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Very well then: what and how many are the agreed rights or claims in the matter of ruling and being ruled, alike in States, large or small, and in households? Is not the right of father and mother one of them? And in general would not the claim of parents to rule over offspring be a claim universally just?


And next to this, the right of the noble to rule over the ignoble; and then, following on these as a third claim, the right of older people to rule and of younger to be ruled.

To be sure. [690b]

The fourth right is that slaves ought to be ruled, and masters ought to rule.


And the fifth is, I imagine, that the stronger should rule and the weaker be ruled.

A truly compulsory form of rule!

Yes, and one that is very prevalent among all kinds of creatures, being “according to nature,” as Pindar of Thebes once said.1 The most important right is, it would seem, the sixth, which ordains that the man without understanding should follow, and the wise man lead and rule. Nevertheless, [690c] my most sapient Pindar, this is a thing that I, for one, would hardly assert to be against nature, but rather according thereto—the natural rule of law, without force, over willing subjects.

A very just observation.

Heaven's favour and good-luck mark the seventh form of rule, where we bring a man forward for a casting of lots, and declare that if he gains the lot he will most justly be ruler, but if he fails he shall take his place among the ruled.

Very true. [690d]

Seest thou, O legislator,”—it is thus we might playfully address one of those who lightly start on the task of legislation— “how many are the rights pertaining to rulers, and how they are essentially opposed to one another? Herein we have now discovered a source of factions, which thou must remedy. So do thou, in the first place, join with us in enquiring how it came to pass, and owing to what transgression of those rights, that the kings of Argos and Messene brought ruin alike on themselves and on the Hellenic power, [690e] splendid as it was at that epoch. Was it not through ignorance of that most true saying of Hesiod2 that 'oftimes the half is greater than the whole'?”

Most true, indeed.

Is it our view, then, that this causes ruin when it is found in kings rather than when found in peoples?

1 Cp. Plat. Gorg. 484b Πίνδαρος . . . λέγει ὅτι Νόμος . . . <κατὰ ρύσιν> ἄγει δικαιῶν τὸ βιαιότατον ὑπερτάτᾳ χεπί.

2 Cp. Hes. WD 638 ff.; Rep. 466 C.: the meaning is that when “the whole” is excessive, the moderate “half” is preferable; this maxim being here applied to excesses of political power.

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