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[830a] when I have made ready the whole State? Are they not to be competitors in the greatest of contests, wherein their antagonists will be numberless?” “Most certainly,” one would rightly reply. What then? Suppose we had been rearing boxers or pancratiasts or competitors in any similar branch of athletics, should we have gone straight into the contest without previously engaging in daily combat with someone? If we were boxers, for a great many days before the contest we should have been learning how to fight, [830b] and working hard, practicing in mimicry all those methods we meant to employ on the day we should be fighting for victory, and imitating the real thing as nearly as possible: thus, we should don padded gloves instead of proper ring-gloves, so as to get the best possible practice in giving blows and dodging them; and if we chanced to be very short of training-mates, do you suppose that we should be deterred by fear of the laughter of fools from hanging up a lifeless dummy and practicing on it? Indeed, if ever we were in a desert, and without either live or lifeless [830c] training-mates, would we not have recourse to shadow-fighting of the most literal kind, against ourselves? Or what else should one call the practice of pugilistic posturing?

Clinias
There is no other name for it, Stranger, than the one you have just given to it.

Athenian
What then? Is the fighting force of our State to venture to come forward every time to fight for their lives, their children, their goods, and for the whole State, after a less thorough preparation than the competitors we have been describing? [830d] And so is their lawgiver, through fear lest these training-bouts may appear ridiculous to some, to refrain from laying down laws whereby he will ordain field-operations, of which the minor kind, without heavy arms, will take place daily, if possible,—and to this end both the choristry and all the gymnastic shall be directed,—while the others, as a major kind of gymnastics in full armor, he shall order to be held at least once a month? [830e] In this latter kind they will engage in contests with one another throughout the whole country, contending in the capturing of forts and in ambuscades and in all forms of mimic warfare; in fact, they shall do literal fighting with balls1 and darts as nearly real as possible,—though the points of the darts shall be made less dangerous,—in order that their games of combat may not be devoid of some element of alarm, but may provide terrors and indicate to some extent who is stout-hearted

1 “Sphaeromachia” was a (hand) ball contest between opposing sides (something like our hockey or polo matches).

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