenian by birth, but also a Spartan citizen, who of all men was most
eager about war: Well, he says,
'I sing not, I care not, about any man,
even if he were the richest of men, and possessed every good (and then he
gives a whole list of them), if he be not at all times a brave warrior.' I
imagine that you, too, must have heard his poems; our Lacedaemonian friend
has probably heard more than enough of them.
MEGILLUS: Very true.
CLEINIAS: And they have found their way from Lacedaemon to Crete.
ATHENIAN: Come now and let us all join in asking this question of
Tyrtaeus: O most divine poet, we will say to him, the excellent praise
which you have bestowed on those who excel in war sufficiently proves that
you are wise and good, and I and Megillus and Cleinias of Cnosus do, as I
believe, entirely agree with you. But we should like to be quite sure that
we are speaking of the same men; tell us, then, do you agree with us in
thinking that there are two kinds of war; or what would you say? A far
inferior man to Tyrtaeus would have no difficulty in replying quite truly,
that war is of two kinds,--one which is universally called civil war, and
is, as we were just now saying, of all wars the worst; the other, as we
should all admit, in which we fall out with other nations who are of a
different race, is a far milder form of warfare.
CLEINIAS: Certainly, far milder.
ATHENIAN: Well, now, when you praise and blame war in this high-flown
strain, whom are you praising or blaming, and to which kind of war are you
referring? I suppose that you must mean foreign war, if I am to judge from
expressions of yours in which you say that you abominate those
'Who refuse to look upon fields of blood, and will not draw near and
strike at their enemies.'
And we shall naturally go on to say to him,--You, Tyrtaeus, as it seems,
praise those who distinguish themselves in external and foreign war; and
he must admit this.
ATHENIAN: They are good; but we say that there are still better men whose
virtue is displayed in the greatest of all battles. And we too have a poet
whom we summon as a witness, Theognis, citizen of Megara in Sicily:
'Cyrnus,' he says, 'he who is faithful in a civil broil is worth his
weight in gold and silver.'
And such an one is far better, as we affirm, than the other in a more
difficult kind of war, much in the same degree as justice and temperance
and wisdom, when united with courage, are better than courage only; for a
man cannot be faithful and good in civil strife without having all virtue.
But in the war of which Tyrtaeus speaks, many a mercenary soldier will
take his stand and be ready to die at his post, and yet they are generally
and almost without exception insolent, unjust, violent men, and the most
senseless of human beings. You will ask what the conclusion is, and what I
am seeking to prove: I maintain that the divine legislator of Crete, like
any other who is worthy of consideration, will always and above all things
in making laws have regard to the greatest virtue; which, according to
Theognis, is loyalty in the hour of danger, and may be truly called
perfect justice. Whereas, that virtue which Tyrtaeus highly praises is
well enough, and was praised by the poet at the right time, yet in place
and dignity may be said to be only fourth rate (i.e., it ranks after
justice, temperance, and wisdom.).
CLEINIAS: Stranger, we are degrading our inspired lawgiver to a rank which
is far beneath him.
ATHENIAN: Nay, I think that we degrade not him but ourselves, if we
imagine that Lycurgus and Minos laid down laws both in Lacedaemon and
Crete mainly with a view to war.
CLEINIAS: What ought we to say then?
ATHENIAN: What truth and what justice require of us, if I am not mistaken,
when speaking in behalf of divine excellence;--that the legislator when
making his laws had in view not a part only, and this the lowest part of
virtue, but all virtue, and that he devised classes of laws answering to
the kinds of virtue; not in the way in which modern inventors of laws make
the classes, for they only investigate and offer laws whenever a want is
felt, and one man has a class of laws about allotments and heiresses,
another about assaults; others about ten thousand other such matters. But
we maintain that the right way of examining into laws is to proceed as we
have now done, and I admired the spirit of your exposition; for you were
quite right in beginning with virtue, and saying that this was the aim of
the giver of the law, but I thought that you went wrong when you added
that all his legislation had a view only to a part, and the least part of
virtue, and this called forth my subsequent remarks. Will you allow me
then to explain how I should have liked to have heard you expound the
CLEINIAS: By all means.
ATHENIAN: You ought to have said, Stranger--The Cretan laws are with
reason famous among the Hellenes; for they fulfil the object of laws,
which is to make those who use them happy; and they confer every sort of
good. Now goods are of two kinds: there are human and there are divine
goods, and the human hang upon the divine; and the state which attains the
greater, at the same time acquires the less, or, not having the greater,
has neither. Of the lesser goods the first is health, the second beauty,
the third strength, including swiftness in running and bodily agility
generally, and the fourth is wealth, not the blind god (Pluto), but one
who is keen of sight, if only he has wisdom for his companion. For wisdom
is chief and leader of the divine class of goods, and next follows
temperance; and from the union of these two with courage springs justice,
and fourth in the scale of virtue is courage. All these naturally take
precedence of the other goods, and this is the order in which the
legislator must place them, and after them he will enjoin the rest of his
ordinances on the citizens with a view to these, the human looking to the
divine, and the divine looking to their leader mind. Some of his
ordinances will relate to contracts of marriage which they make one with
another, and then to the procreation and education of children, both male
and female; the duty of the lawgiver will be to take charge of his
citizens, in youth and age, and at every time of life, and to give them
punishments and rewards; and in reference to all their intercourse with
one another, he ought to consider their pains and pleasures and desires,
and the vehemence of all their passions; he should keep a watch over them,
and blame and praise them rightly by the mouth of the laws themselves.
Also with regard to anger and terror, and the other perturbations of the
soul, which arise out of misfortune, and the deliverances from them which
prosperity brings, and the experiences which come to men in diseases, or
in war, or poverty, or the opposite of these; in all these states he
should determine and teach what is the good and evil of the condition of
each. In the next place, the legislator has to be careful how the citizens
make their money and in what way they spend it, and to have an eye to
their mutual contracts and dissolutions of contracts, whether voluntary or
involuntary: he should see how they order all this, and consider where
justice as well as injustice is found or is wanting in their several
dealings with one another; and honour those who obey the law, and impose
fixed penalties on those who disobey, until the round of civil life is
ended, and the time has come for the consideration of the proper funeral
rites and honours of the dead. And the lawgiver reviewing his work, will
appoint guardians to preside over these things,--some who walk by
intelligence, others by true opinion only, and then mind will bind
together all his ordinances and show them to be in harmony with temperance
and justice, and not with wealth or ambition. This is the spirit,
Stranger, in which I was and am desirous that you should pursue the
subject. And I want to know the nature of all these things, and how they
are arranged in the laws of Zeus, as they are termed, and in those of the
Pythian Apollo, which Minos and Lycurgus gave; and how the order of them
is discovered to his eyes, who has experience in laws gained either by
study or habit, although they are far from being self-evident to the rest
of mankind like ourselves.
CLEINIAS: How shall we proceed, Stranger?
ATHENIAN: I think that we must begin again as before, and first consider
the habit of courage; and then we will go on and discuss another and then
another form of virtue, if you please. In this way we shall have a model
of the whole; and with these and similar discourses we will beguile the
way. And when we have gone through all the virtues, we will show, by the
grace of God, that the institutions of which I was speaking look to
MEGILLUS: Very good; and suppose that you first criticize this praiser of
Zeus and the laws of Crete.
ATHENIAN: I will try to criticize you and myself, as well as him, for the
argument is a common concern. Tell me,--were not first the syssitia, and
secondly the gymnasia, invented by your legislator with a view to war?
ATHENIAN: And what comes third, and what fourth? For that, I think, is the
sort of enumeration which ought to be made of the remaining parts of
virtue, no matter whether you call them parts or what their name is,
provided the meaning is clear.
MEGILLUS: Then I, or any other Lacedaemonian, would reply that hunting is
third in order.
ATHENIAN: Let us see if we can discover what comes fourth and fifth.
