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[378a] and then there are the doings and sufferings of Cronos at the hands of his son. Even if they were true I should not think that they ought to be thus lightly told to thoughtless young persons. But the best way would be to bury them in silence, and if there were some necessity1 for relating them, that only a very small audience should be admitted under pledge of secrecy and after sacrificing, not a pig,2 but some huge and unprocurable victim, to the end that as few as possible should have heard these tales.” “Why, yes,” said he, “such stories are hard sayings.” “Yes, and they are not to be told, [378b] Adeimantus, in our city, nor is it to be said in the hearing of a young man, that in doing the utmost wrong he would do nothing to surprise anybody, nor again in punishing his father's3 wrong-doings to the limit, but would only be following the example of the first and greatest of the gods.4” “No, by heaven,” said he, “I do not myself think that they are fit to be told.” “Neither must we admit at all,” said I, “that gods war with gods5 and plot against one another and contend—for it is not true either— [378c] if we wish our future guardians to deem nothing more shameful than lightly to fall out with one another; still less must we make battles of gods and giants the subject for them of stories and embroideries,6 and other enmities many and manifold of gods and heroes toward their kith and kin. But if there is any likelihood of our persuading them that no citizen ever quarrelled with his fellow-citizen and that the very idea of it is an impiety, [378d] that is the sort of thing that ought rather to be said by their elders, men and women, to children from the beginning and as they grow older, and we must compel the poets to keep close to this in their compositions. But Hera's fetterings7 by her son and the hurling out of heaven of Hephaestus by his father when he was trying to save his mother from a beating, and the battles of the gods8 in Homer's verse are things that we must not admit into our city either wrought in allegory9 or without allegory. For the young are not able to distinguish what is and what is not allegory, but whatever opinions are taken into the mind at that age are wont to prove [378e] indelible and unalterable. For which reason, maybe, we should do our utmost that the first stories that they hear should be so composed as to bring the fairest lessons of virtue to their ears.”

“Yes, that is reasonable,” he said; “but if again someone should ask us to be specific and say what these compositions may be and what are the tales, what could we name?” And I replied, “Adeimantus, we are not poets,10 you and I at present,

1 Conservative feeling or caution prevents Plato from proscribing absolutely what may be a necccessary part of traditional or mystical religion.

2 The ordinary sacrifice at the Eleusinian mysteries. Cf. Aristophanes Acharn. 747, Peace 374-375; Walter Pater, Demeter and the Pig.

3 Plato does not sympathize with the Samuel Butlers of his day.

4 The argument, whether used in jest or earnest, was a commonplace. Cf. Schmidt, Ethik der Griechen, i. 137, Laws 941 B, Aeschylus Eumenides 640-641, Terence Eunuchus 590 “At quem deum! . . . ego homuncio hoc non facerem.” The Neoplatonists met the criticism of Plato and the Christian Fathers by allegorizing or refining away the immoral parts of the mythology, but St. Augustine cleverly retorts (De Civ. Dei, ii. 7): “Omnes enim . . . cultores talium deorum . . . magis intuentur quid Iupiter fecerit quam quid docuerit Plato.”

5 Cf. the protest in the Euthyphro 6 B, beautifully translated by Ruskin, Aratra Pentelici 107: “And think you that there is verily war with each other among the gods? And dreadful enmities and battles, such as the poets have told, and such as our painters set forth in graven sculpture to adorn all our sacred rites and holy places. Yes, and in the great Panathenaia themselves the Peplus full of such wild picturing, is carried up into the Acropolis—shall we say that these things are true, oh Euthyphron, right-minded friend?”

6 On the Panathenaic πέπλος of Athena.

7 The title of a play by Epicharmus. The hurling of Hephaestus, Iliad i. 586-594.

8 Iliad xx. 1-74; xxi. 385-513.

9 ὑπόνοια: the older word for allegory; Plutarch, De Aud. Poet. 19 E. For the allegorical interpretation of Homer in Plato's time cf. Jebb, Homer, p. 89, and Mrs. Anne Bates Hersman's Chicago Dissertation:Studies in Greek Allegorical Interpretation.

10 The poet, like the rhetorician (Politicus 304 D), is a ministerial agent of the royal or political art. So virtually Aristotle, Politics 1336 b.

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