First of all, in the case of men who brought home a
stepmother over their children he ordained as their punishment that they should have no part in
counselling their fatherland, since he believed that men who planned so badly with respect to
their own children would likewise be bad counsellors for their fatherland. For, he said,
whoever had been fortunate in their first marriages should rest satisfied with their good lot,
whereas whoever had been unfortunate in marriage and then made the same mistake a second time
should be regarded as men without sense.
Men who had been
found guilty of false accusation should, he decreed, wear wherever they went a wreath of
tamarisk, in order that they might show to all their fellow citizens that they had won the
highest prize for wickedness. As a consequence certain men who had been judged guilty of this
charge, being unable to bear their great disgrace, voluntarily removed themselves from life.
When this took place, every man who had made a practice of false accusation was banished from
the city, and the government enjoyed a blessed life of freedom from this evil.
Charondas also wrote a unique law on evil
association, which had been overlooked by all other lawgivers. He took it for granted that the
characters of good men are in some cases perverted to evil by reason of their friendship and
intimacy with bad persons,1
and that badness, like
a pestilent disease, sweeps over the life of mankind and infects the souls of the most upright;
for the road to the worse slopes downward and so provides an easier way to take; and this is
the reason why many men of fairly good character, ensnared by deceptive pleasures, get stranded
upon very bad habits. Wishing, therefore, to remove this source of corruption, the lawgiver
forbade the indulgence in friendship and intimacy with unprincipled persons, provided actions
at law against evil association, and by means of severe penalties diverted from their course
those who were about to err in this manner.
Charondas also wrote another law which is far superior to the one just
mentioned and had also been overlooked by lawgivers before his time. He framed the law that all
the sons of citizens should learn to read and write, the city providing the salaries of the
teachers; for he assumed that men of no means and unable to provide the fees from their own
resources would be cut off from the noblest pursuits.