MEGILLUS: I think that I can get as far as the fourth head, which is the
frequent endurance of pain, exhibited among us Spartans in certain hand-
to-hand fights; also in stealing with the prospect of getting a good
beating; there is, too, the so-called Crypteia, or secret service, in
which wonderful endurance is shown,--our people wander over the whole
country by day and by night, and even in winter have not a shoe to their
foot, and are without beds to lie upon, and have to attend upon
themselves. Marvellous, too, is the endurance which our citizens show in
their naked exercises, contending against the violent summer heat; and
there are many similar practices, to speak of which in detail would be
ATHENIAN: Excellent, O Lacedaemonian Stranger. But how ought we to define
courage? Is it to be regarded only as a combat against fears and pains, or
also against desires and pleasures, and against flatteries; which exercise
such a tremendous power, that they make the hearts even of respectable
citizens to melt like wax?
MEGILLUS: I should say the latter.
ATHENIAN: In what preceded, as you will remember, our Cnosian friend was
speaking of a man or a city being inferior to themselves:--Were you not,
CLEINIAS: I was.
ATHENIAN: Now, which is in the truest sense inferior, the man who is
overcome by pleasure or by pain?
CLEINIAS: I should say the man who is overcome by pleasure; for all men
deem him to be inferior in a more disgraceful sense, than the other who is
overcome by pain.
ATHENIAN: But surely the lawgivers of Crete and Lacedaemon have not
legislated for a courage which is lame of one leg, able only to meet
attacks which come from the left, but impotent against the insidious
flatteries which come from the right?
CLEINIAS: Able to meet both, I should say.
ATHENIAN: Then let me once more ask, what institutions have you in either
of your states which give a taste of pleasures, and do not avoid them any
more than they avoid pains; but which set a person in the midst of them,
and compel or induce him by the prospect of reward to get the better of
them? Where is an ordinance about pleasure similar to that about pain to
be found in your laws? Tell me what there is of this nature among you:--
What is there which makes your citizen equally brave against pleasure and
pain, conquering what they ought to conquer, and superior to the enemies
who are most dangerous and nearest home?
MEGILLUS: I was able to tell you, Stranger, many laws which were directed
against pain; but I do not know that I can point out any great or obvious
examples of similar institutions which are concerned with pleasure; there
are some lesser provisions, however, which I might mention.
CLEINIAS: Neither can I show anything of that sort which is at all equally
prominent in the Cretan laws.
ATHENIAN: No wonder, my dear friends; and if, as is very likely, in our
search after the true and good, one of us may have to censure the laws of
the others, we must not be offended, but take kindly what another says.
CLEINIAS: You are quite right, Athenian Stranger, and we will do as you
ATHENIAN: At our time of life, Cleinias, there should be no feeling of
CLEINIAS: Certainly not.
ATHENIAN: I will not at present determine whether he who censures the
Cretan or Lacedaemonian polities is right or wrong. But I believe that I
can tell better than either of you what the many say about them. For
assuming that you have reasonably good laws, one of the best of them will
be the law forbidding any young men to enquire which of them are right or
wrong; but with one mouth and one voice they must all agree that the laws
are all good, for they came from God; and any one who says the contrary is
not to be listened to. But an old man who remarks any defect in your laws
may communicate his observation to a ruler or to an equal in years when no
young man is present.
CLEINIAS: Exactly so, Stranger; and like a diviner, although not there at
the time, you seem to me quite to have hit the meaning of the legislator,
and to say what is most true.
ATHENIAN: As there are no young men present, and the legislator has given
old men free licence, there will be no impropriety in our discussing these
very matters now that we are alone.
CLEINIAS: True. And therefore you may be as free as you like in your
censure of our laws, for there is no discredit in knowing what is wrong;
he who receives what is said in a generous and friendly spirit will be all
the better for it.
ATHENIAN: Very good; however, I am not going to say anything against your
laws until to the best of my ability I have examined them, but I am going
to raise doubts about them. For you are the only people known to us,
whether Greek or barbarian, whom the legislator commanded to eschew all
great pleasures and amusements and never to touch them; whereas in the
matter of pains or fears which we have just been discussing, he thought
that they who from infancy had always avoided pains and fears and sorrows,
when they were compelled to face them would run away from those who were
hardened in them, and would become their subjects. Now the legislator
ought to have considered that this was equally true of pleasure; he should
have said to himself, that if our citizens are from their youth upward
unacquainted with the greatest pleasures, and unused to endure amid the
temptations of pleasure, and are not disciplined to refrain from all
things evil, the sweet feeling of pleasure will overcome them just as fear
would overcome the former class; and in another, and even a worse manner,
they will be the slaves of those who are able to endure amid pleasures,
and have had the opportunity of enjoying them, they being often the worst
of mankind. One half of their souls will be a slave, the other half free;
and they will not be worthy to be called in the true sense men and
freemen. Tell me whether you assent to my words?
CLEINIAS: On first hearing, what you say appears to be the truth; but to
be hasty in coming to a conclusion about such important matters would be
very childish and simple.
ATHENIAN: Suppose, Cleinias and Megillus, that we consider the virtue
which follows next of those which we intended to discuss (for after
courage comes temperance), what institutions shall we find relating to
temperance, either in Crete or Lacedaemon, which, like your military
institutions, differ from those of any ordinary state.
MEGILLUS: That is not an easy question to answer; still I should say that
the common meals and gymnastic exercises have been excellently devised for
the promotion both of temperance and courage.
ATHENIAN: There seems to be a difficulty, Stranger, with regard to states,
in making words and facts coincide so that there can be no dispute about
them. As in the human body, the regimen which does good in one way does
harm in another; and we can hardly say that any one course of treatment is
adapted to a particular constitution. Now the gymnasia and common meals do
a great deal of good, and yet they are a source of evil in civil troubles;
as is shown in the case of the Milesian, and Boeotian, and Thurian youth,
among whom these institutions seem always to have had a tendency to
degrade the ancient and natural custom of love below the level, not only
of man, but of the beasts. The charge may be fairly brought against your
cities above all others, and is true also of most other states which
especially cultivate gymnastics. Whether such matters are to be regarded
jestingly or seriously, I think that the pleasure is to be deemed natural
which arises out of the intercourse between men and women; but that the
intercourse of men with men, or of women with women, is contrary to
nature, and that the bold attempt was originally due to unbridled lust.
The Cretans are always accused of having invented the story of Ganymede
and Zeus because they wanted to justify themselves in the enjoyment of
unnatural pleasures by the practice of the god whom they believe to have
been their lawgiver. Leaving the story, we may observe that any
speculation about laws turns almost entirely on pleasure and pain, both in
states and in individuals: these are two fountains which nature lets flow,
and he who draws from them where and when, and as much as he ought, is
happy; and this holds of men and animals--of individuals as well as
states; and he who indulges in them ignorantly and at the wrong time, is
the reverse of happy.
MEGILLUS: I admit, Stranger, that your words are well spoken, and I hardly
know what to say in answer to you; but still I think that the Spartan
lawgiver was quite right in forbidding pleasure. Of the Cretan laws, I
shall leave the defence to my Cnosian friend. But the laws of Sparta, in
as far as they relate to pleasure, appear to me to be the best in the
world; for that which leads mankind in general into the wildest pleasure
and licence, and every other folly, the law has clean driven out; and
neither in the country nor in towns which are under the control of Sparta,
will you find revelries and the many incitements of every kind of pleasure
which accompany them; and any one who meets a drunken and disorderly
person, will immediately have him most severely punished, and will not let
him off on any pretence, not even at the time of a Dionysiac festival;
although I have remarked that this may happen at your performances 'on the
cart,' as they are called; and among our Tarentine colonists I have seen
the whole city drunk at a Dionysiac festival; but nothing of the sort
happens among us.
ATHENIAN: O Lacedaemonian Stranger, these festivities are praiseworthy
where there is a spirit of endurance, but are very senseless when they are
under no regulations. In order to retaliate, an Athenian has only to point
out the licence which exists among your women. To all such accusations,
whether they are brought against the Tarentines, or us, or you, there is
one answer which exonerates the practice in question from impropriety.
When a stranger expresses wonder at the singularity of what he sees, any
inhabitant will naturally answer him:--Wonder not, O stranger; this is our
custom, and you may very likely have some other custom about the same
things. Now we are speaking, my friends, not about men in general, but
about the merits and defects of the lawgivers themselves. Let us then
discourse a little more at length about intoxication, which is a very
important subject, and will seriously task the discrimination of the
legislator. I am not speaking of drinking, or not drinking, wine at all,
but of intoxication. Are we to follow the custom of the Scythians, and
Persians, and Carthaginians, and Celts, and Iberians, and Thracians, who
are all warlike nations, or that of your countrymen, for they, as you say,
altogether abstain? But the Scythians and Thracians, both men and women,
drink unmixed wine, which they pour on their garments, and this they think
a happy and glorious institution. The Persians, again, are much given to
other practices of luxury which you reject, but they have more moderation
in them than the Thracians and Scythians.
MEGILLUS: O best of men, we have only to take arms into our hands, and we
send all these nations flying before us.
ATHENIAN: Nay, my good friend, do not say that; there have been, as there
always will be, flights and pursuits of which no account can be given, and
therefore we cannot say that victory or defeat in battle affords more than
a doubtful proof of the goodness or badness of institutions. For when the
greater states conquer and enslave the lesser, as the Syracusans have done
the Locrians, who appear to be the best-governed people in their part of
the world, or as the Athenians have done the Ceans (and there are ten
thousand other instances of the same sort of thing), all this is not to
the point; let us endeavour rather to form a conclusion about each
institution in itself and say nothing, at present, of victories and
defeats. Let us only say that such and such a custom is honourable, and
another not. And first permit me to tell you how good and bad are to be
estimated in reference to these very matters.
MEGILLUS: How do you mean?
ATHENIAN: All those who are ready at a moment's notice to praise or
censure any practice which is matter of discussion, seem to me to proceed
in a wrong way. Let me give you an illustration of what I mean:--You may
suppose a person to be praising wheat as a good kind of food, whereupon
another person instantly blames wheat, without ever enquiring into its
effect or use, or in what way, or to whom, or with what, or in what state
and how, wheat is to be given. And that is just what we are doing in this
discussion. At the very mention of the word intoxication, one side is
ready with their praises and the other with their censures; which is
absurd. For either side adduce their witnesses and approvers, and some of
us think that we speak with authority because we have many witnesses; and
others because they see those who abstain conquering in battle, and this
again is disputed by us. Now I cannot say that I shall be satisfied, if we
go on discussing each of the remaining laws in the same way. And about
this very point of intoxication I should like to speak in another way,
which I hold to be the right one; for if number is to be the criterion,
are there not myriads upon myriads of nations ready to dispute the point
with you, who are only two cities?
MEGILLUS: I shall gladly welcome any method of enquiry which is right.
ATHENIAN: Let me put the matter thus:--Suppose a person to praise the
keeping of goats, and the creatures themselves as capital things to have,
and then some one who had seen goats feeding without a goatherd in
cultivated spots, and doing mischief, were to censure a goat or any other
animal who has no keeper, or a bad keeper, would there be any sense or
justice in such censure?
MEGILLUS: Certainly not.
ATHENIAN: Does a captain require only to have nautical knowledge in order
to be a good captain, whether he is sea-sick or not? What do you say?
MEGILLUS: I say that he is not a good captain if, although he have
nautical skill, he is liable to sea-sickness.
ATHENIAN: And what would you say of the commander of an army? Will he be
able to command merely because he has military skill if he be a coward,
who, when danger comes, is sick and drunk with fear?
ATHENIAN: And what if besides being a coward he has no skill?
MEGILLUS: He is a miserable fellow, not fit to be a commander of men, but
only of old women.
ATHENIAN: And what would you say of some one who blames or praises any
sort of meeting which is intended by nature to have a ruler, and is well
enough when under his presidency? The critic, however, has never seen the
society meeting together at an orderly feast under the control of a
president, but always without a ruler or with a bad one:--when observers
of this class praise or blame such meetings, are we to suppose that what
they say is of any value?
MEGILLUS: Certainly not, if they have never seen or been present at such a
meeting when rightly ordered.
ATHENIAN: Reflect; may not banqueters and banquets be said to constitute a
kind of meeting?
MEGILLUS: Of course.
ATHENIAN: And did any one ever see this sort of convivial meeting rightly
ordered? Of course you two will answer that you have never seen them at
all, because they are not customary or lawful in your country; but I have
come across many of them in many different places, and moreover I have
made enquiries about them wherever I went, as I may say, and never did I
see or hear of anything of the kind which was carried on altogether
rightly; in some few particulars they might be right, but in general they
were utterly wrong.
CLEINIAS: What do you mean, Stranger, by this remark? Explain. For we, as
you say, from our inexperience in such matters, might very likely not
know, even if they came in our way, what was right or wrong in such
ATHENIAN: Likely enough; then let me try to be your instructor: You would
acknowledge, would you not, that in all gatherings of mankind, of whatever
sort, there ought to be a leader?
CLEINIAS: Certainly I should.
ATHENIAN: And we were saying just now, that when men are at war the leader
ought to be a brave man?
CLEINIAS: We were.
ATHENIAN: The brave man is less likely than the coward to be disturbed by
CLEINIAS: That again is true.
ATHENIAN: And if there were a possibility of having a general of an army
who was absolutely fearless and imperturbable, should we not by all means
ATHENIAN: Now, however, we are speaking not of a general who is to command
an army, when foe meets foe in time of war, but of one who is to regulate
meetings of another sort, when friend meets friend in time of peace.
ATHENIAN: And that sort of meeting, if attended with drunkenness, is apt
to be unquiet.
CLEINIAS: Certainly; the reverse of quiet.
ATHENIAN: In the first place, then, the revellers as well as the soldiers
will require a ruler?
CLEINIAS: To be sure; no men more so.
ATHENIAN: And we ought, if possible, to provide them with a quiet ruler?
CLEINIAS: Of course.
ATHENIAN: And he should be a man who understands society; for his duty is
to preserve the friendly feelings which exist among the company at the
time, and to increase them for the future by his use of the occasion.
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: Must we not appoint a sober man and a wise to be our master of
the revels? For if the ruler of drinkers be himself young and drunken, and
not over-wise, only by some special good fortune will he be saved from
doing some great evil.
CLEINIAS: It will be by a singular good fortune that he is saved.
ATHENIAN: Now suppose such associations to be framed in the best way
possible in states, and that some one blames the very fact of their
existence--he may very likely be right. But if he blames a practice which
he only sees very much mismanaged, he shows in the first place that he is
not aware of the mismanagement, and also not aware that everything done in
this way will turn out to be wrong, because done without the
superintendence of a sober ruler. Do you not see that a drunken pilot or a
drunken ruler of any sort will ruin ship, chariot, army--anything, in
short, of which he has the direction?
CLEINIAS: The last remark is very true, Stranger; and I see quite clearly
the advantage of an army having a good leader--he will give victory in war
to his followers, which is a very great advantage; and so of other things.
But I do not see any similar advantage which either individuals or states
gain from the good management of a feast; and I want you to tell me what
great good will be effected, supposing that this drinking ordinance is
ATHENIAN: If you mean to ask what great good accrues to the state from the
right training of a single youth, or of a single chorus--when the question
is put in that form, we cannot deny that the good is not very great in any
particular instance. But if you ask what is the good of education in
general, the answer is easy--that education makes good men, and that good
men act nobly, and conquer their enemies in battle, because they are good.
Education certainly gives victory, although victory sometimes produces
forgetfulness of education; for many have grown insolent from victory in
war, and this insolence has engendered in them innumerable evils; and many
a victory has been and will be suicidal to the victors; but education is
CLEINIAS: You seem to imply, my friend, that convivial meetings, when
rightly ordered, are an important element of education.
ATHENIAN: Certainly I do.
CLEINIAS: And can you show that what you have been saying is true?
ATHENIAN: To be absolutely sure of the truth of matters concerning which
there are many opinions, is an attribute of the Gods not given to man,
Stranger; but I shall be very happy to tell you what I think, especially
as we are now proposing to enter on a discussion concerning laws and
CLEINIAS: Your opinion, Stranger, about the questions which are now being
raised, is precisely what we want to hear.
ATHENIAN: Very good; I will try to find a way of explaining my meaning,
and you shall try to have the gift of understanding me. But first let me
make an apology. The Athenian citizen is reputed among all the Hellenes to
be a great talker, whereas Sparta is renowned for brevity, and the Cretans
have more wit than words. Now I am afraid of appearing to elicit a very
long discourse out of very small materials. For drinking indeed may appear
to be a slight matter, and yet is one which cannot be rightly ordered
according to nature, without correct principles of music; these are
necessary to any clear or satisfactory treatment of the subject, and music
again runs up into education generally, and there is much to be said about
all this. What would you say then to leaving these matters for the
present, and passing on to some other question of law?
MEGILLUS: O Athenian Stranger, let me tell you what perhaps you do not
know, that our family is the proxenus of your state. I imagine that from
their earliest youth all boys, when they are told that they are the
proxeni of a particular state, feel kindly towards their second country;
and this has certainly been my own feeling. I can well remember from the
days of my boyhood, how, when any Lacedaemonians praised or blamed the
Athenians, they used to say to me,--'See, Megillus, how ill or how well,'
as the case might be, 'has your state treated us'; and having always had
to fight your battles against detractors when I heard you assailed, I
became warmly attached to you. And I always like to hear the Athenian
tongue spoken; the common saying is quite true, that a good Athenian is
more than ordinarily good, for he is the only man who is freely and
genuinely good by the divine inspiration of his own nature, and is not
manufactured. Therefore be assured that I shall like to hear you say
whatever you have to say.
CLEINIAS: Yes, Stranger; and when you have heard me speak, say boldly what
is in your thoughts. Let me remind you of a tie which unites you to Crete.
You must have heard here the story of the prophet Epimenides, who was of
my family, and came to Athens ten years before the Persian war, in
accordance with the response of the Oracle, and offered certain sacrifices
which the God commanded. The Athenians were at that time in dread of the
Persian invasion; and he said that for ten years they would not come, and
that when they came, they would go away again without accomplishing any of
their objects, and would suffer more evil than they inflicted. At that
time my forefathers formed ties of hospitality with you; thus ancient is
the friendship which I and my parents have had for you.
ATHENIAN: You seem to be quite ready to listen; and I am also ready to
perform as much as I can of an almost impossible task, which I will
nevertheless attempt. At the outset of the discussion, let me define the
nature and power of education; for this is the way by which our argument
must travel onwards to the God Dionysus.
CLEINIAS: Let us proceed, if you please.
ATHENIAN: Well, then, if I tell you what are my notions of education, will
you consider whether they satisfy you?
CLEINIAS: Let us hear.
ATHENIAN: According to my view, any one who would be good at anything must
practise that thing from his youth upwards, both in sport and earnest, in
its several branches: for example, he who is to be a good builder, should
play at building children's houses; he who is to be a good husbandman, at
tilling the ground; and those who have the care of their education should
provide them when young with mimic tools. They should learn beforehand the
knowledge which they will afterwards require for their art. For example,
the future carpenter should learn to measure or apply the line in play;
and the future warrior should learn riding, or some other exercise, for
amusement, and the teacher should endeavour to direct the children's
inclinations and pleasures, by the help of amusements, to their final aim
in life. The most important part of education is right training in the
nursery. The soul of the child in his play should be guided to the love of
that sort of excellence in which when he grows up to manhood he will have
to be perfected. Do you agree with me thus far?
ATHENIAN: Then let us not leave the meaning of education ambiguous or ill-
defined. At present, when we speak in terms of praise or blame about the
bringing-up of each person, we call one man educated and another
uneducated, although the uneducated man may be sometimes very well
educated for the calling of a retail trader, or of a captain of a ship,
and the like. For we are not speaking of education in this narrower sense,
but of that other education in virtue from youth upwards, which makes a
man eagerly pursue the ideal perfection of citizenship, and teaches him
how rightly to rule and how to obey. This is the only education which,
upon our view, deserves the name; that other sort of training, which aims
at the acquisition of wealth or bodily strength, or mere cleverness apart
from intelligence and justice, is mean and illiberal, and is not worthy to
be called education at all. But let us not quarrel with one another about
a word, provided that the proposition which has just been granted hold
good: to wit, that those who are rightly educated generally become good
men. Neither must we cast a slight upon education, which is the first and
fairest thing that the best of men can ever have, and which, though liable
to take a wrong direction, is capable of reformation. And this work of
reformation is the great business of every man while he lives.
CLEINIAS: Very true; and we entirely agree with you.
ATHENIAN: And we agreed before that they are good men who are able to rule
themselves, and bad men who are not.
CLEINIAS: You are quite right.
ATHENIAN: Let me now proceed, if I can, to clear up the subject a little
further by an illustration which I will offer you.
ATHENIAN: Do we not consider each of ourselves to be one?
CLEINIAS: We do.
ATHENIAN: And each one of us has in his bosom two counsellors, both
foolish and also antagonistic; of which we call the one pleasure, and the
ATHENIAN: Also there are opinions about the future, which have the general
name of expectations; and the specific name of fear, when the expectation
is of pain; and of hope, when of pleasure; and further, there is
reflection about the good or evil of them, and this, when embodied in a
decree by the State, is called Law.
CLEINIAS: I am hardly able to follow you; proceed, however, as if I were.
MEGILLUS: I am in the like case.
ATHENIAN: Let us look at the matter thus: May we not conceive each of us
living beings to be a puppet of the Gods, either their plaything only, or
created with a purpose--which of the two we cannot certainly know? But we
do know, that these affections in us are like cords and strings, which
pull us different and opposite ways, and to opposite actions; and herein
lies the difference between virtue and vice. According to the argument
there is one among these cords which every man ought to grasp and never
let go, but to pull with it against all the rest; and this is the sacred
and golden cord of reason, called by us the common law of the State; there
are others which are hard and of iron, but this one is soft because
golden; and there are several other kinds. Now we ought always to
cooperate with the lead of the best, which is law. For inasmuch as reason
is beautiful and gentle, and not violent, her rule must needs have
ministers in order to help the golden principle in vanquishing the other
principles. And thus the moral of the tale about our being puppets will
not have been lost, and the meaning of the expression 'superior or
inferior to a man's self' will become clearer; and the individual,
attaining to right reason in this matter of pulling the strings of the
puppet, should live according to its rule; while the city, receiving the
same from some god or from one who has knowledge of these things, should
embody it in a law, to be her guide in her dealings with herself and with
other states. In this way virtue and vice will be more clearly
distinguished by us. And when they have become clearer, education and
other institutions will in like manner become clearer; and in particular
that question of convivial entertainment, which may seem, perhaps, to have
been a very trifling matter, and to have taken a great many more words
than were necessary.
CLEINIAS: Perhaps, however, the theme may turn out not to be unworthy of
the length of discourse.
ATHENIAN: Very good; let us proceed with any enquiry which really bears on
our present object.
ATHENIAN: Suppose that we give this puppet of ours drink,--what will be
the effect on him?
CLEINIAS: Having what in view do you ask that question?
ATHENIAN: Nothing as yet; but I ask generally, when the puppet is brought
to the drink, what sort of result is likely to follow. I will endeavour to
explain my meaning more clearly: what I am now asking is this--Does the
drinking of wine heighten and increase pleasures and pains, and passions
CLEINIAS: Very greatly.
ATHENIAN: And are perception and memory, and opinion and prudence,
heightened and increased? Do not these qualities entirely desert a man if
he becomes saturated with drink?
CLEINIAS: Yes, they entirely desert him.
ATHENIAN: Does he not return to the state of soul in which he was when a
CLEINIAS: He does.
ATHENIAN: Then at that time he will have the least control over himself?
CLEINIAS: The least.
ATHENIAN: And will he not be in a most wretched plight?
CLEINIAS: Most wretched.
ATHENIAN: Then not only an old man but also a drunkard becomes a second
time a child?
CLEINIAS: Well said, Stranger.
ATHENIAN: Is there any argument which will prove to us that we ought to
encourage the taste for drinking instead of doing all we can to avoid it?
CLEINIAS: I suppose that there is; you at any rate, were just now saying
that you were ready to maintain such a doctrine.
ATHENIAN: True, I was; and I am ready still, seeing that you have both
declared that you are anxious to hear me.
