previous next

Let everyone who has just heard the ordinances concerning gods and dear forefathers now give ear. Of all a man's own belongings, the most divine is his soul, since it is most his own. A man's own belongings are invariably twofold: the stronger and better are the ruling elements, the weaker and worse those that serve; wherefore of one's own belongings one must honor those that rule above those that serve. [727a] Thus it is that in charging men to honor their own souls next after the gods who rule and the secondary divinities, I am giving a right injunction. But there is hardly a man of us all who pays honor rightly, although he fancies he does so; for honor paid to a thing divine is beneficent, whereas nothing that is maleficent confers honor; and he that thinks to magnify his soul by words or gifts or obeisances, while he is improving it no whit in goodness, fancies indeed that he is paying it honor, but in fact does not do so. Every boy, for example, as soon as he has grown to manhood, deems himself capable of learning all things, and supposes that by lauding his soul he honors it, [727b] and by eagerly permitting it to do whatsoever it pleases. But by acting thus, as we now declare, he is not honoring his soul, but injuring it; whereas, we affirm, he ought to pay honor to it next after the gods. Again, when a man counts not himself but others responsible always for his own sins and for the most and greatest evils, and exempts himself always from blame, thereby honoring, as he fancies, his own soul,—then he is far indeed from honoring it, [727c] since he is doing it injury. Again, when a man gives way to pleasures contrary to the counsel and commendation of the lawgiver, he is by no means conferring honor on his soul, but rather dishonor, by loading it with woes and remorse. Again, in the opposite case, when toils, fears, hardships and pains are commended, and a man flinches from them, instead of stoutly enduring them,—then by his flinching he confers no honor on his soul; for by all such actions he renders it dishonored. Again, when a man deems life at any price to be a good thing, [727d] then also he does not honor, but dishonor, to his soul; for he yields to the imagination of his soul that the conditions in Hades are altogether evil, instead of opposing it, by teaching and convincing his soul that, for all it knows, we may find, on the contrary, our greatest blessings in the realm of the gods below. Again, when a man honors beauty above goodness, this is nothing else than a literal and total dishonoring of the soul; for such a statement asserts that the body is more honorable than the soul,— [727e] but falsely, since nothing earth-born is more honorable than the things of heaven, and he that surmises otherwise concerning the soul knows not that in it he possesses, and neglects, a thing most admirable. Again, when a man craves to acquire wealth ignobly, or feels no qualm in so acquiring it, [728a] he does not then by his gifts pay honor to his soul,—far from it, in sooth!—for what is honorable therein and noble he is bartering away for a handful of gold; yet all the gold on earth, or under it, does not equal the price of goodness. To speak shortly:—in respect of the things which the lawgiver enumerates and describes as either, on the one hand, base and evil, or, on the other hand, noble and good, if any man refuses to avoid by every means the one kind, and with all his power to practise the other kind,—such a man knows not that [728b] everyone who acts thus is treating most dishonorably and most disgracefully that most divine of things, his soul. Hardly anyone takes account of the greatest “judgment” (as men call it) upon evil-doing; that greatest judgment is this,—to grow like unto men that are wicked, and, in so growing, to shun good men and good counsels and cut oneself off from them,1 but to cleave to the company of the wicked and follow after them; and he that is joined to such men inevitably acts and is acted upon in the way that such men bid one another to act. [728c] Now such a resultant condition is not a “judgment” (for justice and judgment are things honorable) , but a punishment, an infliction that follows on injustice; both he that undergoes this and he that undergoes it not are alike wretched,—the one in that he remains uncured, the other in that he is destroyed in order to secure the salvation of many others.2 Thus we declare that honor, speaking generally, consists in following the better, and in doing our utmost to effect the betterment of the worse, when it admits of being bettered. Man has no possession better fitted by nature than the soul for [728d] the avoidance of evil and the tracking and taking of what is best of all, and living in fellowship therewith, when he has taken it, for all his life thereafter. Wherefore the soul is put second3 in order of honor; as for the third, everyone would conceive that this place naturally belongs to the honor due to the body. But here again one has to investigate the various forms of honor,—which of them are genuine, which spurious; and this is the lawgiver's task. Now he, as I suppose, declares that the honors are these and of these kinds:—the honorable body is not the fair body nor the strong nor [728e] the swift nor the large, nor yet the body that is sound in health, although this is what many believe; neither is it a body of the opposite kind to any of these; rather those bodies which hold the mean position between all these opposite extremes are by far the most temperate and stable; for while the one extreme makes the souls puffed up and proud, the other makes them lowly and spiritless. The same holds good of the possession of goods and chattels, and they are to be valued on a similar scale. In each case, when they are in excess, [729a] they produce enmities and feuds both in States and privately, while if they are deficient they produce, as a rule, serfdom. And let no man love riches for the sake of his children, in order that he may leave them as wealthy as possible; for that is good neither for them nor for the State. For the young the means that attracts no flatterers, yet is not lacking in things necessary, is the most harmonious of all and the best; for it is in tune with us and in accord, and thus it renders our life in all respects painless. [729b] To his children it behoves a man to bequeath modesty, not money, in abundance. We imagine that chiding the young for their irreverence is the way to bequeath this; but no such result follows from the admonition commonly given nowadays to the young, when people tell them that “youth must reverence everyone.” Rather will the prudent lawgiver admonish the older folk to reverence the young, and above all to beware lest any of them be ever seen or heard by any of the young either doing or saying anything shameful; [729c] for where the old are shameless, there inevitably will also the young be very impudent. The most effective way of training the young—as well as the older people themselves—is not by admonition, but by plainly practising throughout one's own life the admonitions which one gives to others. By paying honor and reverence to his kinsfolk, and all who share in the worship of the tribal gods and are sprung from the same blood, a man will, in proportion to his piety, secure the goodwill of the gods of Birth to bless his own begetting of children. Moreover, [729d] a man will find his friends and companions kindly disposed, in regard to life's intercourse, if he sets higher than they do the value and importance of the services he receives from them, while counting the favors he confers on them as of less value than they are deemed by his companions and friends themselves. In relation to his State and fellow-citizens that man is by far the best who, in preference to a victory at Olympia or in any other contest of war or peace, would choose to have a victorious reputation