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Full text of "Ancient Classic Texts before 400 B.C."

360 BC 
LAWS 
by Plato 
translated by Benjamin Jowett 
BOOK I 

PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: An ATHENIAN STRANGER; CLEINIAS, a 
Cretan; MEGILLUS, a Lacedaemonian 

Athenian Stranger. Tell me, Strangers, is a God or some man supposed 
to be the author of your laws? 

Cleinias . A God, Stranger; in very truth a, God: among us Cretans he 
is said to have been Zeus, but in Lacedaemon, whence our friend here 
comes, I believe they would say that Apollo is their lawgiver: would 
they not, Megillus? 

Megillus. Certainly. 

Ath . And do you, Cleinias, believe, as Homer tells, that every ninth 
year Minos went to converse with his Olympian sire, and was inspired 
by him to make laws for your cities? 

Cle. Yes, that is our tradition; and there was Rhadamanthus, a 
brother of his, with whose name you are familiar; he is reputed to 
have been the justest of men, and we Cretans are of opinion that he 
earned this reputation from his righteous administration of justice 
when he was alive. 

Ath. Yes, and a noble reputation it was, worthy of a son of Zeus. As 
you and Megillus have been trained in these institutions, I dare say 
that you will not be unwilling to give an account of your government 
and laws; on our way we can pass the time pleasantly in about them, 
for I am told that the distance from Cnosus to the cave and temple 
of Zeus is considerable; and doubtless there are shady places under 
the lofty trees, which will protect us from this scorching sun. 
Being no longer young, we may often stop to rest beneath them, and get 
over the whole journey without difficulty, beguiling the time by 
conversation . 

Cle. Yes, Stranger, and if we proceed onward we shall come to groves 
of cypresses, which are of rare height and beauty, and there are green 
meadows, in which we may repose and converse. 

Ath. Very good. 

Cle. Very good, indeed; and still better when we see them; let us 
move on cheerily. 

Ath. I am willing-And first, I want to know why the law has ordained 
that you shall have common meals and gymnastic exercises, and wear 
arms . 

Cle. I think, Stranger, that the aim of our institutions is easily 
intelligible to any one. Look at the character of our country: Crete 
is not like Thessaly, a large plain; and for this reason they have 
horsemen in Thessaly, and we have runners-the inequality of the ground 
in our country is more adapted to locomotion on foot; but then, if you 
have runners you must have light arms-no one can carry a heavy 
weight when running, and bows and arrows are convenient because they 
are light. Now all these regulations have been made with a view to 
war, and the legislator appears to me to have looked to this in all 
his arrangements : -the common meals, if I am not mistaken, were 
instituted by him for a similar reason, because he saw that while they 
are in the field the citizens are by the nature of the case 
compelled to take their meals together for the sake of mutual 
protection. He seems to me to have thought the world foolish in not 
understanding that all are always at war with one another; and if in 
war there ought to be common meals and certain persons regularly 
appointed under others to protect an army, they should be continued in 
peace. For what men in general term peace would be said by him to be 
only a name; in reality every city is in a natural state of war with 
every other, not indeed proclaimed by heralds, but everlasting. And if 
you look closely, you will find that this was the intention of the 



Cretan legislator; all institutions, private as well as public, were 
arranged by him with a view to war; in giving them he was under the 
impression that no possessions or institutions are of any value to him 
who is defeated in battle; for all the good things of the conquered 
pass into the hands of the conquerors. 

Ath. You appear to me, Stranger, to have been thoroughly trained 
in the Cretan institutions, and to be well informed about them; will 
you tell me a little more explicitly what is the principle of 
government which you would lay down? You seem to imagine that a well 
governed state ought to be so ordered as to conquer all other states 
in war: am I right in supposing this to be your meaning? 

Cle. Certainly; and our Lacedaemonian friend, if I am not 
mistaken, will agree with me. 

Meg. Why, my good friend, how could any Lacedaemonian say anything 
else? 

Ath. And is what you say applicable only to states, or also to 
villages? 

Cle. To both alike. 

Ath. The case is the same? 