CLEINIAS: To be sure we are, if only for the strangeness of the paradox,
which asserts that a man ought of his own accord to plunge into utter
ATHENIAN: Are you speaking of the soul?
ATHENIAN: And what would you say about the body, my friend? Are you not
surprised at any one of his own accord bringing upon himself deformity,
leanness, ugliness, decrepitude?
ATHENIAN: Yet when a man goes of his own accord to a doctor's shop, and
takes medicine, is he not aware that soon, and for many days afterwards,
he will be in a state of body which he would die rather than accept as the
permanent condition of his life? Are not those who train in gymnasia, at
first beginning reduced to a state of weakness?
CLEINIAS: Yes, all that is well known.
ATHENIAN: Also that they go of their own accord for the sake of the
CLEINIAS: Very good.
ATHENIAN: And we may conceive this to be true in the same way of other
ATHENIAN: And the same view may be taken of the pastime of drinking wine,
if we are right in supposing that the same good effect follows?
CLEINIAS: To be sure.
ATHENIAN: If such convivialities should turn out to have any advantage
equal in importance to that of gymnastic, they are in their very nature to
be preferred to mere bodily exercise, inasmuch as they have no
accompaniment of pain.
CLEINIAS: True; but I hardly think that we shall be able to discover any
such benefits to be derived from them.
ATHENIAN: That is just what we must endeavour to show. And let me ask you
a question:--Do we not distinguish two kinds of fear, which are very
CLEINIAS: What are they?
ATHENIAN: There is the fear of expected evil.
ATHENIAN: And there is the fear of an evil reputation; we are afraid of
being thought evil, because we do or say some dishonourable thing, which
fear we and all men term shame.
ATHENIAN: These are the two fears, as I called them; one of which is the
opposite of pain and other fears, and the opposite also of the greatest
and most numerous sort of pleasures.
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: And does not the legislator and every one who is good for
anything, hold this fear in the greatest honour? This is what he terms
reverence, and the confidence which is the reverse of this he terms
insolence; and the latter he always deems to be a very great evil both to
individuals and to states.
ATHENIAN: Does not this kind of fear preserve us in many important ways?
What is there which so surely gives victory and safety in war? For there
are two things which give victory--confidence before enemies, and fear of
disgrace before friends.
CLEINIAS: There are.
ATHENIAN: Then each of us should be fearless and also fearful; and why we
should be either has now been determined.
ATHENIAN: And when we want to make any one fearless, we and the law bring
him face to face with many fears.
ATHENIAN: And when we want to make him rightly fearful, must we not
introduce him to shameless pleasures, and train him to take up arms
against them, and to overcome them? Or does this principle apply to
courage only, and must he who would be perfect in valour fight against and
overcome his own natural character,--since if he be unpractised and
inexperienced in such conflicts, he will not be half the man which he
might have been,--and are we to suppose, that with temperance it is
otherwise, and that he who has never fought with the shameless and
unrighteous temptations of his pleasures and lusts, and conquered them, in
earnest and in play, by word, deed, and act, will still be perfectly
CLEINIAS: A most unlikely supposition.
ATHENIAN: Suppose that some God had given a fear-potion to men, and that
the more a man drank of this the more he regarded himself at every draught
as a child of misfortune, and that he feared everything happening or about
to happen to him; and that at last the most courageous of men utterly lost
his presence of mind for a time, and only came to himself again when he
had slept off the influence of the draught.
CLEINIAS: But has such a draught, Stranger, ever really been known among
ATHENIAN: No; but, if there had been, might not such a draught have been
of use to the legislator as a test of courage? Might we not go and say to
him, 'O legislator, whether you are legislating for the Cretan, or for any
other state, would you not like to have a touchstone of the courage and
cowardice of your citizens?'
CLEINIAS: 'I should,' will be the answer of every one.
ATHENIAN: 'And you would rather have a touchstone in which there is no
risk and no great danger than the reverse?'
CLEINIAS: In that proposition every one may safely agree.
ATHENIAN: 'And in order to make use of the draught, you would lead them
amid these imaginary terrors, and prove them, when the affection of fear
was working upon them, and compel them to be fearless, exhorting and
admonishing them; and also honouring them, but dishonouring any one who
will not be persuaded by you to be in all respects such as you command
him; and if he underwent the trial well and manfully, you would let him go
unscathed; but if ill, you would inflict a punishment upon him? Or would
you abstain from using the potion altogether, although you have no reason
CLEINIAS: He would be certain, Stranger, to use the potion.
ATHENIAN: This would be a mode of testing and training which would be
wonderfully easy in comparison with those now in use, and might be applied
to a single person, or to a few, or indeed to any number; and he would do
well who provided himself with the potion only, rather than with any
number of other things, whether he preferred to be by himself in solitude,
and there contend with his fears, because he was ashamed to be seen by the
eye of man until he was perfect; or trusting to the force of his own
nature and habits, and believing that he had been already disciplined
sufficiently, he did not hesitate to train himself in company with any
number of others, and display his power in conquering the irresistible
change effected by the draught--his virtue being such, that he never in
any instance fell into any great unseemliness, but was always himself, and
left off before he arrived at the last cup, fearing that he, like all
other men, might be overcome by the potion.
CLEINIAS: Yes, Stranger, in that last case, too, he might equally show his
ATHENIAN: Let us return to the lawgiver, and say to him:--'Well, lawgiver,
there is certainly no such fear-potion which man has either received from
the Gods or himself discovered; for witchcraft has no place at our board.
But is there any potion which might serve as a test of overboldness and
excessive and indiscreet boasting?
CLEINIAS: I suppose that he will say, Yes,--meaning that wine is such a
ATHENIAN: Is not the effect of this quite the opposite of the effect of
the other? When a man drinks wine he begins to be better pleased with
himself, and the more he drinks the more he is filled full of brave hopes,
and conceit of his power, and at last the string of his tongue is
loosened, and fancying himself wise, he is brimming over with lawlessness,
and has no more fear or respect, and is ready to do or say anything.
CLEINIAS: I think that every one will admit the truth of your description.
ATHENIAN: Now, let us remember, as we were saying, that there are two
things which should be cultivated in the soul: first, the greatest
courage; secondly, the greatest fear--
CLEINIAS: Which you said to be characteristic of reverence, if I am not
ATHENIAN: Thank you for reminding me. But now, as the habit of courage and
fearlessness is to be trained amid fears, let us consider whether the
opposite quality is not also to be trained among opposites.
CLEINIAS: That is probably the case.
ATHENIAN: There are times and seasons at which we are by nature more than
commonly valiant and bold; now we ought to train ourselves on these
occasions to be as free from impudence and shamelessness as possible, and
to be afraid to say or suffer or do anything that is base.
ATHENIAN: Are not the moments in which we are apt to be bold and shameless
such as these?--when we are under the influence of anger, love, pride,
ignorance, avarice, cowardice? or when wealth, beauty, strength, and all
the intoxicating workings of pleasure madden us? What is better adapted
than the festive use of wine, in the first place to test, and in the
second place to train the character of a man, if care be taken in the use
of it? What is there cheaper, or more innocent? For do but consider which
is the greater risk:--Would you rather test a man of a morose and savage
nature, which is the source of ten thousand acts of injustice, by making
bargains with him at a risk to yourself, or by having him as a companion
at the festival of Dionysus? Or would you, if you wanted to apply a
touchstone to a man who is prone to love, entrust your wife, or your sons,
or daughters to him, perilling your dearest interests in order to have a
view of the condition of his soul? I might mention numberless cases, in
which the advantage would be manifest of getting to know a character in
sport, and without paying dearly for experience. And I do not believe that
either a Cretan, or any other man, will doubt that such a test is a fair
test, and safer, cheaper, and speedier than any other.
CLEINIAS: That is certainly true.
ATHENIAN: And this knowledge of the natures and habits of men's souls will
be of the greatest use in that art which has the management of them; and
that art, if I am not mistaken, is politics.
CLEINIAS: Exactly so.
ATHENIAN: And now we have to consider whether the insight into human
nature is the only benefit derived from well-ordered potations, or whether
there are not other advantages great and much to be desired. The argument
seems to imply that there are. But how and in what way these are to be
attained, will have to be considered attentively, or we may be entangled
ATHENIAN: Let me once more recall our doctrine of right education; which,
if I am not mistaken, depends on the due regulation of convivial
CLEINIAS: You talk rather grandly.
ATHENIAN: Pleasure and pain I maintain to be the first perceptions of
children, and I say that they are the forms under which virtue and vice
are originally present to them. As to wisdom and true and fixed opinions,
happy is the man who acquires them, even when declining in years; and we
may say that he who possesses them, and the blessings which are contained
in them, is a perfect man. Now I mean by education that training which is
given by suitable habits to the first instincts of virtue in children;--
when pleasure, and friendship, and pain, and hatred, are rightly implanted
in souls not yet capable of understanding the nature of them, and who find
them, after they have attained reason, to be in harmony with her. This
harmony of the soul, taken as a whole, is virtue; but the particular
training in respect of pleasure and pain, which leads you always to hate
what you ought to hate, and love what you ought to love from the beginning
of life to the end, may be separated off; and, in my view, will be rightly
CLEINIAS: I think, Stranger, that you are quite right in all that you have
said and are saying about education.
ATHENIAN: I am glad to hear that you agree with me; for, indeed, the
discipline of pleasure and pain which, when rightly ordered, is a
principle of education, has been often relaxed and corrupted in human
life. And the Gods, pitying the toils which our race is born to undergo,
have appointed holy festivals, wherein men alternate rest with labour; and
have given them the Muses and Apollo, the leader of the Muses, and
Dionysus, to be companions in their revels, that they may improve their
education by taking part in the festivals of the Gods, and with their
help. I should like to know whether a common saying is in our opinion true
to nature or not. For men say that the young of all creatures cannot be
quiet in their bodies or in their voices; they are always wanting to move
and cry out; some leaping and skipping, and overflowing with sportiveness
and delight at something, others uttering all sorts of cries. But, whereas
the animals have no perception of order or disorder in their movements,
that is, of rhythm or harmony, as they are called, to us, the Gods, who,
as we say, have been appointed to be our companions in the dance, have
given the pleasurable sense of harmony and rhythm; and so they stir us
into life, and we follow them, joining hands together in dances and songs;
and these they call choruses, which is a term naturally expressive of
cheerfulness. Shall we begin, then, with the acknowledgment that education
is first given through Apollo and the Muses? What do you say?
CLEINIAS: I assent.
ATHENIAN: And the uneducated is he who has not been trained in the chorus,
and the educated is he who has been well trained?
ATHENIAN: And the chorus is made up of two parts, dance and song?
ATHENIAN: Then he who is well educated will be able to sing and dance
CLEINIAS: I suppose that he will.
ATHENIAN: Let us see; what are we saying?
ATHENIAN: He sings well and dances well; now must we add that he sings
what is good and dances what is good?
CLEINIAS: Let us make the addition.
ATHENIAN: We will suppose that he knows the good to be good, and the bad
to be bad, and makes use of them accordingly: which now is the better
trained in dancing and music--he who is able to move his body and to use
his voice in what is understood to be the right manner, but has no delight
in good or hatred of evil; or he who is incorrect in gesture and voice,
but is right in his sense of pleasure and pain, and welcomes what is good,
and is offended at what is evil?
CLEINIAS: There is a great difference, Stranger, in the two kinds of
ATHENIAN: If we three know what is good in song and dance, then we truly
know also who is educated and who is uneducated; but if not, then we
certainly shall not know wherein lies the safeguard of education, and
whether there is any or not.
ATHENIAN: Let us follow the scent like hounds, and go in pursuit of beauty
of figure, and melody, and song, and dance; if these escape us, there will
be no use in talking about true education, whether Hellenic or barbarian.
ATHENIAN: And what is beauty of figure, or beautiful melody? When a manly
soul is in trouble, and when a cowardly soul is in similar case, are they
likely to use the same figures and gestures, or to give utterance to the
CLEINIAS: How can they, when the very colours of their faces differ?
ATHENIAN: Good, my friend; I may observe, however, in passing, that in
music there certainly are figures and there are melodies: and music is
concerned with harmony and rhythm, so that you may speak of a melody or
figure having good rhythm or good harmony--the term is correct enough; but
to speak metaphorically of a melody or figure having a 'good colour,' as
the masters of choruses do, is not allowable, although you can speak of
the melodies or figures of the brave and the coward, praising the one and
censuring the other. And not to be tedious, let us say that the figures
and melodies which are expressive of virtue of soul or body, or of images
of virtue, are without exception good, and those which are expressive of
vice are the reverse of good.
CLEINIAS: Your suggestion is excellent; and let us answer that these
things are so.
ATHENIAN: Once more, are all of us equally delighted with every sort of
CLEINIAS: Far otherwise.
ATHENIAN: What, then, leads us astray? Are beautiful things not the same
to us all, or are they the same in themselves, but not in our opinion of
them? For no one will admit that forms of vice in the dance are more
beautiful than forms of virtue, or that he himself delights in the forms
of vice, and others in a muse of another character. And yet most persons
say, that the excellence of music is to give pleasure to our souls. But
this is intolerable and blasphemous; there is, however, a much more
plausible account of the delusion.
ATHENIAN: The adaptation of art to the characters of men. Choric movements
are imitations of manners occurring in various actions, fortunes,
dispositions,--each particular is imitated, and those to whom the words,
or songs, or dances are suited, either by nature or habit or both, cannot
help feeling pleasure in them and applauding them, and calling them
beautiful. But those whose natures, or ways, or habits are unsuited to
them, cannot delight in them or applaud them, and they call them base.
There are others, again, whose natures are right and their habits wrong,
or whose habits are right and their natures wrong, and they praise one
thing, but are pleased at another. For they say that all these imitations
are pleasant, but not good. And in the presence of those whom they think
wise, they are ashamed of dancing and singing in the baser manner, or of
deliberately lending any countenance to such proceedings; and yet, they
have a secret pleasure in them.
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: And is any harm done to the lover of vicious dances or songs, or
any good done to the approver of the opposite sort of pleasure?
CLEINIAS: I think that there is.
ATHENIAN: 'I think' is not the word, but I would say, rather, 'I am
certain.' For must they not have the same effect as when a man associates
with bad characters, whom he likes and approves rather than dislikes, and
only censures playfully because he has a suspicion of his own badness? In
that case, he who takes pleasure in them will surely become like those in
whom he takes pleasure, even though he be ashamed to praise them. And what
greater good or evil can any destiny ever make us undergo?
CLEINIAS: I know of none.
ATHENIAN: Then in a city which has good laws, or in future ages is to have
them, bearing in mind the instruction and amusement which are given by
music, can we suppose that the poets are to be allowed to teach in the
dance anything which they themselves like, in the way of rhythm, or
melody, or words, to the young children of any well-conditioned parents?
Is the poet to train his choruses as he pleases, without reference to
virtue or vice?
CLEINIAS: That is surely quite unreasonable, and is not to be thought of.
ATHENIAN: And yet he may do this in almost any state with the exception of
CLEINIAS: And what are the laws about music and dancing in Egypt?
ATHENIAN: You will wonder when I tell you: Long ago they appear to have
recognized the very principle of which we are now speaking--that their
young citizens must be habituated to forms and strains of virtue. These
they fixed, and exhibited the patterns of them in their temples; and no
painter or artist is allowed to innovate upon them, or to leave the
traditional forms and invent new ones. To this day, no alteration is
allowed either in these arts, or in music at all. And you will find that
their works of art are painted or moulded in the same forms which they had
ten thousand years ago;--this is literally true and no exaggeration,--
their ancient paintings and sculptures are not a whit better or worse than
the work of to-day, but are made with just the same skill.
CLEINIAS: How extraordinary!
ATHENIAN: I should rather say, How statesmanlike, how worthy of a
legislator! I know that other things in Egypt are not so well. But what I
am telling you about music is true and deserving of consideration, because
showing that a lawgiver may institute melodies which have a natural truth
and correctness without any fear of failure. To do this, however, must be
the work of God, or of a divine person; in Egypt they have a tradition
that their ancient chants which have been preserved for so many ages are
the composition of the Goddess Isis. And therefore, as I was saying, if a
person can only find in any way the natural melodies, he may confidently
embody them in a fixed and legal form. For the love of novelty which
arises out of pleasure in the new and weariness of the old, has not
strength enough to corrupt the consecrated song and dance, under the plea
that they have become antiquated. At any rate, they are far from being
corrupted in Egypt.
