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[636a] as we found just now in regard to their military organization?

Hardly an easy matter! Yet probably the common meals and the gymnasia are well devised to foster both these virtues.

In truth, Strangers, it seems a difficult thing for State institutions to be equally beyond criticism both in theory and in practice. Their case resembles that of the human body, where it seems impossible to prescribe any given treatment for each case without finding that this same prescription is partly beneficial and partly injurious to the body. [636b] So these common meals, for example, and these gymnasia, while they are at present beneficial to the States in many other respects, yet in the event of civil strife they prove dangerous (as is shown by the case of the youth of Miletus, Bocotia and Thurii);1 and, moreover, this institution, when of old standing, is thought to have corrupted the pleasures of love which are natural not to men only but also natural to beasts. For this your States are held primarily responsible, and along with them all others [636c] that especially encourage the use of gymnasia. And whether one makes the observation in earnest or in jest, one certainly should not fail to observe that when male unites with female for procreation the pleasure experienced is held to be due to nature, but contrary to nature when male mates with male or female with female, and that those first guilty of such enormities were impelled by their slavery to pleasure. And we all accuse the Cretans of concocting the story about Ganymede. [636d] Because it was the belief that they derived their laws from Zeus, they added on this story about Zeus in order that they might be following his example in enjoying this pleasure as well. Now with the story itself we have no more concern; but when men are investigating the subject of laws their investigation deals almost entirely with pleasures and pains, whether in States or in individuals. These are the two fountains which gush out by nature's impulse; and whoever draws from them a due supply at the due place and time is blessed—be it a State [636e] or an individual or any kind of creature; but whosoever does so without understanding and out of due season will fare contrariwise.

What you say, Stranger, is excellent, I suppose; nonetheless I am at a loss to know what reply I should make to it. Still, in my opinion, the Lacedaemonian lawgiver was right in ordaining the avoidance of pleasures, while as to the laws of Cnosus—our friend Clinias,

1 Plato here ascribes the revolutions which occurred in these places to the intensive military training of the youth. Thurii was a Greek town in S. Italy, an off-shoot of Syhsris.

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