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[415a] I said; “but all the same hear the rest of the story. While all of you in the city are brothers, we will say in our tale, yet God in fashioning those of you who are fitted to hold rule mingled gold in their generation,1 for which reason they are the most precious—but in the helpers silver, and iron and brass in the farmers and other craftsmen. And as you are all akin, though for the most part you will breed after your kinds,2 [415b] it may sometimes happen that a golden father would beget a silver son and that a golden offspring would come from a silver sire and that the rest would in like manner be born of one another. So that the first and chief injunction that the god lays upon the rulers is that of nothing else3 are they to be such careful guardians and so intently observant as of the intermixture of these metals in the souls of their offspring, and if sons are born to them with an infusion of brass or iron [415c] they shall by no means give way to pity in their treatment of them, but shall assign to each the status due to his nature and thrust them out4 among the artisans or the farmers. And again, if from these there is born a son with unexpected gold or silver in his composition they shall honor such and bid them go up higher, some to the office of guardian, some to the assistanceship, alleging that there is an oracle5 that the state shall then be overthrown when the man of iron or brass is its guardian. Do you see any way of getting them to believe this tale?” [415d] “No, not these themselves,” he said, “but I do, their sons and successors and the rest of mankind who come after.6” “Well,” said I, “even that would have a good effect making them more inclined to care for the state and one another. For I think I apprehend your meaning. XXII. And this shall fall out as tradition7 guides.”

“But let us arm these sons of earth and conduct them under the leadership of their rulers. And when they have arrived they must look out for the fairest site in the city for their encampment,8 [415e] a position from which they could best hold down rebellion against the laws from within and repel aggression from without as of a wolf against the fold. And after they have encamped and sacrificed to the proper gods9 they must make their lairs, must they not?” “Yes,” he said. “And these must be of a character keep out the cold in winter and be sufficient in summer?” “Of course. For I presume you are speaking of their houses.” “Yes,” said I, “the houses of soldiers10 not of money-makers.”

1 Cf. 468 E, 547 A, and “already”Cratylus 394 D, 398 A. Hesiod's four metals, Works and Days 109-201, symbolize four succcessive ages. Plato's myth cannot of course be interpreted literally or made to express the whole of his apparently undemocratic theory, of which the biologist Huxley in his essay on Administrative Nihilism says: “The lapse of more than 2000 years has not weakened the force of these wise words.”

2 The four classes are not castes, but are species which will generally breed true. Cf. Cratylus 393 B, 394 A.

3 The phrasing of this injunction recalls Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, in fine: “I'll fear no other thing/ So sore as keeping safe Nerissa's ring.” The securing of disinterested capacity in the rulers is the pons asinorum of political theory. Plato constructs his whole state for this end. Cf. Introduction p. xv. Aristotle, Politics 1262 b 27, raises the obvious objection that the transference from class to class will not be an easy matter. But Plato here and in 423 D-E is merely stating emphatically the postulates of an ideal state. He admits that even if established it will some time break down, and that the causes of its failure will lie beyond human ken, and can only be expressed in symbol. See on 546-547.

4 The summary in Timaeus 19 A varies somewhat from this. Plato does not stress the details. Cf. Introduction p. viii.

5 Plato's oracle aptly copies the ambiguity of the bronze men's answer to Psammetik (Herodotus ii. 152), and admits of both a moral and a literal physical interpretation, like the “lame reign” against which Sparta was warned. Cf. Xenophon Hellenica iii. 3. 3.

6 Plato repeats the thought that since the mass of men can be brought to believe anything by repetition, myths framed for edification are a useful instrument of education and government. Cf. Laws 663 E-664 A.

7 φήμη, not any particular oracular utterance, but popular belief from mouth to mouth.

8 The Platonic guardians, like the ruling class at Sparta, will live the life of a camp. Cf. Laws 666 E, Isocrates Archedamus.

9 Partly from caution, partly from genuine religious feeling, Plato leaves all the details of the cult to Delphi. Cf. 427 B.

10 For the limiting γε cf. 430 E.

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