previous next
[870a] how many these causes are likely to be. The greatest is lust, which masters a soul that is made savage by desires; and it occurs especially in connection with that object for which the most frequent and intense craving afflicts the bulk of men,—the power which wealth possesses over them, owing to the badness of their nature and lack of culture, to breed in them countless lustings after its insatiable and endless acquisition. And of this lack of culture the cause is to be found in the ill-praising of wealth in the common talk of both Greeks and barbarians; for by exalting it as the first of “goods,”1 [870b] when it should come but third, they ruin both posterity and themselves. The noblest and best course of all in all States is that the truth should be stated about wealth,—namely, that it exists for the sake of the body, and the body for the sake of the soul; so that, while the objects for which it really exists are “goods,” yet wealth itself will come third, after goodness of body and of soul. So this law will serve as an instructor, to teach that the man who intends to be happy must seek not to be wealthy, but to be justly and temperately wealthy; [870c] and if this were so, no murders that needed purging by murders would occur in States. But, as things now stand, this love of riches is—as we said2 when we began this subject—one cause, and a very great cause, which produces the most serious of trials for willful murder. A second cause is the temper of the ambitious soul, which breeds envies that are dangerous associates for the man that feels the envy, in the first place, and dangerous also for the best citizens in the State. Thirdly, fears bred of cowardice and iniquity [870d] have wrought many murders,—in cases where men do or have done things concerning which they desire that no one should share their secret; consequently, if there are any who might expose their secret, they remove them by death, whenever they can do so by no other means. Concerning all these matters, the preludes mentioned shall be pronounced, and, in addition to them, that story which is believed by many when they hear it from the lips of those who seriously relate such things at their mystic rites,—that vengeance for such acts is exacted in Hades,3 and that those who return again to this earth4 are bound to pay [870e] the natural penalty,—each culprit the same, that is, which he inflicted on his victim,—and that their life on earth must end in their meeting a like fate at the hands of another. To him who obeys, and fully dreads such a penalty, there is no need to add to the prelude by reciting the law on the subject;

1 Cp. Plat. Laws 697b, Plat. Laws 831c; Aristot. Pol. 1323a.25 ff; Aristot. Nic. Eth. 1098 b 13 ff.

2 Plat. Laws 831c; cp. Aristot. Pol. 1271a.17.

3 Cp. Plat. Laws 722d: whereas the law coerces, its “prelude” seeks to persuade.

4 This implies the (Pythagorean) doctrine of re-incarnation: cp. Plat. Laws 904c, Plat. Rep. 614e ff., Plat. Tim. 90e ff.

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: