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[680a] what possible need of laws the men of that time had, and who their lawgiver was.


Shall we suppose that those men had no need of lawgivers, and that in those days it was not as yet usual to have such a thing? For those born in that age of the world's history did not as yet possess the art of writing, but lived by following custom and what is called patriarchal law.

That is certainly probable.

But this already amounts to a kind of government.

What kind? [680b]

Everybody, I believe, gives the name of “headship” to the government which then existed,—and it still continues to exist to-day among both Greeks and barbarians in many quarters.1 And, of course, Homer mentions its existence in connection with the household system of the Cyclopes, where he says— “No halls of council and no laws are theirs,
But within hollow caves on mountain heights
Aloft they dwell, each making his own law.
” [680c]

“For wife and child; of others reck they naught.

Hom. Od. 9.112

This poet of yours seems to have been a man of genius. We have also read other verses of his, and they were extremely fine; though in truth we have not read much of him, since we Cretans do not indulge much in foreign poetry.

But we Spartans do, and we regard Homer as the best of them; all the same, the mode of life he describes is always Ionian rather than Laconian. [680d] And now he appears to be confirming your statement admirably, when in his legendary account he ascribes the primitive habits of the Cyclopes to their savagery.

Yes, his testimony supports us; so let us take him as evidence that polities of this sort do sometimes come into existence.

Quite right.

Did they not originate with those people who lived scattered in separate clans or in single households, owing to the distress which followed after the catastrophes; for amongst these the eldest holds rule, owing to the fact that the rule proceeds from the parents, [680e] by following whom they form a single flock, like a covey of birds, and live under a patriarchal government and a kingship which is of all kingships the most just?

Most certainly.

Next, they congregate together in greater numbers, and form larger droves; and first they turn to farming on the hill-sides,

1 Cp. Aristot. Pol. 1252b 17ff. This “headship,” which is the hereditary personal authority of the father of a family or chief of a clan, we should term “patriarchy.”

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