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[379a] but founders of a state. And to founders it pertains to know the patterns on which poets must compose their fables and from which their poems must not be allowed to deviate; but the founders are not required themselves to compose fables.” “Right,” he said; “but this very thing—the patterns or norms of right speech about the gods, what would they be?” “Something like this,” I said. “The true quality of God we must always surely attribute to him whether we compose in epic, melic, or tragic verse.” “We must.” “And is not God of course1 good in reality [379b] and always to be spoken of2 as such?” “Certainly.” “But further, no good thing is harmful, is it?” “I think not.” “Can what is not harmful harm?” “By no means.” “Can that which does not harm do any evil?” “Not that either.” “But that which does no evil would not be cause of any evil either?” “How could it?” “Once more, is the good beneficent?” “Yes.” “It is the cause, then, of welfare?” “Yes.” “Then the good is not the cause of all things, but of things that are well it the cause—of things that are ill it is blameless.” “Entirely so,” [379c] he said. “Neither, then, could God,” said I, “since he is good, be, as the multitude say, the cause of all things, but for mankind he is the cause of few things, but of many things not the cause.3 For good things are far fewer4 with us than evil, and for the good we must assume no other cause than God, but the cause of evil we must look for in other things and not in God.” “What you say seems to me most true,” he replied. “Then,” said I, “we must not accept [379d] from Homer or any other poet the folly of such error as this about the gods when he says“ Two urns stand on the floor of the palace of Zeus and are filled with
Dooms he allots, one of blessings, the other of gifts that are evil,
Hom. Il. 24.527-8and to whomsoever Zeus gives of both commingled—“ Now upon evil he chances and now again good is his portion,
Hom. Il. 24.530but the man for whom he does not blend the lots, but to whom he gives unmixed evil—“ Hunger devouring drives him, a wanderer over the wide world,
Hom. Il. 24.532 [379e] nor will we tolerate the saying that “ Zeus is dispenser alike of good and of evil to mortals.

“But as to the violation of the oaths6 and the truce by Pandarus, if anyone affirms it to have been brought about by the action of Athena and Zeus, we will not approve, nor that the strife and contention7 of the gods

1 The γε implies that God is good ex vi termini.

2 It is charcteristic of Plato to distinguish the fact and the desirability of proclaiming it. The argument proceeds by the minute links which tempt to parody. Below τὸ ἀγαθόν, followed by οὐδ᾽ ἄρα . . . θεός, is in itself a refutation of the ontological identification in Plato of God and the Idea of Good. But the essential goodness of God is a commonplace of liberal and philosophical theology, from the Stoics to Whittier's hymn, “The Eternal Goodness.”

3 Anticipates the proclamtion of the prophet in the final myth, 617 E:αἰτία ἑλομένου: θεὸς ἀναίτιος. The idea, elaborated in Cleanthes' hymn to Zeus, may be traced back to the speech of the Homeric Zeus in Odyssey i. 33ἐξ ἡμεῶν γάπ φασι κάκ᾽ ἔμμεναι. St. Thomas distinguishes: “Deus est auctor mali quod est poena, non autem mali quod est culpa.”

4 A pessimistic commoplace more emphasized in the Laws than in the Republic. Cf. Laws 896 E, where the Manichean hypothesis of an evil world-soul is suggested.

5 The line is not found in Homer, nor does Plato explicitly say that it is. Zeus is dispenser of war in Hom. Il. 4.84.

6 Iliad 4.69 ff.

7 ἔριν τε καὶ κρίσιν is used in Menexenus 237 C of the contest of the gods for Attica. Here it is generally taken of the Theomachy, Iliad xx. 1074, which begins with the summons of the gods to a council by Themis at the command of Zeus. It has also been understood, rather improbably, of the judgement of Paris.

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