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[1266b] [1] and he thought that this would not be difficult to secure at the outset for cities in process of foundation, while in those already settled, although it would be a more irksome task, nevertheless a levelling would most easily be effected by the rich giving dowries but not receiving them and the poor receiving but not giving them. Plato when writing the Laws thought that up to a certain point inequality ought to be allowed, but that no citizen should be permitted to acquire more land than would make his estate five times the size of the smallest, as has also been said before.

But those who bring in legislation of this sort must also not overlook this point, which is overlooked at present, that when regulating the amount of property legislators ought also to regulate the size of the family; for if the number of children becomes too large for the property, the law is quite sure to be broken, and apart from the breach of the law it is a bad thing that many citizens who were rich should become poor, for it is difficult for such men not to be advocates of a new order. That a level standard of property affects the community of the citizens in an important manner some men even in old times clearly have recognized; for example there is the legislation of Solon, and other states have a law prohibiting the acquisition of land to any amount that the individual may desire; and similarly there is legislation to prevent the sale of estates, as at Locri there is a law [20] that a man shall not sell unless he can prove that manifest misfortune has befallen him and also there is legislation to preserve the old allotments, and the repeal of this restriction at Leucas made the Leucadian constitution excessively democratic, for it came about that the offices were no longer filled from the established property-qualifications. But it is possible that equality of estates may be maintained, but their size may be either too large and promote luxury, or too small, causing a penurious standard of living; it is clear therefore that it is not enough for the lawgiver to make the estates equal, but he must aim at securing a medium size. And again, even if one prescribed a moderate property for all, it would be of no avail, since it is more needful to level men's desires than their properties, and this can only be done by an adequate system of education enforced by law. But perhaps Phaleas would say that he himself actually prescribes this, as he considers it fundamentally necessary for states to have equality in these two things, property and education. But the nature of the education needs to be defined: it is no use merely for it to be one and the same for all, for it is possible for all to have one and the same education but for this to be of such a nature as to make them desirous of getting more than their share of money or honor or both; moreover1 civil strife is caused not only by inequality of property but also by inequality of honors, though the two motives operate in opposite ways—the masses are discontented if possessions are unequally distributed,

1 Probably the Greek should be altered to give ‘because’ instead of ‘moreover.’

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  • Cross-references to this page (2):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), COLO´NIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), LEUCAS
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