for service to his native laws, as being the one man above all others who has served them with distinction throughout his life. [729e] Further, a man should regard contracts made with strangers as specially sacred; for practically all the sins against Strangers are—as compared with those against citizens—connected more closely with an avenging deity. For the stranger, inasmuch as he is without companions or kinsfolk, is the more to be pitied by men and gods; wherefore he that is most able to avenge succors them most readily, and the most able of all, in every case, is the Strangers' daemon and god, [730a] and these follow in the train of Zeus Xenios.4 Whoso, then, is possessed of but a particle of forethought will take the utmost care to go through life to the very end without committing any offence in respect of Strangers. Of offences against either Strangers or natives, that which touches suppliants is in every case the most grave; for when a suppliant, after invoking a god as witness, is cheated of his compact, that god becomes the special guardian of him who is wronged, so that he will never be wronged without vengeance being taken for his wrongs. [730b] As concerns a man's social relations towards his parents, himself and his own belongings, towards the State also and friends and kindred,—whether foreign relations or domestic,—our exposition is now fairly complete. It remains to expound next the character which is most conducive to nobility of life; and after that we shall have to state all the matters which are subject, not to law, but rather to praise or blame,—as the instruments whereby the citizens are educated individually and rendered more tractable and well-inclined towards the laws which are to be imposed on them. Of all the goods, [730c] for gods and men alike, truth stands first. Thereof let every man partake from his earliest days, if he purposes to become blessed and happy, that so he may live his life as a true man so long as possible. He is a trusty man; but untrustworthy is the man who loves the voluntary lie; and senseless is the man who loves the involuntary lie; and neither of these two is to be envied. For everyone that is either faithless or foolish is friendless; and since, as time goes on, he is found out, he is making for himself, in his woeful old-age, at life's close, [730d] a complete solitude, wherein his life becomes almost equally desolate whether his companions and children are living or dead. He that does no wrong is indeed a man worthy of honor; but worthy of twice as much honor as he, and more, is the man who, in addition, consents not to wrongdoers when they do wrong;5 for while the former counts as one man, the latter counts as many, in that he informs the magistrates of the wrongdoing of the rest. And he that assists the magistrates in punishing, to the best of his power, let him be publicly proclaimed to be the Great Man of the State and perfect, the winner of the prize for excellence. [730e] Upon temperance and upon wisdom one should bestow the same praise, and upon all the other goods which he who possesses them can not only keep himself but can share also with others. He that thus shares these should be honored as highest in merit; and he that would fain share them but cannot, as second in merit; while if a man is jealous and unwilling to share any good things with anyone in a friendly spirit, [731a] then the man himself must be blamed, but his possession must not be disesteemed any the more because of its possessor,—rather one should strive to gain it with all one's might. Let every one of us be ambitious to gain excellence, but without jealousy. For a man of this character enlarges a State, since he strives hard himself and does not thwart the others by calumny; but the jealous man, thinking that calumny of others is the best way to secure his own superiority, makes less effort himself to win true excellence, and disheartens his rivals by getting them unjustly blamed; whereby he causes the whole State [731b] to be ill-trained for competing in excellence, and renders it, for his part, less large in fair repute. Every man ought to be at once passionate and gentle in the highest degree.6 For, on the one hand, it is impossible to escape from other men's wrongdoings, when they are cruel and hard to remedy, or even wholly irremediable, otherwise than by victorious fighting and self-defence, and by punishing most rigorously; and this no soul [731c] can achieve without noble passion. But, on the other hand, when men commit wrongs which are remediable, one should, in the first place, recognize that every wrongdoer is a wrongdoer involuntarily;7 for no one anywhere would ever voluntarily acquire any of the greatest evils, least of all in his own most precious possessions. And most precious in very truth to every man is, as we have said, the soul. No one, therefore, will voluntarily admit into this most precious thing the greatest evil and live [731d] possessing it all his life long. Now while in general the wrong-doer and he that has these evils are to be pitied, it is permissible to show pity to the man that has evils that are remediable, and to abate one's passion and treat him gently, and not to keep on raging like a scolding wife; but in dealing with the man who is totally and obstinately perverse and wicked one must give free course to wrath. Wherefore we affirm that it behoves the good man to be always at once passionate and gentle. There is an evil, great above all others, which most men have, implanted in their souls, and which each one of them excuses in himself and makes no effort to avoid. [731e] It is the evil indicated in the saying that every man is by nature a lover of self, and that it is right that he should be such.8 But the truth is that the cause of all sins in every case lies in the person's excessive love of self. For the lover is blind in his view of the object loved, so that he is a bad judge9 of things just and good and noble, in that he deems himself [732a] bound always to value what is his own more than what is true; for the man who is to attain the title of “Great” must be devoted neither to himself nor to his own belongings, but to things just, whether they happen to be actions of his own or rather those of another man. And it is from this same sin that every man has derived the further notion that his own folly is wisdom; whence it comes about that though we know practically nothing, we fancy that we know everything; and since we will not entrust to others the doing of things we do not understand, [732b] we necessarily go wrong in doing them ourselves. Wherefore every man must shun excessive self-love, and ever follow after him that is better than himself, allowing no shame to prevent him from so doing. Precepts that are less important than these and oftentimes repeated—but no less profitable—a man should repeat to himself by way of reminder; for where there is a constant efflux, there must also be a corresponding influx, and when wisdom flows away, the proper influx consists in recollection;10 [732c] wherefore men must be restrained from untimely laughter and tears,11 and every individual, as well as the whole State, must charge every man to try to conceal all show of extreme joy or sorrow, and to behave himself seemly, alike in good fortune and in evil, according as each man's Genius12 ranges itself,—hoping always that God will diminish the troubles that fall upon them by the blessings which he bestows, and will change for the better [732d] the present evils; and as to their blessings, hoping that they, contrariwise, will, with the help of good fortune, be increased. In these hopes, and in the recollections of all these truths, it behoves every man to live, sparing no pains, but constantly recalling them clearly to the recollection both of himself and of his neighbor, alike when at work and when at play. Thus, as regards the right