CLEINIAS: Your arguments seem to prove your point.
ATHENIAN: May we not confidently say that the true use of music and of
choral festivities is as follows: We rejoice when we think that we
prosper, and again we think that we prosper when we rejoice?
ATHENIAN: And when rejoicing in our good fortune, we are unable to be
ATHENIAN: Our young men break forth into dancing and singing, and we who
are their elders deem that we are fulfilling our part in life when we look
on at them. Having lost our agility, we delight in their sports and merry-
making, because we love to think of our former selves; and gladly
institute contests for those who are able to awaken in us the memory of
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: Is it altogether unmeaning to say, as the common people do about
festivals, that he should be adjudged the wisest of men, and the winner of
the palm, who gives us the greatest amount of pleasure and mirth? For on
such occasions, and when mirth is the order of the day, ought not he to be
honoured most, and, as I was saying, bear the palm, who gives most mirth
to the greatest number? Now is this a true way of speaking or of acting?
ATHENIAN: But, my dear friend, let us distinguish between different cases,
and not be hasty in forming a judgment: One way of considering the
question will be to imagine a festival at which there are entertainments
of all sorts, including gymnastic, musical, and equestrian contests: the
citizens are assembled; prizes are offered, and proclamation is made that
any one who likes may enter the lists, and that he is to bear the palm who
gives the most pleasure to the spectators--there is to be no regulation
about the manner how; but he who is most successful in giving pleasure is
to be crowned victor, and deemed to be the pleasantest of the candidates:
What is likely to be the result of such a proclamation?
CLEINIAS: In what respect?
ATHENIAN: There would be various exhibitions: one man, like Homer, will
exhibit a rhapsody, another a performance on the lute; one will have a
tragedy, and another a comedy. Nor would there be anything astonishing in
some one imagining that he could gain the prize by exhibiting a puppet-
show. Suppose these competitors to meet, and not these only, but
innumerable others as well--can you tell me who ought to be the victor?
CLEINIAS: I do not see how any one can answer you, or pretend to know,
unless he has heard with his own ears the several competitors; the
question is absurd.
ATHENIAN: Well, then, if neither of you can answer, shall I answer this
question which you deem so absurd?
CLEINIAS: By all means.
ATHENIAN: If very small children are to determine the question, they will
decide for the puppet show.
CLEINIAS: Of course.
ATHENIAN: The older children will be advocates of comedy; educated women,
and young men, and people in general, will favour tragedy.
CLEINIAS: Very likely.
ATHENIAN: And I believe that we old men would have the greatest pleasure
in hearing a rhapsodist recite well the Iliad and Odyssey, or one of the
Hesiodic poems, and would award the victory to him. But, who would really
be the victor?--that is the question.
ATHENIAN: Clearly you and I will have to declare that those whom we old
men adjudge victors ought to win; for our ways are far and away better
than any which at present exist anywhere in the world.
ATHENIAN: Thus far I too should agree with the many, that the excellence
of music is to be measured by pleasure. But the pleasure must not be that
of chance persons; the fairest music is that which delights the best and
best educated, and especially that which delights the one man who is pre-
eminent in virtue and education. And therefore the judges must be men of
character, for they will require both wisdom and courage; the true judge
must not draw his inspiration from the theatre, nor ought he to be
unnerved by the clamour of the many and his own incapacity; nor again,
knowing the truth, ought he through cowardice and unmanliness carelessly
to deliver a lying judgment, with the very same lips which have just
appealed to the Gods before he judged. He is sitting not as the disciple
of the theatre, but, in his proper place, as their instructor, and he
ought to be the enemy of all pandering to the pleasure of the spectators.
The ancient and common custom of Hellas, which still prevails in Italy and
Sicily, did certainly leave the judgment to the body of spectators, who
determined the victor by show of hands. But this custom has been the
destruction of the poets; for they are now in the habit of composing with
a view to please the bad taste of their judges, and the result is that the
spectators instruct themselves;--and also it has been the ruin of the
theatre; they ought to be having characters put before them better than
their own, and so receiving a higher pleasure, but now by their own act
the opposite result follows. What inference is to be drawn from all this?
Shall I tell you?
ATHENIAN: The inference at which we arrive for the third or fourth time
is, that education is the constraining and directing of youth towards that
right reason, which the law affirms, and which the experience of the
eldest and best has agreed to be truly right. In order, then, that the
soul of the child may not be habituated to feel joy and sorrow in a manner
at variance with the law, and those who obey the law, but may rather
follow the law and rejoice and sorrow at the same things as the aged--in
order, I say, to produce this effect, chants appear to have been invented,
which really enchant, and are designed to implant that harmony of which we
speak. And, because the mind of the child is incapable of enduring serious
training, they are called plays and songs, and are performed in play; just
as when men are sick and ailing in their bodies, their attendants give
them wholesome diet in pleasant meats and drinks, but unwholesome diet in
disagreeable things, in order that they may learn, as they ought, to like
the one, and to dislike the other. And similarly the true legislator will
persuade, and, if he cannot persuade, will compel the poet to express, as
he ought, by fair and noble words, in his rhythms, the figures, and in his
melodies, the music of temperate and brave and in every way good men.
CLEINIAS: But do you really imagine, Stranger, that this is the way in
which poets generally compose in States at the present day? As far as I
can observe, except among us and among the Lacedaemonians, there are no
regulations like those of which you speak; in other places novelties are
always being introduced in dancing and in music, generally not under the
authority of any law, but at the instigation of lawless pleasures; and
these pleasures are so far from being the same, as you describe the
Egyptian to be, or having the same principles, that they are never the
ATHENIAN: Most true, Cleinias; and I daresay that I may have expressed
myself obscurely, and so led you to imagine that I was speaking of some
really existing state of things, whereas I was only saying what
regulations I would like to have about music; and hence there occurred a
misapprehension on your part. For when evils are far gone and
irremediable, the task of censuring them is never pleasant, although at
times necessary. But as we do not really differ, will you let me ask you
whether you consider such institutions to be more prevalent among the
Cretans and Lacedaemonians than among the other Hellenes?
CLEINIAS: Certainly they are.
ATHENIAN: And if they were extended to the other Hellenes, would it be an
improvement on the present state of things?
CLEINIAS: A very great improvement, if the customs which prevail among
them were such as prevail among us and the Lacedaemonians, and such as you
were just now saying ought to prevail.
ATHENIAN: Let us see whether we understand one another:--Are not the
principles of education and music which prevail among you as follows: you
compel your poets to say that the good man, if he be temperate and just,
is fortunate and happy; and this whether he be great and strong or small
and weak, and whether he be rich or poor; and, on the other hand, if he
have a wealth passing that of Cinyras or Midas, and be unjust, he is
wretched and lives in misery? As the poet says, and with truth: I sing
not, I care not about him who accomplishes all noble things, not having
justice; let him who 'draws near and stretches out his hand against his
enemies be a just man.' But if he be unjust, I would not have him 'look
calmly upon bloody death,' nor 'surpass in swiftness the Thracian Boreas;
' and let no other thing that is called good ever be his. For the goods of
which the many speak are not really good: first in the catalogue is placed
health, beauty next, wealth third; and then innumerable others, as for
example to have a keen eye or a quick ear, and in general to have all the
senses perfect; or, again, to be a tyrant and do as you like; and the
final consummation of happiness is to have acquired all these things, and
when you have acquired them to become at once immortal. But you and I say,
that while to the just and holy all these things are the best of
possessions, to the unjust they are all, including even health, the
greatest of evils. For in truth, to have sight, and hearing, and the use
of the senses, or to live at all without justice and virtue, even though a
man be rich in all the so-called goods of fortune, is the greatest of
evils, if life be immortal; but not so great, if the bad man lives only a
very short time. These are the truths which, if I am not mistaken, you
will persuade or compel your poets to utter with suitable accompaniments
of harmony and rhythm, and in these they must train up your youth. Am I
not right? For I plainly declare that evils as they are termed are goods
to the unjust, and only evils to the just, and that goods are truly good
to the good, but evil to the evil. Let me ask again, Are you and I agreed
CLEINIAS: I think that we partly agree and partly do not.
ATHENIAN: When a man has health and wealth and a tyranny which lasts, and
when he is pre-eminent in strength and courage, and has the gift of
immortality, and none of the so-called evils which counter-balance these
goods, but only the injustice and insolence of his own nature--of such an
one you are, I suspect, unwilling to believe that he is miserable rather
CLEINIAS: That is quite true.
ATHENIAN: Once more: Suppose that he be valiant and strong, and handsome
and rich, and does throughout his whole life whatever he likes, still, if
he be unrighteous and insolent, would not both of you agree that he will
of necessity live basely? You will surely grant so much?
ATHENIAN: And an evil life too?
CLEINIAS: I am not equally disposed to grant that.
ATHENIAN: Will he not live painfully and to his own disadvantage?
CLEINIAS: How can I possibly say so?
ATHENIAN: How! Then may Heaven make us to be of one mind, for now we are
of two. To me, dear Cleinias, the truth of what I am saying is as plain as
the fact that Crete is an island. And, if I were a lawgiver, I would try
to make the poets and all the citizens speak in this strain, and I would
inflict the heaviest penalties on any one in all the land who should dare
to say that there are bad men who lead pleasant lives, or that the
profitable and gainful is one thing, and the just another; and there are
many other matters about which I should make my citizens speak in a manner
different from the Cretans and Lacedaemonians of this age, and I may say,
indeed, from the world in general. For tell me, my good friends, by Zeus
and Apollo tell me, if I were to ask these same Gods who were your
legislators,--Is not the most just life also the pleasantest? or are there
two lives, one of which is the justest and the other the pleasantest?--and
they were to reply that there are two; and thereupon I proceeded to ask,
(that would be the right way of pursuing the enquiry), Which are the
happier--those who lead the justest, or those who lead the pleasantest
life? and they replied, Those who lead the pleasantest--that would be a
very strange answer, which I should not like to put into the mouth of the
Gods. The words will come with more propriety from the lips of fathers and
legislators, and therefore I will repeat my former questions to one of
them, and suppose him to say again that he who leads the pleasantest life
is the happiest. And to that I rejoin:--O my father, did you not wish me
to live as happily as possible? And yet you also never ceased telling me
that I should live as justly as possible. Now, here the giver of the rule,
whether he be legislator or father, will be in a dilemma, and will in vain
endeavour to be consistent with himself. But if he were to declare that
the justest life is also the happiest, every one hearing him would
enquire, if I am not mistaken, what is that good and noble principle in
life which the law approves, and which is superior to pleasure. For what
good can the just man have which is separated from pleasure? Shall we say
that glory and fame, coming from Gods and men, though good and noble, are
nevertheless unpleasant, and infamy pleasant? Certainly not, sweet
legislator. Or shall we say that the not-doing of wrong and there being no
wrong done is good and honourable, although there is no pleasure in it,
and that the doing wrong is pleasant, but evil and base?
ATHENIAN: The view which identifies the pleasant and the pleasant and the
just and the good and the noble has an excellent moral and religious
tendency. And the opposite view is most at variance with the designs of
the legislator, and is, in his opinion, infamous; for no one, if he can
help, will be persuaded to do that which gives him more pain than
pleasure. But as distant prospects are apt to make us dizzy, especially in
childhood, the legislator will try to purge away the darkness and exhibit
the truth; he will persuade the citizens, in some way or other, by customs
and praises and words, that just and unjust are shadows only, and that
injustice, which seems opposed to justice, when contemplated by the unjust
and evil man appears pleasant and the just most unpleasant; but that from
the just man's point of view, the very opposite is the appearance of both
ATHENIAN: And which may be supposed to be the truer judgment--that of the
inferior or of the better soul?
CLEINIAS: Surely, that of the better soul.
ATHENIAN: Then the unjust life must not only be more base and depraved,
but also more unpleasant than the just and holy life?
CLEINIAS: That seems to be implied in the present argument.
ATHENIAN: And even supposing this were otherwise, and not as the argument
has proven, still the lawgiver, who is worth anything, if he ever ventures
to tell a lie to the young for their good, could not invent a more useful
lie than this, or one which will have a better effect in making them do
what is right, not on compulsion but voluntarily.
CLEINIAS: Truth, Stranger, is a noble thing and a lasting, but a thing of
which men are hard to be persuaded.
ATHENIAN: And yet the story of the Sidonian Cadmus, which is so
improbable, has been readily believed, and also innumerable other tales.
CLEINIAS: What is that story?
ATHENIAN: The story of armed men springing up after the sowing of teeth,
which the legislator may take as a proof that he can persuade the minds of
the young of anything; so that he has only to reflect and find out what
belief will be of the greatest public advantage, and then use all his
efforts to make the whole community utter one and the same word in their
songs and tales and discourses all their life long. But if you do not
agree with me, there is no reason why you should not argue on the other
CLEINIAS: I do not see that any argument can fairly be raised by either of
us against what you are now saying.
ATHENIAN: The next suggestion which I have to offer is, that all our three
choruses shall sing to the young and tender souls of children, reciting in
their strains all the noble thoughts of which we have already spoken, or
are about to speak; and the sum of them shall be, that the life which is
by the Gods deemed to be the happiest is also the best;--we shall affirm
this to be a most certain truth; and the minds of our young disciples will
be more likely to receive these words of ours than any others which we
might address to them.
CLEINIAS: I assent to what you say.
ATHENIAN: First will enter in their natural order the sacred choir
composed of children, which is to sing lustily the heaven-taught lay to
the whole city. Next will follow the choir of young men under the age of
thirty, who will call upon the God Paean to testify to the truth of their
words, and will pray him to be gracious to the youth and to turn their
hearts. Thirdly, the choir of elder men, who are from thirty to sixty
years of age, will also sing. There remain those who are too old to sing,
and they will tell stories, illustrating the same virtues, as with the
voice of an oracle.
CLEINIAS: Who are those who compose the third choir, Stranger? for I do
not clearly understand what you mean to say about them.
ATHENIAN: And yet almost all that I have been saying has been said with a
view to them.
CLEINIAS: Will you try to be a little plainer?
ATHENIAN: I was speaking at the commencement of our discourse, as you will
remember, of the fiery nature of young creatures: I said that they were
unable to keep quiet either in limb or voice, and that they called out and
jumped about in a disorderly manner; and that no other animal attained to
any perception of order, but man only. Now the order of motion is called
rhythm, and the order of the voice, in which high and low are duly
mingled, is called harmony; and both together are termed choric song. And
I said that the Gods had pity on us, and gave us Apollo and the Muses to
be our playfellows and leaders in the dance; and Dionysus, as I dare say
that you will remember, was the third.
CLEINIAS: I quite remember.
ATHENIAN: Thus far I have spoken of the chorus of Apollo and the Muses,
and I have still to speak of the remaining chorus, which is that of
CLEINIAS: How is that arranged? There is something strange, at any rate on
first hearing, in a Dionysiac chorus of old men, if you really mean that
those who are above thirty, and may be fifty, or from fifty to sixty years
of age, are to dance in his honour.
ATHENIAN: Very true; and therefore it must be shown that there is good
reason for the proposal.
ATHENIAN: Are we agreed thus far?
CLEINIAS: About what?
ATHENIAN: That every man and boy, slave and free, both sexes, and the
whole city, should never cease charming themselves with the strains of
which we have spoken; and that there should be every sort of change and
variation of them in order to take away the effect of sameness, so that
the singers may always receive pleasure from their hymns, and may never
weary of them?
CLEINIAS: Every one will agree.
ATHENIAN: Where, then, will that best part of our city which, by reason of
age and intelligence, has the greatest influence, sing these fairest of
strains, which are to do so much good? Shall we be so foolish as to let
them off who would give us the most beautiful and also the most useful of
CLEINIAS: But, says the argument, we cannot let them off.
ATHENIAN: Then how can we carry out our purpose with decorum? Will this be