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[377a] of both, but first of the false?” “I don't understand your meaning.” “Don't you understand,” I said, “that we begin by telling children fables, and the fable is, taken as a whole, false, but there is truth in it also? And we make use of fable with children before gymnastics.” “That is so.” “That, then, is what I meant by saying that we must take up music before gymnastics.” “You were right,” he said. “Do you not know, then, that the beginning in every task is the chief thing,1 especially for any creature that is young and tender2? [377b] For it is then that it is best molded and takes the impression3 that one wishes to stamp upon it.” “Quite so.” “Shall we, then, thus lightly suffer4 our children to listen to any chance stories fashioned by any chance teachers and so to take into their minds opinions for the most part contrary to those that we shall think it desirable for them to hold when they are grown up?” “By no manner of means will we allow it.” “We must begin, then, it seems, by a censorship [377c] over our storymakers, and what they do well we must pass and what not, reject. And the stories on the accepted list we will induce nurses and mothers to tell to the children and so shape their souls by these stories far rather than their bodies by their hands. But most of the stories they now tell we must reject.” “What sort of stories?” he said. “The example of the greater stories,” I said, “will show us the lesser also. For surely the pattern must be the same and the greater and the less [377d] must have a like tendency. Don't you think so?” “I do,” he said; “but I don't apprehend which you mean by the greater, either.” “Those,” I said, “that Hesiod5 and Homer and the other poets related. These, methinks, composed false stories which they told and still tell to mankind.” “Of what sort?” he said; “and what in them do you find fault?” “With that,” I said, “which one ought first and chiefly to blame, especially if the lie is not a pretty one.” [377e] “What is that?” “When anyone images badly in his speech the true nature of gods and heroes, like a painter whose portraits bear no resemblance to his models.” “It is certainly right to condemn things like that,” he said; “but just what do we mean and what particular things?” “There is, first of all,” I said, “the greatest lie about the things of greatest concernment, which was no pretty invention of him who told how Uranus did what Hesiod says he did to Cronos, and how Cronos in turn took his revenge;

1 Cf. Laws 753 E, 765 E, Antiphon, fr. 134 Blass.

2 Cf. Laws 664 B, and Shelley's “Specious names,/ Learned in soft childhood's unsuspecting hour,” perhaps derived from the educational philosophy of Rousseau.

3 The image became a commonplace. Cf. Theaetetus 191 D, Horace Epistles ii. 32. 8, the Stoic τύπωσις ἐν ψυχῇ, and Byron's “Wax to receive and marble to retain.”

4 Cf. the censorship proposed in Laws 656 C. Plato's criticism of the mythology is anticipated in part by Euripides, Xenophanes, Heracleitus, and Pythagoras. Cf. Decharme, Euripides and the Spirit of his Dramas, translated by James Loeb, chap. ii. Many of the Christian Fathers repeated his criticism almost verbatim.

5 Theogony 154-181.

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