character of institutions [732e] and the right character of individuals, we have now laid down practically all the rules that are of divine sanction. Those that are of human origin we have not stated as yet, but state them we must; for our converse is with men, not gods. Pleasures, pains and desires are by nature especially human; and from these, of necessity, every mortal creature is, so to say, suspended and dependent by the strongest cords of influence. Thus one should commend the noblest life, not merely because it is of superior fashion in respect of fair repute, [733a] but also because, if a man consents to taste it and not shun it in his youth, it is superior likewise in that which all men covet,—an excess, namely, of joy and a deficiency of pain throughout the whole of life. That this will clearly be the result, if a man tastes of it rightly, will at once be fully evident. But wherein does this “rightness” consist? That is the question which we must now, under the instruction of our Argument, consider; comparing the more pleasant life with the more painful, we must in this wise consider whether this mode is natural to us, and that other mode unnatural. We desire that pleasure should be ours, [733b] but pain we neither choose nor desire; and the neutral state we do not desire in place of pleasure, but we do desire it in exchange for pain; and we desire less pain with more pleasure, but we do not desire less pleasure with more pain; and when the two are evenly balanced, we are unable to state any clear preference. Now all these states—in their number, quantity, intensity, equality, and in the opposites thereof—have, or have not, influence on desire, [733c] to govern its choice of each. So these things being thus ordered of necessity, we desire that mode of life in which the feelings are many, great, and intense, with those of pleasure predominating, but we do not desire the life in which the feelings of pain predominate; and contrariwise, we do not desire the life in which the feelings are few, small, and gentle, if the painful predominate, but if the pleasurable predominate, we do desire it. Further, we must regard the life in which there is an equal balance of pleasure and pain as we previously regarded the neutral state: we desire the balanced life in so far as it exceeds [733d] the painful life in point of what we like, but we do not desire it in so far as it exceeds the pleasant lives in point of the things we dislike. The lives of us men must all be regarded as naturally bound up in these feelings, and what kinds of lives we naturally desire is what we must distinguish; but if we assert that we desire anything else, we only say so through ignorance and inexperience of the lives as they really are. What, then, and how many are the lives in which a man—when he has chosen the desirable and voluntary in preference to the undesirable and the involuntary, and has made it into a private law for himself, by choosing [733e] what is at once both congenial and pleasant and most good and noble—may live as happily as man can? Let us pronounce that one of them is the temperate life, one the wise, one the brave, and let us class the healthy life as one; and to these let us oppose four others—the foolish, the cowardly, the licentious, and the diseased. He that knows the temperate life will set it down as gentle in all respects, [734a] affording mild pleasures and mild pains, moderate appetites and desires void of frenzy; but the licentious life he will set down as violent in all directions, affording both pains and pleasures that are extreme, appetites that are intense and maddening, and desires the most frenzied possible; and whereas in the temperate life the pleasures outweigh the pains, in the licentious life the pains exceed the pleasures in extent, number, and frequency. Whence it necessarily results that the one life must be naturally more pleasant, the other more painful to us; [734b] and it is no longer possible for the man who desires a pleasant life voluntarily to live a licentious life, but it is clear by now (if our argument is right) that no man can possibly be licentious voluntarily: it is owing to ignorance or incontinence, or both, that the great bulk of mankind live lives lacking in temperance. Similarly with regard to the diseased life and the healthy life, one must observe that while both have pleasures and pains, the pleasures exceed [734c] the pains in health, but the pains the pleasures in disease. Our desire in the choice of lives is not that pain should be in excess, but the life we have judged the more pleasant is that in which pain is exceeded by pleasure. We will assert, then, that since the temperate life has its feelings smaller, fewer and lighter than the licentious life, and the wise life than the foolish, and the brave than the cowardly, and since the one life is superior to the other in pleasure, but inferior in pain, [734d] the brave life is victorious over the cowardly and the wise over the foolish; consequently the one set of lives ranks as more pleasant than the other: the temperate, brave, wise, and healthy lives are more pleasant than the cowardly, foolish, licentious and diseased. To sum up, the life of bodily and spiritual virtue, as compared with that of vice, is not only more pleasant, but also exceeds greatly in nobility, rectitude, virtue and good fame, so that it causes the man who lives it to live ever so much more happily than he who lives [734e] the opposite life. Thus far we have stated the prelude of our laws, and here let that statement end: after the prelude must necessarily follow the tune,13—or rather, to be strictly accurate, a sketch of the State-organization. Now, just as in the case of a piece of webbing, or any other woven article, it is not possible to make both warp and woof of the same materials, but the stuff of the warp must be of better quality—for it is strong and is made firm by its twistings, [735a] whereas the woof is softer and shows a due degree of flexibility14—from this we may see that in some such way we must mark out those who are to hold high offices in the State and those who are to hold low offices,15 after applying in each case an adequate educational test. For of State organization there are two divisions, of which the one is the appointment of individuals to office, the other the assignment of laws to the offices. But, in truth, before we deal with all these matters we must observe the following. [735b] In dealing with a flock of any kind, the shepherd or cowherd, or the keeper of horses or any such animals, will never attempt to look after it until he has first applied to each group of animals the appropriate purge—which is to separate the sound from the unsound, and the well-bred from the ill-bred,16 and to send off the latter to other herds, while keeping the former under his own care; for he reckons that his labor would be fruitless and unending if it were spent on bodies and souls which nature and [735c] ill-nurture have combined to ruin, and which themselves bring ruin on a stock that is sound and clean both in habit and in body,—whatever the class of beast,—unless a thorough purge be made in the existing herd. This is a matter of minor importance in the case of other animals, and deserves mention only by way of illustration; but in the case of man it is of the highest importance for the lawgiver to search out and to declare what is proper for each class both as regards purging out and all other modes of treatment. For instance, in respect of civic purgings, [735d] this would be the way of it. Of the many possible modes of purging, some are milder, some more severe; those that are severest and best a lawgiver who was also a despot17 might be able to effect, but a lawgiver without despotic power might be well content if, in establishing a new polity and laws, he could effect even the mildest of purgations. The best purge is painful, like all medicines of a drastic nature,— [735e] the purge which hales to punishments by means of justice linked with vengeance, crowning the vengeance with exile or death: it, as a rule, clears out the greatest criminals when they are incurable and cause serious damage to the State. A milder form of purge is one of the following kind:—when, owing to scarcity of food, people are in want, and display a readiness [736a] to follow their leaders in an attack on the property of the wealthy,—then the lawgiver, regarding all such as a plague inherent in the body politic, ships them abroad as gently as possible, giving the euphemistic title of “emigration” to their evacuation. By some means or other this must be done by every legislator at the beginning, but in our case the task is now even more simple; for we have no need to contrive for the present either a form of emigration or any other purgative selection; but just as [736b] when there is a confluence of floods from many sources—some from springs, some from torrents—into a single pool we have to take diligent precautions to ensure that the water may be of the utmost possible purity, by drawing it off in some cases, and in others by making channels to divert its course.18 Yet toil and risk, it would appear, are involved in every exercise of statecraft. Since, however, our present efforts are verbal rather than actual, let us assume that our collection of citizens is now completed, and its purity secured to our satisfaction; for we shall test thoroughly by every kind of test and by length of time the vicious among those [736c] who attempt to enter our present State as citizens, and so prevent their arrival, whereas we shall welcome the virtuous with all possible graciousness and goodwill. And let us not omit to notice this piece of good luck—that, just as we said19 that the colony of the Heraclidae was fortunate in avoiding fierce and dangerous strife concerning the distribution of land and money and the cancelling of debts (so we are similarly lucky) ; for when a State is obliged [736d] to settle such strife by law, it can neither leave vested interests unaltered nor yet can it in any wise alter them, and no way is left save what one might term that of “pious aspiration” and cautious change, little by little, extended over a long period, and that way is this:—there must already exist a supply of men to effect the change, who themselves, on each occasion, possess abundance of land and have many persons in their debt, and who are kind enough to wish to give a share of these things to those of them who are in want, [736e] partly by remissions and partly by distributions, making a kind of rule of moderation and believing that poverty consists, not in decreasing one's substance, but in increasing one's greed. For this is the main foundation of the security of a State, and on this as on a firm keel it is possible to build whatever kind of civic organization may be subsequently built suitable for the arrangement described; [737a] but if the foundation be rotten, the subsequent political operations will prove by no means easy for any State. This difficulty, as we say, we avoid; it is better, however, that we should explain the means by which, if we had not actually avoided it, we might have found a way of escape. Be it explained, then, that that means consists in renouncing avarice by the aid of justice, and that there is no way of escape, broad or narrow, other than this device. So let this stand fixed for us now as a kind of pillar of the State. The properties of the citizens must be established somehow or other on a basis that is secure from intestine disputes; [737b] otherwise, for people who have ancient disputes with one another, men will not of their own free will proceed any further with political construction, if they have a grain of sense.20 But as for those to whom—as to us now—God has given a new State to found, and one free as yet from internal feuds,—that those founders should excite enmity against themselves because of the distribution of land and houses would be a piece of folly combined with utter depravity of which no man could be capable. [737c] What then would be the plan of a right distribution? First, we must fix at the right total the number of citizens; next, we must agree about the distribution of them,—into how many sections, and each of what size, they are to be divided; and among these sections we must distribute, as equally as we can, both the land and the houses. An adequate figure for the population could not be given without reference to the territory and to the neighboring States. [737d] Of land we need as much as is capable of supporting so many inhabitants of temperate habits, and we need no more; and as to population, we need a number such that they will be able to defend themselves against injury from adjoining peoples, and capable also of lending some aid to their neighbors when injured. These matters we shall determine, both verbally and actually, when we have inspected the territory and its neighbors; but for the present it is only a sketch in outline of our legislation that our argument will now proceed to complete. [737e] Let us assume that there are—as a suitable number—5,040 men, to be land-holders and to defend their plots;21 and let the land and houses be likewise divided into the same number of parts—the man and his allotment forming together one division. First, let the whole number be divided into two; next into three; then follow in natural order four and five, and so on up to ten. Regarding numbers, every man who is making laws must understand at least thus much,— [738a] what number and what kind of number will be most useful for all States. Let us choose that which contains the most numerous and most consecutive sub-divisions. Number as a whole comprises every division for all purposes; whereas the number 5,040, for purposes of war, and in peace for all purposes connected with contributions and distributions, will admit of division [738b] into no more than 59 sections, these being consecutive from one up to ten.22 These facts about numbers must be grasped firmly and with deliberate attention by those who are appointed by law to grasp them: they are exactly as we have stated them, and the reason for stating them when founding a State is this:—in respect of gods, and shrines, and the temples which have to be set up for the various gods in the State, and the gods and daemons they are to be named after, no man of sense,—whether he be framing a new State or reforming an old one that has been corrupted,—will attempt to alter [738c] the advice from Delphi or Dodona or Ammon, or that of ancient sayings, whatever form they take—whether derived from visions or from some reported inspiration from heaven. By this advice they instituted sacrifices combined with rites, either of native origin or imported from Tuscany or Cyprus or elsewhere; and by means of such sayings they sanctified oracles and statues and altars and temples, and marked off for each of them sacred glebes. Nothing of all these [738d] should the lawgiver alter in the slightest degree; to each section he should assign a god or daemon, or at the least a hero; and in the distribution of the land he should assign first to these divinities choice domains with all that pertains to them, so that, when assemblies of each of the sections take place at the appointed times, they may provide an ample supply of things requisite, and the people may fraternize with one another at the sacrifices and gain knowledge and intimacy, [738e] since nothing is of more benefit to the State than this mutual acquaintance; for where men conceal their ways one from another in darkness rather than light, there no man will ever rightly gain either his due honor or office, or the justice that is befitting. Wherefore every man in every State must above all things endeavor to show himself always true and sincere towards everyone, and no humbug, and also to allow himself to be imposed upon by no such person. [739a] The next move in our settling of the laws is one that might at first hearing cause surprise because of its unusual character—like the move of a draughts-player who quits his “sacred line” ;23 none the less, it will be clear to him who reasons it out and uses experience that a State will probably have a constitution no higher than second in point of excellence. Probably one might refuse to accept this, owing to unfamiliarity with lawgivers who are not also despots:24 but it is, in fact, the most correct plan to describe the best polity, and the second best, and the third, and after describing them to give the choice to the individual who is charged with the founding of the settlement. [739b] This plan let us now adopt: let us state the polities which rank first, second, and third in excellence; and the choice let us hand over to Clinias and to whosoever else may at any time wish, ill proceeding to the selection of such things, to take over, according to his own disposition, what he values in his own country. That State and polity come first, and those laws are best, where there is observed as carefully as possible [739c] throughout the whole State the old saying25 that “friends have all things really in common.” As to this condition,—whether it anywhere exists now, or ever will exist,—in which there is community of wives, children, and all chattels, and all that is called “private” is everywhere and by every means rooted out of our life, and so far as possible it is contrived that even things naturally “private” have become in a way “communized,” —eyes, for instance, and ears and hands seem to see, hear, and act in common,— [739d] and that all men are, so far as possible, unanimous in the praise and blame they bestow, rejoicing and grieving at the same things, and that they honor with all their heart those laws which render the State as unified as possible,—no one will ever lay down another definition that is truer or better than these conditions in point of super-excellence. In such a State,—be it gods or sons of gods that dwell in it,—they dwell pleasantly, living such a life as this. Wherefore one should not look elsewhere [739e] for a model constitution, but hold fast to this one, and with all one's power seek the constitution that is as like to it as possible. That constitution which we are now engaged upon, if it came into being, would be very near to immortality, and would come second in point of merit. The third we shall investigate hereafter, if God so will; for the present, however, what is this second best polity, and how would it come to be of such a character? First, let them portion out the land and houses, [740a] and not farm in common, since such a course is beyond the capacity of people with the birth, rearing and training we assume. And let the apportionment be made with this intention,—that the man who receives the portion should still regard it as common property of the whole State, and should tend the land, which is his fatherland, more diligently than a mother tends her children, inasmuch as it, being a goddess, is mistress over its mortal population, and should observe the same attitude also towards the local gods [740b] and daemons. And in order that these things may remain in this state for ever, these further rules must be observed: the number of hearths, as now appointed by us, must remain unchanged, and must never become either more or less. This will be securely effected, in the case of every State, in the following way: the allotment-holder shall always leave behind him one son, whichever he pleases, as the inheritor of his dwelling, to be his successor in the tendance of the deified ancestors [740c] both of family and of State, whether living or already deceased; as to the rest of the children, when a man has more than one, he should marry off the females according to the law that is to be ordained,26 and the males he should dispose of to such of the citizens as have no male issue, by a friendly arrangement if possible; but where such arrangements prove insufficient, or where the family is too large either in females or in males, or where, on the other hand, it is too small, [740d] through the occurrence of sterility,—in all these cases the magistrates, whom we shall appoint as the highest and most distinguished,27 shall consider how to deal with the excess or deficiency in families, and contrive means as best they can to secure that the 5,040 househoIds shall remain unaltered. There are many contrivances possible: where the fertility is great, there are methods of inhibition, and contrariwise there are methods of encouraging and stimulating the birth-rate, by means of honors and dishonors, and by admonitions addressed [740e] by the old to the young, which are capable in all ways of producing the required effect. Moreover, as a final step,—in case we are in absolute desperation about the unequal condition of our 5,040 households, and are faced with a superabundance of citizens, owing to the mutual affection of those who cohabit with one another, which drives us to despair,—there still remains that ancient device which we have often mentioned, namely, the sending forth, in friendly wise from a friendly nation, of colonies consisting of such people as are deemed suitable. On the other hand, should the State ever be attacked by a deluging wave [741a] of disease or ruinous wars, and the houses fall much below the appointed number through bereavements, we ought not to introduce new citizens trained with a bastard training of our own free will,—but “necessity” (as the proverb runs) “not even God himself can compel.”28 Let us then suppose that our present discourse gives the following advice:—My most excellent friends, be not slack to pay honor, as Nature ordains, to similarity and equality and identity and congruity in respect of number [741b] and of every influence productive of things fair and good. Above all, now, in the first place, guard throughout your lives the number stated; in the next place, dishonor not the due measure of the height and magnitude of your substance, as originally apportioned, by buying and selling one to another: otherwise, neither will the apportioning Lot,29 which is divine, fight on your side, nor will the lawgiver: for now, in the first place, the law lays on the disobedient this injunction:—since it has given warning that whoso wills should take [741c] or refuse an allotment on the understanding that, first, the land is sacred to all the gods, and further, that prayers shall be made at the first, second, and third sacrifices by the priests and priestesses,—therefore the man who buys or sells the house-plot or land-plot allotted to him must suffer the penalty attached to this sin. The officials shall inscribe on tablets of cypress-wood written records for future reference, and shall place them in the shrines; furthermore, [741d] they shall place the charge of the execution of these matters in the hands of that magistrate who is deemed to be most keen of vision, in order that all breaches of these rules may be brought to their notice, and they may punish the man who disobeys both the law and the god. How great a blessing the ordinance now described—when the appropriate organization accompanies it—proves to all the States that obey it—that is a thing which, as the old proverb30 says, none that is evil shall know, but only he that has become experienced and practised in virtuous habits. [741e] For in the organization described there exists no excess of money-making, and it involves the condition that no facility should or can be given to anyone to make money by means of any illiberaI trade,—inasmuch as what is called contemptible vulgarity perverts a liberal character,—and also that no one should ever claim to heap up riches from any such source. Furthermore, upon all this [742a] there follows also a law which forbids any private person to possess any gold or silver, only coin for purposes of such daily exchange as it is almost necessary for craftsmen31 to make use of, and all who need such things in paying wages to hirelings, whether slaves or immigrants. For these reasons we say that our people should possess coined money which is legal tender among themselves, but vaIueless elsewhere. As regards the universal Hellenic coinage,—for the sake of expeditions and foreign visits, as well as of embassies or any other missions necessary for the State, if there be need to send someone abroad,—for such objects as these it is necessary that the State should always possess Hellenic money. [742b] If a private citizen ever finds himself obliged to go abroad,32 he may do so, after first getting leave from the magistrates; and should he come home with any surplus of foreign money, he shall deposit it with the State, and take for it an equivaIent in home coinage; but should anyone be found out keeping it for himself, the money shall be confiscated, and the man who is privy to it and fails to inform, together with the man who has imported it, shall be liable to cursing and reproach and, in addition, to a fine not less than the amount of the foreign money [742c] brought in. In marrying or giving in marriage, no one shall give or receive any dowry at all. No one shall deposit money with anyone he does not trust, nor lend at interest, since it is permissible for the borrower to refuse entirely to pay back either interest or principal. That these are the best rules for a State to observe in practice, one would perceive rightly [742d] if one viewed them in relation to the primary intention. The intention of the judicious statesman is, we say, not at all the intention which the majority would ascribe to him; they would say that the good Iawgiver should desire that the State, for which he is benevolentIy legislating, should be as large and as rich as possible, possessed of silver and gold, and bearing rule over as many people as possible both by land and sea; and they would add that he should desire the State to be as good and as happy as possible, if he is a true legislator. [742e] Of these objects some are possible of attainment, some impossible; such as are possible the organizer of the State will desire; the impossible he will neither vainly desire nor attempt. That happiness and goodness should go together is well-nigh inevitable,33 so he will desire the people to be both good and happy; but it is impossible for them to be at once both good and excessively rich—rich at least as most men count riches; for they reckon as rich those who possess, in a rare degree, goods worth a vast deal of money, [743a] and these even a wicked man might possess. And since this is so, I would never concede to them that the rich man is really happy if he is not also good; while, if a man is superlatively good, it is impossible that he should be also superlatively rich. “Why so?” it may be asked. Because, we would reply, the gain derived from both right and wrong is more than double that from right alone, whereas the expenditure of those who refuse to spend either nobly or ignobIy is only one-half the expenditure of those who are noble and like spending on noble objects; [743b] consequently, the wealth of men who double their gains and halve their expenditure will never be exceeded by the men whose procedure in both respects is just the opposite.34 Now of these men, the one is good, and the other not bad, so long as he is niggardly, but utterly bad when he is not niggardly, and (as we have just said) at no time good. For while the one man, since he takes both justly and unjustly and spends neither justly nor unjustly, is rich (and the utterly bad man, being lavish as a rule, is very poor) ,— [743c] the other man, who spends on noble objects, and gains by just means only, is never likely to become either superlatively rich or extremely poor. Accordingly, what we have stated is true,—that the very rich are not good, and not being good, neither are they happy. Now the fundamental purpose of our laws was this,—that the citizens should be as happy as possible, and in the highest degree united in mutual friendship. Friendly the citizens will never be where they have frequent legal actions with one another and frequent illegal acts, but rather where these are [743d] the fewest and least possible. We say that in the State there must be neither gold nor silver, nor must there be much money-making by means of vulgar trading or usury or the fattening of gelded beasts, but only such profit as farming offers and yields, and of this only so much as will not drive a man by his money-making to neglect the objects for which money exists: these objects are the soul and the body, which without gymnastic and the other branches of education [743e] would never become things of value. Wherefore we have asserted (and that not once only)35 that the pursuit of money is to be honored last of all: of all the three objects which concern every man, the concern for money, rightly directed, comes third and last; that for the body comes second; and that for the soul, first. Accordingly, if it prescribes its honors in this order, the polity which we are describing has its laws correctly laid down; but if any of the laws therein enacted shall evidently make health [744a] of more honor in the State than temperance, or wealth than health and temperance, it will quite clearly be a wrong enactment. Thus the lawgiver must ofttimes put this question to himself— “What is it that I intend?” and, “Am I succeeding in this, or am I wide of the mark?” In this way he might, perhaps, get through the task of legislation himself, and save others the trouble of it; but in no other way could he ever possibly do so. The man who has received an allotment shall hold it, as we say, [744b] on the terms stated. It would indeed have been a splendid thing if each person, on entering the colony, had had all else equal as well. Since this, however, is impossible, and one man will arrive with more money and another with less, it is necessary for many reasons, and for the sake of equaIizing chances in public life, that there should be unequal valuations, in order that offices and contributions may be assigned in accordance with the assessed valuation in each case,—being framed not in proportion only to the moral excellence of a man's ancestors or of himself, nor to his bodily strength [744c] and comeliness, but in proportion also to his wealth or poverty,—so that by a rule of symmetrical inequality36 they may receive offices and honors as equally as possible, and may have no quarrelling. For these reasons we must make four classes, graded by size of property, and called first, second, third and fourth (or by some other names) , alike when the individuals remain in the same class and when, through a change from poverty to wealth or from wealth to poverty, they pass over each to that class to which he belongs. [744d] The kind of law that I would enact as proper to follow next after the foregoing would be this: It is, as we assert, necessary in a State which is to avoid that greatest of plagues, which is better termed disruption than dissension,37 that none of its citizens should be in a condition of either painful poverty or wealth, since both these conditions produce both these results; consequently the lawgiver must now declare a limit for both these conditions. The limit of poverty shall be the value of the allotment: [744e] this must remain fixed, and its diminution in any particular instance no magistrate should overlook, nor any other citizen who aspires to goodness. And having set this as the (inferior) limit, the lawgiver shall allow a man to possess twice this amount, or three times, or four times. Should anyone