previous next
[710a] on our monarch's soul, if the rest of his qualities are to be of any value.”

Temperance, as I think, Megillus, is what the Stranger indicates as the necessary accompaniment. Is it not?

Yes, Clinias; temperance, that is, of the ordinary kind1 not the kind men mean when they use academic language and identify temperance with wisdom, but that kind which by natural instinct springs up at birth in children and animals, so that some are not incontinent, others continent, in respect of pleasures; and of this we said2 [710b] that, when isolated from the numerous so-called “goods,” it was of no account. You understand, of course, what I mean.


Let our monarch, then, possess this natural quality in addition to the other qualities mentioned, if the State is to acquire in the quickest and best way possible the constitution it needs for the happiest kind of life. For there does not exist, nor could there ever arise, a quicker and better form of constitution than this. [710c]

How and by what argument, Stranger, could one convince oneself that to say this is to speak the truth?

It is quite easy to perceive at least this, Clinias, that the facts stand by nature's ordinance in the way described.

In what way do you mean? On condition, do you say, that there should be a monarch who was young, temperate, quick at learning, with a good memory, brave and of a noble manner?

Add also “fortunate,”—not in other respects, but only in this, that in his time there should arise a praiseworthy lawgiver, and that, by a piece of good fortune, [710d] the two of them should meet; for if this were so, then God would have done nearly everything that he does when he desires that a State should be eminently prosperous. The second best condition is that there should arise two such rulers; then comes the third best, with three rulers; and so on, the difficulty increasing in proportion as the number becomes greater, and vice versa.

You mean, apparently, that the best State would arise from a monarchy, when it has a first-rate lawgiver and a virtuous monarch, and these are the conditions under which the change into such a State could be effected most easily and quickly; and, next to this, from an oligarchy— [710e] or what is it you mean?

Not at all: the easiest step is from a monarchy, the next easiest from a monarchic constitution, the third from some form of democracy. An oligarchy, which comes fourth in order, would admit of the growth of the best State only with the greatest difficulty, since it has the largest number of rulers. What I say is that the change takes place when nature supplies a true lawgiver, and when it happens that his policy is shared by the most powerful persons in the State;

1 Plat. Laws 698a;Plat. Phaedo 82a ff. The “academic” (or philosophic) identification of “virtue” with “wisdom” was a main feature in the ethics of Socrates; cp.Plat. Rep. 430d ff.

2 Plat. Laws 696d.

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: