previous next
[922a] the mass of citizens to honor as second in merit those brave men who, either by bold deeds or by military devices, are protectors of the State; for first in merit come those on whom the greatest reward must be bestowed—namely, those who have proved themselves able pre-eminently to honor the written code of the good lawgivers.1 We have now made regulations for most of the more important business dealings between man and man, excepting those regarding orphans and the care of orphans by their guardians; so, after those now dealt with, these matters must necessarily receive some kind of regulation. [922b] All these have their starting-points either in the desire of those at the point of death to devise their property, or in the accidental cases of those who die without making a testament; and it was in view of the complex and difficult nature of these cases, Clinias, that I made use of the word “necessarily.” And it is, indeed, impossible to leave them without regulation; for individuals might set down many wishes both at variance with one another and contrary to the laws as well as to the dispositions of the living, and also to their own former dispositions in the days before they proposed making a will, [922c] if any will that a man makes were to be granted absolute and unconditional validity, no matter what his state of mind at the end of his life. For most of us are more or less in a dull and enfeebled state of mind, when we imagine that we are nearly at the point of death.

What do you mean by this, Stranger?

A man at the point of death, Clinias, is a difficult subject, and overflowing with speech that is most alarming and vexatious to a lawgiver.

How so?

Since he claims to be lord of all he has, he is wont [922d] to speak angrily.

What will he say?

“Good heavens!” he cries, “what a monstrous shame it is, if I am not to be allowed at all to give, or not give, my own things to whomsoever I will—and more to one, less to another, according as they have proved themselves good to me or bad, when fully tested in times of sickness, or else in old age and in other happenings of every kind.”

And do you not think, Stranger, that what they say is right? [922e]

What I think, Clinias, is this—that the old lawgivers were cowardly, and gave laws with a short view and a slight consideration of human affairs.

How do you mean?

It was through fear, my dear sir, of that angry speech that they made the law allowing a man unconditionally to dispose by will of his goods exactly how he pleases.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (1903)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: