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[1336b] [1] and up to seven years old, must necessarily be reared at home; so it is reasonable to suppose that even at this age they may acquire a taint of illiberality from what they hear and see. The lawgiver ought therefore to banish indecent talk, as much as anything else, out of the state altogether (for light talk about anything disgraceful soon passes into action)—so most of all from among the young, so that they may not say nor hear anything of the sort; and anybody found saying or doing any of the things prohibited, if he is of free station but not yet promoted to reclining at the public meals, must be punished with marks of dishonor and with beating, and an older offender must be punished with marks of dishonor degrading to a free man, because of his slavish behavior. And since we banish any talk of this kind, clearly we must also banish the seeing of either pictures or representations that are indecent. The officials must therefore be careful that there may be no sculpture or painting that represents indecent actions, except in the temples of a certain class of gods to whom the law allows even scurrility; but in regard to these1 the law permits men still of suitable age to worship the gods both on their own behalf and on behalf of the children and women. [20] But the younger ones must not be allowed in the audience at lampoons2 and at comedy, before they reach the age at which they will now have the right to recline at table in company and to drink deeply, and at which their education will render all of them immune to the harmful effects of such things. For the present therefore we have merely mentioned these matters in passing, but later we must stop to settle them more definitely, first discussing fully whether legislation prohibiting the attendance of the young is desirable or not, and how such prohibition should be put in force; but on the present occasion we have touched on the question only in the manner necessary. For perhaps the tragic actor Theodorus3 used to put the matter not badly: he had never once allowed anybody to produce his part4 before him, not even one of the poor actors, as he said that audiences are attracted by what they hear first; and this happens alike in regard to our dealings with people and to our dealings with things—all that comes first we like better. On this account we ought to make all base things unfamiliar to the young, and especially those that involve either depravity or malignity.

But when the five years from two to seven have passed, the children must now become spectators at the lessons5 which they will themselves have to learn. And there are two ages corresponding to which education should be divided—there must be a break after the period from seven to puberty, and again after that from puberty to twenty-one. For those who divide the ages by periods of seven years are generally speaking not wrong,6

1 The MS. text gives ‘and in addition to these’; and the word ‘still’ may be an interpolation.

2 Iambic verses, often abusive and indecent, recited at festivals of Dionysus.

3 A great Athenian performer of Sophocles; he took the part of Antigone.

4 Loosely put for ‘to appear on the stage.’

5 i.e. in gymnastics and music.

6 The MSS. give ‘not right.’

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hide References (3 total)
  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Oedipus at Colonus, 517
  • Cross-references to this page (1):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), CENA
  • Cross-references in notes to this page (1):
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