acquire more than this—whether by discovery or gift or money-making, or through gaining a sum exceeding [745a] the due measure by some other such piece of luck, if he makes the surplus over to the State and the gods who keep the State, he shall be well-esteemed and free from penalty. But if anyone disobeys this law, whoso wishes may get half by laying information, and the man that is convicted shall pay out an equal share of his own property, and the half shall go to the gods. All the property of every man over and above his allotment shall be publicly written out and be in the keeping of the magistrates appointed by law, [745b] so that legal rights pertaining to all matters of property may be easy to decide and perfectly clear. In the next place, the lawgiver must first plant his city as nearly as possible in the center of the country, choosing a spot which has all the other conveniences also which a city requires, and which it is easy enough to perceive and specify. After this, he must divide off twelve portions of land,—when he has first set apart a sacred glebe for Hestia, Zeus and Athena, to which he shall give the name “acropolis” and circle it round with a ring-wall; [745c] starting from this he must divide up both the city itself and all the country into the twelve portions. The twelve portions must be equalized by making those consisting of good land small, and those of inferior land larger. He must mark off 5,040 allotments, and each of these he must cut in two and join two pieces to form each several allotment, so that each contains a near piece and a distant piece,—joining the piece next the city with the piece furthest off, the second nearest with the second furthest, and so on with all the rest.38 [745d] And in dealing with these separate portions, they must employ the device we mentioned a moment ago, about poor land and good, and secure equality by making the assigned portions of larger or smaller size. And he must divide the citizens also into twelve parts, making all the twelve parts as equal as possible in respect of the value of the rest of their property, after a census has been made of all. After this they must also appoint twelve allotments for the twelve gods, and name and consecrate the portion allotted to each god, [745e] giving it the name of “phyle.”39 And they must also divide the twelve sections of the city in the same manner as they divided the rest of the country; and each citizen must take as his share two dwellings, one near the center of the country the other near the outskirts. Thus the settlement shall be completed. But we must by all means notice this,—that all the arrangements now described will never be likely to meet with such favorable conditions that the whole program can be carried out [746a] according to plan. This requires that the citizens will raise no objection to such a mode of living together, and will tolerate being restricted for life to fixed and limited amounts of property and to families such as we have stated, and being deprived of gold and of the other things which the lawgiver is clearly obliged by our regulations to forbid, and will submit also to the arrangements he has defined for country and city, with the dwellings set in the center and round the circumference,—almost as if he were telling nothing but dreams, or moulding, so to say, [746b] a city and citizens out of wax. These criticisms are not altogether unfair, and the lawgiver should reconsider the points that follow. So he that is legislating speaks to us again in this wise: “Do not suppose, my friends, that I in these my discourses fail to observe the truth of what is now set out in this criticism. But in dealing with all schemes for the future, the fairest plan, I think, is this—that the person who exhibits the pattern on which the undertaking is to be modelled should omit no detail of perfect beauty and truth; but where any of them is impossible of realization, [746c] that particular detail he should omit and leave unexecuted, but contrive to execute instead whatever of the remaining details comes nearest to this and is by nature most closely akin to the right procedure; and he should allow the lawgiver to express his ideal completely; and when this is done, then and then only should they both consult together as to how far their proposals are expedient and how much of the legislation is impracticable. For the constructor of even the most trivial object, if he is to be of any merit, must make it in all points [746d] consistent with itself.” So now we must endeavor to discern—after we have decided on our division into twelve parts—in what fashion the divisions that come next to these and are the offspring of these, up to the ultimate figure, 5,040, (determining as they do, the phratries and demes40 and villages, as well as the military companies and platoons, and also the coinage-system, dry and liquid measures, and weights) ,— [746e] how, I say, all these numerations are to be fixed by the law so as to be of the right size and consistent one with another. Moreover, he should not hesitate, through fear of what might appear to be peddling detail, to prescribe that, of all the utensils which the citizens may possess, none shall be allowed to be of undue size. [747a] He must recognize it as a universal rule that the divisions and variations of numbers are applicable to all purposes—both to their own arithmetical variations and to the geometrical variations of surfaces and solids, and also to those of sounds, and of motions, whether in a straight line up and down or circular.41 The lawgiver must keep all these in view and charge all the citizens to hold fast, so far as they can, [747b] to this organized numerical system. For in relation to economics, to politics and to all the arts, no single branch of educational science possesses so great an influence as the study of numbers: its chief advantage is that it wakes up the man who is by nature drowsy and slow of wit, and makes him quick to learn, mindful and sharp-witted, progressing beyond his natural capacity by art divine. All these subjects of education will prove fair and fitting, provided that you can remove illiberality and avarice, by means of other laws and institutions, from the souls of those [747c] who are to acquire them adequately and to profit by them; otherwise you will find that you have unwittingly turned out a “sharper,” as we call him, instead of a sage: examples of this we can see today in the effect produced on the Egyptians and Phoenicians42 and many other nations by the illiberal character of their property, and their other institutions,—whether these results are due to their having had a bad lawgiver, or to some adverse fortune that befell them, or else, possibly, to some natural disadvantage. [747d] For that, too, is a point, O Megillus and Clinias, which we must not fail to notice,—that some districts are naturally superior to others for the breeding of men of a good or bad type; and we must not conflict with this natural difference in our legislation. Some districts are ill-conditioned or well-conditioned owing to a variety of winds or to sunshine, others owing to their waters, others owing simply to the produce of the soil, [747e] which offers produce either good or bad for their bodies, and equally able to effect similar results in their souls as well. Of all these, those districts would be by far the best which have a kind of heavenly breeze, and where the portions of land are under the care of daemons,43 so that they receive those that come from time to time to settle there either graciously or ungraciously. These districts the judicious lawgiver will examine, so far as examination of such matters is possible for mere man; and he will try to frame his laws accordingly. And you too, Clinias, must adopt the same course; when you are proposing to colonize the country, you must attend to these matters first.

