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To attain this end, can any one of us suggest a better device than that of the Egyptians?1

What device is that?

The device of consecrating all dancing and all music. First, they should ordain the sacred feasts, by drawing up an annual list of what feasts are to be held, and on what dates, and in honor of what special gods and children of gods and daemons; and they should ordain next what hymn is to be sung at each of the religious sacrifices, and with what dances [799b] each such sacrifice is to be graced; these ordinances should be first made by certain persons, and then the whole body of citizens, after making a public sacrifice to the Fates and all the other deities, should consecrate with a libation these ordinances—dedicating each of the hymns to their respective gods and divinities. And if any man proposes other hymns or dances besides these for any god, the priests and priestesses will be acting in accordance with both religion and law when, with the help of the Law-wardens, they expel him from the feast; and if the man resists expulsion, he shall be liable, so long as he lives, to be prosecuted for impiety by anyone who chooses.

That is right. [799c]

Since we find ourselves now dealing with this theme, let us behave as befits ourselves.2

In what respect?

Every young man—not to speak of old men—on hearing or seeing anything unusual and strange, is likely to avoid jumping to a hasty and impulsive solution of his doubts about it, and to stand still; just as a man who has come to a crossroads and is not quite sure of his way, if he be travelling alone, will question himself, or if travelling with others, [799d] will question them too about the matter in doubt, and refuse to proceed until he has made sure by investigation of the direction of his path. We must now do likewise. In our discourse about laws, the point which has now occurred to us being strange, we are bound to investigate it closely; and in a matter so weighty we, at our age, must not lightly assume or assert that we can make any reliable statement about it on the spur of the moment.

That is very true. [799e]

We shall, therefore, devote some time to this subject, and only when we have investigated it thoroughly shall we regard our conclusions as certain. But lest we be uselessly hindered from completing the ordinance which accompanies the laws with which we are now concerned, let us proceed to their conclusion. For very probably (if Heaven so will) this exposition, when completely brought to its conclusion, may also clear up the problem now before us.

Well said, Stranger: let us do just as you say.

Let the strange fact be granted, we say, that our hymns are now made into “nomes” (laws),3 just as the men of old, it would seem, gave this name to harp-tunes,—

1 Cp. Plat. Laws 656d.

2 i.e. with the caution proper to old men.

3 A play on the double sense ofνόμος,—“law” and “chant” or “tune”: cp. 700 B, 722 D, 734 E.

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