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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.
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