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[926a] and requesting pardon also for the subjects of the law, inasmuch as they are naturally unable at times to carry out ordinances of the lawgiver laid down by him in ignorance.

As regards this, Stranger, what would be the most rational course of action to adopt?

It is necessary, Clinias, that for laws of this kind, and those whom they affect, arbitrators should be chosen.

How do you mean?

It might happen that a nephew, who has a rich father, would be loth to take to wife his uncle's daughter, [926b] giving himself airs and being minded to make a grander match. Or again, when what the lawgiver enjoins would be a fearful calamity, a man might be compelled to disobey the law—for instance, when the law would force him to enter into an alliance with madness or some other dire affliction of body or soul, such as makes life intolerable for the person so allied. This statement of ours shall now be laid down as a law in the following terms:—If any man have a complaint against the ordained laws concerning testaments in respect of any detail, and especially [926c] of those relating to marriage; and if he affirms on oath that of a truth the lawgiver himself, were he alive and present, would never have compelled the parties to act as they are now being compelled to act in respect of marrying and giving in marriage; and if, on the other hand, some relative or guardian supports the compulsion of the law; what we declare is that the lawgiver has left us the fifteen Law-wardens to act for the orphans, male and female, as both arbitrators and parents, and to these [926d] all who dispute about any such matters shall go for judgment, and their verdict shall be carried out as final. If, however, anyone maintains that this is to confer too much power on the Law-wardens, he shall summon his opponents before the court of select judges1 and secure a decision regarding the points in dispute. On him that is defeated there shall be imposed by the lawgiver censure and disgrace,—a penalty heavier than a large fine in the eyes of a man of right mind. Accordingly, orphan children will undergo a kind of second birth.2 How in each case they should be reared and trained [926e] after their first birth we have already described;3 and now we must contrive some means whereby, after their second birth in which they are destitute of parents, their orphan condition may be as free as possible from piteous misery for those who have become orphans. In the first place, to act in the room of their begetters, as parents of no inferior kind, we must legally appoint the Law-wardens; and we charge three of these, year by year4, to care for the orphans as their own, having already given both to these men and to the guardians a suitable prelude of directions concerning the nurture of orphans. Opportune, indeed, as I think, was the account we previously gave5

1 Cp. Plat. Laws 775d., Plat. Laws 855c.

2 i.e. be “born again” as children of the State, with the Law-wardens as their new official parents, as explained below.

3 In Books II. and VII.

4 Cp. Plat. Laws 924c.

5 Plat. Laws 865e.

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