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[931a] of all men concerning the gods are two-fold: some of the gods whom we honor we see clearly1, but of others we set up statues as images, and we believe that when we worship these, lifeless though they be, the living gods beyond feel great good-will towards us and gratitude. So if any man has a father or a mother, or one of their fathers or mothers, in his house laid up bed-ridden with age, let him never suppose that, while he has such a figure as this upon his hearth, any statue could be more potent, if so be that its owner tends it duly and rightly. [931b]

And what do you say is the right way?

I will tell you: for in truth, my friends, matters of this sort deserve a hearing.

Say on.

Oedipus, when he was dishonored (so our story runs), invoked upon his children curses2 which, as all men allege, were granted by Heaven and fulfilled; and we tell how Amyntor in his wrath cursed his son Phoenix,3 and Theseus cursed Hippolytus,4 and countless other parents cursed countless other sons, which curses of parents upon sons it is clearly proved that the gods grant; [931c] for a parent's curse laid upon his children is more potent than any other man's curse against any other, and most justly so. Let no man suppose, then, that when a father or a mother is dishonored by the children, in that case it is natural for God to hearken especially to their prayers, whereas when the parent is honored and is highly pleased and earnestly prays the gods, in consequence, to bless his children—are we not to suppose that they hearken equally to prayers of this kind, and grant them to us? For if not, they could never be just dispensers of blessings; and that, as we assert, would be [931d] most unbecoming in gods.

Most, indeed.

Let us maintain, then,—as we said a moment ago—that in the eyes of the gods we can possess no image more worthy of honor, than a father or forefather laid up with old age, or a mother in the same condition; whom when a man worships with gifts of honor, God is well pleased, for otherwise He would not grant their prayers. For the shrine which is an ancestor is marvellous in our eyes, [931e] far beyond that which is a lifeless thing; for while those which are alive pray for us when tended by us and pray against us when dishonored, the lifeless images do neither; so that if a man rightly treats his father and forefather and all such ancestors, he will possess images potent above all others to win for him a heaven-blest lot.5

Most excellent!

Every right-minded man fears and respects the prayers of parents, knowing that many times in many cases they have proved effective. And since this is the ordinance of nature, to good men aged forefathers are a heavenly treasure

1 i.e. the stars; cp. Plat. Laws 821b.

2 Cp. Aesch. Seven 709 ff.; Soph. OC 1432 ff.

3 Cp. Hom. Il. 9.446 ff.: Phoenix, to avenge his neglected mother, seduced his father's mistress.

4 Cp. Plat. Laws 687e, Eur. Hipp. 884 ff. : Hippolytus was falsely charged with dishonoring his step-mother, Phaedra.

5 Cp. Plat. Laws 931a.

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