Cle. Yes. 

Ath. And in the village will there be the same war of family against 
family, and of individual against individual? 

Cle. The same. 

Ath. And should each man conceive himself to be his own 
enemy: -what shall we say? 

Cle. Athenian Stranger-inhabitant of Attica I will not call you, 
for you seem to deserve rather to be named after the goddess 
herself, because you go back to first principles you have thrown a 
light upon the argument, and will now be better able to understand 
what I was just saying-that all men are publicly one another's 
enemies, and each man privately his own. 

(Ath. My good sir, what do you mean?)-- 

Cle Moreover, there is a victory and defeat-the first and 

best of victories, the lowest and worst of def eats-which each man 
gains or sustains at the hands, not of another, but of himself; this 
shows that there is a war against ourselves going on within every 
one of us. 

Ath. Let us now reverse the order of the argument: Seeing that every 
individual is either his own superior or his own inferior, may we 
say that there is the same principle in the house, the village, and 
the state? 

Cle. You mean that in each of them there is a principle of 
superiority or inferiority to self? 

Ath. Yes. 

Cle. You are quite right in asking the question, for there certainly 
is such a principle, and above all in states; and the state in which 
the better citizens win a victory over the mob and over the inferior 
classes may be truly said to be better than itself, and may be 
justly praised, where such a victory is gained, or censured in the 
opposite case. 

Ath. Whether the better is ever really conquered by the worse, is a 
question which requires more discussion, and may be therefore left for 
the present. But I now quite understand your meaning when you say that 
citizens who are of the same race and live in the same cities may 
unjustly conspire, and having the superiority in numbers may 
overcome and enslave the few just; and when they prevail, the state 
may be truly called its own inferior and therefore bad; and when 
they are defeated, its own superior and therefore good. 

Cle. Your remark, Stranger, is a paradox, and yet we cannot possibly 
deny it. 

Ath. Here is another case for consideration; -in a family there may 
be several brothers, who are the offspring of a single pair; very 
possibly the majority of them may be unjust, and the just may be in 
a minority. 



Cle. Very possibly. 

Ath . And you and I ought not to raise a question of words as to 
whether this family and household are rightly said to be superior when 
they conquer, and inferior when they are conquered; for we are not now 
considering what may or may not be the proper or customary way of 
speaking, but we are considering the natural principles of right and 
wrong in laws . 

Cle. What you say, Stranger, is most true. 

Meg. Quite excellent, in my opinion, as far as we have gone. 

Ath. Again; might there not be a judge over these brethren, of 
whom we were speaking? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. Now, which would be the better judge-one who destroyed the 
bad and appointed the good to govern themselves; or one who, while 
allowing the good to govern, let the bad live, and made them 
voluntarily submit? Or third, I suppose, in the scale of excellence 
might be placed a judge, who, finding the family distracted, not 
only did not destroy any one, but reconciled them to one another for 
ever after, and gave them laws which they mutually observed, and was 
able to keep them friends. 

Cle. The last would be by far the best sort of judge and legislator. 

Ath. And yet the aim of all the laws which he gave would be the 
reverse of war. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. And will he who constitutes the state and orders the life of 
man have in view external war, or that kind of intestine war called 
civil, which no one, if he could prevent, would like to have occurring 
in his own state; and when occurring, every one would wish to be 
quit of as soon as possible? 

Cle. He would have the latter chiefly in view. 

Ath. And would he prefer that this civil war should be terminated by 
the destruction of one of the parties, and by the victory of the 
other, or that peace and friendship should be re-established, and 
that, being reconciled, they should give their attention to foreign 
enemies? 

Cle. Every one would desire the latter in the case of his own state. 

Ath. And would not that also be the desire of the legislator? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. And would not every one always make laws for the sake of the 
best? 

Cle. To be sure. 

Ath. But war, whether external or civil, is not the best, and the 
need of either is to be deprecated; but peace with one another, and 
good will, are best. Nor is the victory of the state over itself to be 
regarded as a really good thing, but as a necessity; a man might as 
well say that the body was in the best state when sick and purged by 
medicine, forgetting that there is also a state of the body which 
needs no purge. And in like manner no one can be a true statesman, 
whether he aims at the happiness of the individual or state, who looks 
only, or first of all, to external warfare; nor will he ever be a 
sound legislator who orders peace for the sake of war, and not war for 
the sake of peace. 

Cle. I suppose that there is truth, Stranger, in that remark of 
yours; and yet I am greatly mistaken if war is not the entire aim 
and object of our own institutions, and also of the Lacedaemonian. 

Ath. I dare say; but there is no reason why we should rudely quarrel 
with one another about your legislators, instead of gently questioning 
them, seeing that both we and they are equally in earnest. Please 
follow me and the argument closely: -And first I will put forward 
Tyrtaeus, an Athenian by birth, but also a Spartan citizen, who of all 
men was most eager about war: Well, he says, "I sing not, I care 
not, about any man, even if he were the richest of men, and 
possessed every good (and then he gives a whole list of them) , if he 
be not at all times a brave warrior." I imagine that you, too, must 



have heard his poems; our Lacedaemonian friend has probably heard more 
than enough of them. 

Meg. Very true. 

Cle. And they have found their way from Lacedaemon to Crete. 

Ath . Come now and let us all join in asking this question of 
Tyrtaeus : most divine poet, we will say to him, the excellent praise 
which you have bestowed on those who excel in war sufficiently 
proves that you are wise and good, and I and Megillus and Cleinias 
of Cnosus do, as I believe, entirely agree with you. But we should 
like to be quite sure that we are speaking of the same men; tell us, 
then, do you agree with us in thinking that there are two kinds of 
war; or what would you say? A far inferior man to Tyrtaeus would 
have no difficulty in replying quite truly, that war is of two kinds 
one which is universally called civil war, and is as we were just 
now saying, of all wars the worst; the other, as we should all 
admit, in which we fall out with other nations who are of a 
different race, is a far milder form of warfare. 

Cle. Certainly, far milder. 

Ath. Well, now, when you praise and blame war in this high-flown 
strain, whom are you praising or blaming, and to which kind of war are 
you referring? I suppose that you must mean foreign war, if I am to 
judge from expressions of yours in which you say that you abominate 
those 

Who refuse to look upon fields of blood, and will not draw near 
and strike at their enemies. 

And we shall naturally go on to say to him-You, Tyrtaeus, as it seems, 
praise those who distinguish themselves in external and foreign war; 
and he must admit this. 

Cle. Evidently. 

Ath. They are good; but we say that there are still better men whose 
virtue is displayed in the greatest of all battles. And we too have 
a poet whom we summon as a witness, Theognis, citizen of Megara in 
Sicily: 

Cyrnus, he who is faithful in a civil broil is worth his weight in 
gold and silver. 

And such an one is far better, as we affirm, than the other in a 
more difficult kind of war, much in the same degree as justice and 
temperance and wisdom, when united with courage, are better than 
courage only; for a man cannot be faithful and good in civil strife 
without having all virtue. But in the war of which Tyrtaeus speaks, 
many a mercenary soldier will take his stand and be ready to die at 
his post, and yet they are generally and almost without exception 
insolent, unjust, violent men, and the most senseless of human beings. 
You will ask what the conclusion is, and what I am seeking to prove: I 
maintain that the divine legislator of Crete, like any other who is 
worthy of consideration, will always and above all things in making 
laws have regard to the greatest virtue; which, according to Theognis, 
is loyalty in the hour of danger, and may be truly called perfect 
justice. Whereas, that virtue which Tyrtaeus highly praises is well 
enough, and was praised by the poet at the right time, yet in place 
and dignity may be said to be only fourth rate. 

Cle. Stranger, we are degrading our inspired lawgiver to a rank 
which is far beneath him. 

Ath. Nay, I think that we degrade not him but ourselves, if we 
imagine that Lycurgus and Minos laid down laws both in Lacedaemon 
and Crete mainly with a view to war. 

Cle. What ought we to say then? 