Your discourse, Stranger, is most excellent, and I must do as you advise.

1 Cp. Plat. Laws 716c, Plat. Laws 716d.

2 Cp. Plat. Laws 731c, Plat. Laws 854c ff., Plat. Laws 957b.

3 The first place belongs to the gods (i.e. to Divine Reason) .

4 The supreme Guardian of the rights of hospitality.

5 Cp. Plat. Laws 663a, Plat. Laws 829a.

6 Cp.Plat. Rep. 375b ff., Plat. Rep. 410c ff.

7 Cp. Plat. Laws 868c ff.; Plat. Laws 863b ff.; Plat. Prot. 345d ff; Plat. Tim. 86d ff.

8 Cp. Eur. Fr. 460: ἐκεῖνο γὰρ πέπονθ᾽ ὅπερ πάντες βροτοί: φιλῶν μάλιστ᾽ ἐμαυτὸν οὐκ αἰσχύνομαι. Ar.Rhet. 1371b 19;Pol. 1263b 2.

9 Cp.Plat. Rep. 474d ff, Plat. Rep. 474e ff.

10 Cp.Plat. Phileb. 33e ff.

11 Cp.Plat. Rep. 388e f., Plat. Rep. 606c ff.

12 i.e. divine controlling force, or destiny.

13 A play on the double sense ofνόμος— “law” and musical “nome” or “tune” .

14 In weaving the ancients used an upright loom, in which the fixed, vertical threads of the “warp” were of coarser fiber than the transverse threads of the “woof.”

15 Cp. Aristot. Pol. 1265b 18 ff.

16 Cp. Plat. Rep. 410a.

17 Cp. Plat. Laws 709e.

18 The citizens who are to form the new Magnesian colony are to be drawn from various quarters, and they must be carefully tested (like streams flowing into a reservoir) before being admitted.

19 Plat. Laws 684e.

20 There may be an allusion here to Solon; the first step in his political reforms was a measure for the abolition of debts ( “Seisachtheia” ) .

21 Cp. Aristot. Pol. 1265a 30 ff.

22 The number 5,040 is here chosen because, for a number of moderate size, it has the greatest possible number of divisors (59) , including all the digits from 1 to 10.

23 The middle line on the draughtsboard: to move a piece placed on this line was equivalent to “trying one's last chance.”

24 Cp. Plat. Laws 735d.

25 A Pythagorean maxim frequently cited by Plato: cp.Plat. Rep. 424a ff, Eur. Orest. 725.

26 Cp. Plat. Laws 742c.

27 i.e. the Law wardens; cp. Plat. Laws 755b.

28 A dictum of Simonides; cp.Plat. Prot. 345b ff;Plat. Laws 818a.

29 The lot was supposed to record the verdict of God (cp. 690 C, andActsi. 26) ,—hence its sanctity.

30 The proverb was, perhaps,οὐδεὶς ἄπειρος εἴσεται,—like “experientia docet”.

31 They require coined money for their business dealings with one another: cp.Plat. Rep. 371b ff.

32 Cp. Plat. Laws 950d.

33 i.e. if the citizens are to be happy they must be good. In what follows it is shown that good men cannot be very rich nor very rich men good, therefore also the very rich cannot be happy.

34 e.g.A (a good man) gains (justly) £300, of which he spends £100 on necessaries and £100 on noble objects, leaving him a balance of £l00.B (a not-good man) gains (justly and unjustly) £600, of which he spends £l00 on necessaries, and nothing on noble objects, leaving him a balance of £500. The third type (C) is worse thanBbecause he not only gains but also spends wrongly. TypeAshows how the good man is neither very rich nor very poor,—B, how the bad man may be very rich,—C, how the bad may be very poor.

35 Cp. Plat. Laws 631c, Plat. Laws 697b, Plat. Laws 728e.

36 i.e. of, proportional distribution: cp. Plat. Laws 757a. for “political” as distinct from “arithmetical,” equality.

37 Or “class discord.”

38 Cp. Plat. Laws 776a.

39 i.e. “tribe.”

40 “Phratries” and “demes” were sub-divisions of the “phyle” or tribe.

41 i.e. the laws of arithmetic apply also to plane and solid geometry, acoustics, and kinetics.

42 Cp. Plat. Rep. 436a.

43 Cp. Plat. Laws 745d ad fin.

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.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Tuscany (Italy) (1)
Olympia (Greece) (1)
Dodona (Greece) (1)
Delphi (Greece) (1)
Cyprus (Cyprus) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: