previous next
[780a] regulating the conduct of the citizens in State affairs and public matters, and deems that there is no need to make laws for their private conduct, even in necessary matters, but that everyone should be allowed to spend his day just as he pleases, instead of its being compulsory for everything, public and private, to be done by a regular rule, and supposes that, if he leaves private conduct unregulated by law, the citizens will still consent to regulate their public and civil life by law—this man is wrong in his proposal. For what reason have I said this? For this reason,—because we shall assert that the married people must take their meals at the public messes neither more nor less than they did [780b] during the time preceding marriage. When the customs of the public mess first arose in your countries—probably dictated by a war or by some event of equal potency, when you were short of men and in dire straits,—it seemed an astonishing institution; but after you had had experience of these public messes and had been obliged to adopt them, the custom seemed to contribute admirably towards security; [780c] and in some such way as that the public mess came to be one of your established institutions.1

That is likely enough.

So, though this was once, as I said, an astonishing and alarming institution to impose on people, a man who tried to impose it as a law nowadays would not find it an equally difficult task. But the practice which follows on this institution, and which, if carried out, would be really successful,—although at present it nowhere is carried out, and so causes the lawgiver (if he tries) to be practically carding his wool (as the proverb has it) into the fire, and laboring in vain at an endless tale of toils,— [780d] this practice it is neither easy to state nor, when stated, to carry into effect.

Why do you show so much hesitation, Stranger, in mentioning this?

Listen now, so that we may not spend much time on the matter to no purpose. Everything that takes place in the State, if it participates in order and law, confers all kinds of blessings; but most things that are either without order or badly-ordered counteract the effects of the well-ordered. And it is into this plight that the practice we are discussing has fallen. In your case, Clinias [780e] and Megillus, public meals for men are, as I said, rightly and admirably established by a divine necessity, but for women this institution is left, quite wrongly, unprescribed by law, nor are public meals for them brought

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: