previous next
[460a] suitable to the marriages that then take place. But the number of the marriages we will leave to the discretion of the rulers, that they may keep the number of the citizens as nearly as may be the same,1 taking into account wars and diseases and all such considerations, and that, so far as possible, our city may not grow too great or too small.” “Right,” he said. “Certain ingenious lots, then, I suppose, must be devised so that the inferior man at each conjugation may blame chance and not the rulers.” “Yes, indeed,” he said. [460b]

“And on the young men, surely, who excel in war and other pursuits we must bestow honors and prizes, and, in particular, the opportunity of more frequent intercourse with the women, which will at the same time be a plausible pretext for having them beget as many of the children as possible.” “Right.” “And the children thus born will be taken over by the officials appointed for this, men or women or both, since, I take it, the official posts too are common to women and men. [460c] The offspring of the good, I suppose, they will take to the pen or créche, to certain nurses who live apart in a quarter of the city, but the offspring of the inferior, and any of those of the other sort who are born defective, they will properly dispose of in secret,2 so that no one will know what has become of them.” “That is the condition,” he said, “of preserving the purity of the guardians' breed.” “They will also supervise the nursing of the children, conducting the mothers to the pen when their breasts are full, but employing every device3 [460d] to prevent anyone from recognizing her own infant. And they will provide others who have milk if the mothers are insufficient. But they will take care that the mothers themselves shall not suckle too long, and the trouble of wakeful nights and similar burdens they will devolve upon the nurses, wet and dry.” “You are making maternity a soft job4 for the women of the guardians.” “It ought to be,” said I, “but let us pursue our design. We said that the offspring should come from parents in their prime.” [460e] “True.” “Do you agree that the period of the prime may be fairly estimated at twenty years for a woman and thirty for a man?” “How do you reckon it?”5 he said. “The women,” I said, “beginning at the age of twenty, shall bear for the state6 to the age of forty, and the man shall beget for the state from the time he passes his prime in swiftness in running to the age of fifty-five.”

1 Plato apparently forgets that this legislation applies only to the guardians. The statement that ancient civilization was free from the shadow of Malthusianism requires qualification by this and many other passages. Cf. 372 C and Laws 740 D-E. The ancients in fact took it for granted.

2 Opinions differ whether this is euphemism for exposure. On the frequency or infrequency of this practice cf. Professor La Rue Van Hook's article in T.A.P.A. vol. li, and that of H. Bolkestein, Class. Phil. vol. xvii. (1922) pp. 222-239.

3 Cf. on 414 B and Aristotle Politics 1262 a 14 ff.

4 Another favorite idea and expression. Cf. Gorgias 459 C, Laws 648 C, 713 D, 720 C, 779 A, 903 E, Isocrates iv. 36, Xenophon Memorabilia iii. 13. 5.

5 Cf. on 458 C.

6 Half humorous legal language. Cf. Aristotle Politics 1335 b 28λειτουργεῖν . . . πρὸς τεκνοποιίαν, and Lucan's “urbi pater est, urbique maritus” (Phars. ii. 388). The dates for marriage are given a little differently in the Laws, 785 B, 833 C-D, men 30-35, women 16-20. On the whole question and Aristotle's opinion cf. Newman, Introduction to Aristotle Politics p. 183; cf. also Grube, Class. Quarterly 1927, pp. 95 ff., “The Marriage Laws in Plato's Republic.”

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 Notes (James Adam)
load focus Greek (1903)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Plato (Colombia) (1)
Phil (Kentucky, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1927 AD (1)
1922 AD (1)
1335 AD (1)
1262 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: