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[637a] if he thinks fit, will defend them. The rules about pleasures at Sparta seem to me the best in the world. For our law banished entirely from the land that institution which gives the most occasion for men to fall into excessive pleasures and riotous and follies of every description; neither in the country nor in the cities controlled by Spartiates is a drinking-club to be seen nor any of the practices which belong to such and foster to the utmost all kinds of pleasure. Indeed there is not a man who would not punish at once and most severely any drunken reveller he chanced to meet with, [637b] nor would even the feast of Dionysus serve as an excuse to save him—a revel such as I once upon a time witnessed “on the wagons”1 in your country; and at our colony of Tarentum, too, saw the whole city drunk at the Dionysia. But with us no such thing is possible.

O Stranger of Lacedaemon, all such indulgences are praiseworthy where there exists a strain of firm moral fiber, [637c] but where this is relaxed they are quite stupid. An Athenian in self-defence might at once retaliate by pointing to the looseness of the women in your country. Regarding all such practices, whether in Tarentum, Athens or Sparta, there is one answer that is held to vindicate their propriety. The universal answer to the stranger who is surprised at seeing in a State some unwonted practice is this: “Be not surprised, O Stranger: such is the custom with us: with you, perhaps, the custom in these matters is different.” [637d] But, my dear Sirs, our argument now is not concerned with the rest of mankind but with the goodness or badness of the lawgivers themselves. So let us deal more fully with the subject of drunkenness in general for it is a practice of no slight importance, and it requires no mean legislator to understand it. I am now referring not to the drinking or non-drinking of wine generally, but to drunkenness pure and simple, and the question is—ought we to deal with it as the Scythians and Persians do and the Carthaginians also, and Celts, [637e] Iberians and Thracians, who are all warlike races, or as you Spartans do; for you, as you say, abstain from it altogether, whereas the Scythians and Thracians, both men and women, take their wine neat and let it pour down over their clothes, and regard this practice of theirs as a noble and splendid practice; and the Persians indulge greatly in these and other luxurious habits which you reject, albeit in a more orderly fashion than the others.

1 At the Feast of Dionysus in Athens it was customary for revellers mounted on wagons to indulge in scurrilous language during the processions.

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