previous next
[457a] applied as we described will effect.” “Surely.” “Then the institution we proposed is not only possible but the best for the state.” “That is so.” “The women of the guardians, then, must strip, since they will be clothed with virtue as a garment,1 and must take their part with the men in war and the other duties of civic guardianship and have no other occupation. But in these very duties lighter tasks must be assigned to the women than to the men [457b] because of their weakness as a class. But the man who ridicules unclad women, exercising because it is best that they should, ‘plucks the unripe2 fruit’ of laughter and does not know, it appears, the end of his laughter nor what he would be at. For the fairest thing that is said or ever will be said is this, that the helpful is fair3 and the harmful foul.” “Assuredly.”

“In this matter, then, of the regulation of women, we may say that we have surmounted one of the waves of our paradox [457c] and have not been quite swept4 away by it in ordaining that our guardians and female guardians must have all pursuits in common, but that in some sort the argument concurs with itself in the assurance that what it proposes is both possible and beneficial.” “It is no slight wave that you are thus escaping.” “You will not think it a great5 one,” I said, “when you have seen the one that follows.” “Say on then and show me,” said he. “This,” said I, “and all that precedes has for its sequel, in my opinion, the following law.” “What? “That these women shall all be common6 to all the men, [457d] and that none shall cohabit with any privately; and that the children shall be common, and that no parent shall know its own offspring nor any child its parent.” “This is a far bigger paradox than the other, and provokes more distrust as to its possibility and its utility.7” “I presume,” said I, “that there would be no debate about its utility, no denial that the community of women and children would be the greatest good, supposing it possible. But I take it that its possibility or the contrary [457e] would be the chief topic of contention.” “Both,” he said, “would be right sharply debated.” “You mean,” said I, “that I have to meet a coalition of arguments. But I expected to escape from one of them, and that if you agreed that the thing was beneficial, it would remain for me to speak only of its feasibility.” “You have not escaped detection,” he said, “in your attempted flight, but you must render an account of both.” “I must pay the penalty,” I said, “yet do me this much grace:

1 Cf. Rousseau, Lettre à d'Alembert, “Couvertes de l'honnêteté publique.”

2 Cf. Pindar, fr. 209 Schroeder,ἀτελῆ σοφίας καρπὸν δρέπειν). Plato varies the quotation to suit his purpose.

3 This is one of the chief texts for the alleged utilitarianism of Plato, a question too complicated to be settled by anything less than a comparative study of the Protagoras, Gorgias, Phaedo, Philebus, Republic(IX) and Laws.ὠφέλιμον suggests “benefit” rather than “utility.” Cf. Introduction to second volume of this translation, and on 339 A-B.

4 Cf. Aeschylus Septem, in fine.

5 For this form of exaggeration Cf. on 414 C, 339 B.

6 On the whole topic cf. Introduction p. xxxiv, Lucian, Fugitivi 18οὐκ εἰδότες ὅπως ἱερὸς ἐκεῖνος ἠξίου κοινὰς ἡγεῖσθαι τὰς γυναῖκας, Epictetus fr. 53, p. 21, Rousseau, Emile, v: “je ne parle point de cette prétendue communauté de femmes dont le reproche tant répété prouve que ceux qui le lui font ne l'ont jamais lu.” But Rousseau dissents violently from what he calls “cette promiscuité civile qui confond partout les deux sexes dans les mêmes emplois.” Cf. further the denunciations of the Christian fathers passim, who are outdone by De Quincey's “Otaheitian carnival of licentious appetite, connected with a contempt of human life which is excessive even for paganism.” Most of the obvious parallels between Plato and Aristophanes'Ecclesiazusae follow as a matter of course from the very notion of communal marriage and supply no evidfence for the dating of a supposed earlier edition of the whole or a part of the Republic. In any case the ideas of the Republic might have come to Aristophanes in conversation before publication; and the Greeks knew enough of the facts collected in such books as Westermarck's Marriage, not to be taken altogether by surprise by Plato's speculations. Cf. Herodotus iv. 104, and Aristotle Politics 1262 a 20. Cf. further Adam's exhaustive discussion in the appendix to this book, Grube, “The Marriage Laws in Plato's Republic,”Classical Quarterly, 1927, pp. 95 ff., Teichmüller, Literarische Fehden, i. p. 19 n., and the more recent literature collected in Praechter-Ueberweg, 12th ed. i. p. 207, Pöhlmann, Geschichte der Sozialenfrage und des Sozialsmus in der antiken Welt, ii. p. 578, Pohlenz, Aus Platon's Werdezeit, pp. 225-228, C. Robert, Hermes lvii. pp. 351 ff.

7 A distinct suggestion of the topics of the “useful” and the “possible” in Aristotle's Rhetoric.

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 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)
1262 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: