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[676a]

Athenian
So much for that, then! Now, what are we to say about the origin of government? Would not the best and easiest way of discerning it be from this standpoint?

Clinias
What standpoint?

Athenian
That from which one should always observe the progress of States as they move towards either goodness or badness.

Clinias
What point is that?

Athenian
The observation, as I suppose, of an infinitely long period of time [676b] and of the variations therein occurring.

Clinias
Explain your meaning.

Athenian
Tell me now: do you think you could ever ascertain the space of time that has passed since cities came into existence and men lived under civic rule?

Clinias
Certainly it would be no easy task.

Athenian
But you can easily see that it is vast and immeasurable?

Clinias
That I most certainly can do.

Athenian
During this time, have not thousands upon thousands of States come into existence, and, on a similar computation, just as many perished? [676c] And have they not in each case exhibited all kinds of constitutions over and over again? And have they not changed at one time from small to great, at another from great to small, and changed also from good to bad and from bad to good?

Clinias
Necessarily.

Athenian
Of this process of change let us discover, if we can, the cause; for this, perhaps, would show us what is the primary origin of constitutions, as well as their transformation.

Clinias
You are right; and we must all exert ourselves,—you to expound your view about them, and we to keep pace with you.

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