Ath. What truth and what justice require of us, if I am not 
mistaken, when speaking in behalf of divine excellence; -at the 
legislator when making his laws had in view not a part only, and 



this the lowest part of virtue, but all virtue, and that he devised 
classes of laws answering to the kinds of virtue; not in the way in 
which modern inventors of laws make the classes, for they only 
investigate and offer laws whenever a want is felt, and one man has 
a class of laws about allotments and heiresses, another about 
assaults; others about ten thousand other such matters. But we 
maintain that the right way of examining into laws is to proceed as we 
have now done, and I admired the spirit of your exposition; for you 
were quite right in beginning with virtue, and saying that this was 
the aim of the giver of the law, but I thought that you went wrong 
when you added that all his legislation had a view only to a part, and 
the least part of virtue, and this called forth my subsequent remarks. 
Will you allow me then to explain how I should have liked to have 
heard you expound the matter? 

Cle. By all means. 

Ath . You ought to have said, Stranger-The Cretan laws are with 
reason famous among the Hellenes; for they fulfil the object of 
laws, which is to make those who use them happy; and they confer every 
sort of good. Now goods are of two kinds: there are human and there 
are divine goods, and the human hang upon the divine; and the state 
which attains the greater, at the same time acquires the less, or, not 
having the greater, has neither. Of the lesser goods the first is 
health, the second beauty, the third strength, including swiftness 
in running and bodily agility generally, and the fourth is wealth, not 
the blind god [Pluto], but one who is keen of sight, if only he has 
wisdom for his companion. For wisdom is chief and leader of the divine 
dass of goods, and next follows temperance; and from the union of 
these two with courage springs justice, and fourth in the scale of 
virtue is courage. All these naturally take precedence of the other 
goods, and this is the order in which the legislator must place 
them, and after them he will enjoin the rest of his ordinances on 
the citizens with a view to these, the human looking to the divine, 
and the divine looking to their leader mind. Some of his ordinances 
will relate to contracts of marriage which they make one with another, 
and then to the procreation and education of children, both male and 
female; the duty of the lawgiver will be to take charge of his 
citizens, in youth and age, and at every time of life, and to give 
them punishments and rewards; and in reference to all their 
intercourse with one another, he ought to consider their pains and 
pleasures and desires, and the vehemence of all their passions; he 
should keep a watch over them, and blame and praise them rightly by 
the mouth of the laws themselves. Also with regard to anger and 
terror, and the other perturbations of the soul, which arise out of 
misfortune, and the deliverances from them which prosperity brings, 
and the experiences which come to men in diseases, or in war, or 
poverty, or the opposite of these; in all these states he should 
determine and teach what is the good and evil of the condition of 
each. In the next place, the legislator has to be careful how the 
citizens make their money and in what way they spend it, and to have 
an eye to their mutual contracts and dissolutions of contracts, 
whether voluntary or involuntary: he should see how they order all 
this, and consider where justice as well as injustice is found or is 
wanting in their several dealings with one another; and honour those 
who obey the law, and impose fixed penalties on those who disobey, 
until the round of civil life is ended, and the time has come for 
the consideration of the proper funeral rites and honours of the dead. 
And the lawgiver reviewing his work, will appoint guardians to preside 
over these things-some who walk by intelligence, others by true 
opinion only, and then mind will bind together all his ordinances 
and show them to be in harmony with temperance and justice, and not 
with wealth or ambition. This is the spirit, Stranger, in which I 
was and am desirous that you should pursue the subject. And I want 
to know the nature of all these things, and how they are arranged in 
the laws of Zeus, as they are termed, and in those of the Pythian 



Apollo, which Minos and Lycurgus gave; and how the order of them is 
discovered to his eyes, who has experience in laws gained either by 
study or habit, although they are far from being self-evident to the 
rest of mankind like ourselves. 

Cle. How shall we proceed, Stranger? 

Ath . I think that we must begin again as before, and first 
consider the habit of courage; and then we will go on and discuss 
another and then another form of virtue, if you please. In this way we 
shall have a model of the whole; and with these and similar discourses 
we will beguile the way. And when we have gone through all the 
virtues, we will show, by the grace of God, that the institutions of 
which I was speaking look to virtue. 

Meg. Very good; and suppose that you first criticize this praiser of 
Zeus and the laws of Crete. 

Ath. I will try to criticize you and myself, as well as him, for the 
argument is a common concern. Tell me-were not first the syssitia, and 
secondly the gymnasia, invented by your legislator with a view to war? 

Meg. Yes. 

Ath. And what comes third, and what fourth? For that, I think, is 
the sort of enumeration which ought to be made of the remaining 
parts of virtue, no matter whether you call them parts or what their 
name is, provided the meaning is clear. 

Meg. Then I, or any other Lacedaemonian, would reply that hunting is 
third in order. 

Ath. Let us see if we can discover what comes fourth and fifth. 

Meg. I think that I can get as far as the fouth head, which is the 
frequent endurance of pain, exhibited among us Spartans in certain 
hand-to-hand fights; also in stealing with the prospect of getting a 
good beating; there is, too, the so-called Crypteia, or secret 
service, in which wonderful endurance is shown-our people wander 
over the whole country by day and by night, and even in winter have 
not a shoe to their foot, and are without beds to lie upon, and have 
to attend upon themselves. Marvellous, too, is the endurance which our 
citizens show in their naked exercises, contending against the violent 
summer heat; and there are many similar practices, to speak of which 
in detail would be endless. 

Ath. Excellent, Lacedaemonian Stranger. But how ought we to define 
courage? Is it to be regarded only as a combat against fears and 
pains, or also against desires and pleasures, and against 
flatteries; which exercise such a tremendous power, that they make the 
hearts even of respectable citizens to melt like wax? 

Meg. I should say the latter. 

Ath. In what preceded, as you will remember, our Cnosian friend 
was speaking of a man or a city being inferior to themselves : -Were you 
not, Cleinias? 

Cle. I was. 
Ath. Now, which is in the truest sense inferior, the man who is 
overcome by pleasure or by pain? 

Cle. I should say the man who is overcome by pleasure; for all men 
deem him to be inferior in a more disgraceful sense, than the other 
who is overcome by pain. 

Ath. But surely the lawgivers of Crete and Lacedaemon have not 
legislated for a courage which is lame of one leg, able only to meet 
attacks which come from the left, but impotent against the insidious 
flatteries which come from the right? 

Cle. Able to meet both, I should say. 

Ath. Then let me once more ask, what institutions have you in either 
of your states which give a taste of pleasures, and do not avoid 
them any more than they avoid pains; but which set a person in the 
midst of them, and compel or induce him by the prospect of reward to 
get the better of them? Where is an ordinance about pleasure similar 
to that about pain to be found in your laws? Tell me what there is 
of this nature among you : -What is there which makes your citizen 
equally brave against pleasure and pain, conquering what they ought to 



conquer, and superior to the enemies who are most dangerous and 
nearest home? 

Meg. I was able to tell you, Stranger, many laws which were directed 
against pain; but I do not know that I can point out any great or 
obvious examples of similar institutions which are concerned with 
pleasure; there are some lesser provisions, however, which I might 
mention . 

Cle. Neither can I show anything of that sort which is at all 
equally prominent in the Cretan laws. 

Ath . No wonder, my dear friends; and if, as is very likely, in our 
search after the true and good, one of us may have to censure the laws 
of the others, we must not be offended, but take kindly what another 
says . 

Cle. You are quite right, Athenian Stranger, and we will do as you 
say. 

Ath. At our time of life, Cleinias, there should be no feeling of 
irritation . 

Cle. Certainly not. 

Ath. I will not at present determine whether he who censures the 
Cretan or Lacedaemonian polities is right or wrong. But I believe that 
I can tell better than either of you what the many say about them. For 
assuming that you have reasonably good laws, one of the best of them 
will be the law forbidding any young men to enquire which of them 
are right or wrong; but with one mouth and one voice they must all 
agree that the laws are all good, for they came from God; and any 
one who says the contrary is not to be listened to. But an old man who 
remarks any defect in your laws may communicate his observation to a 
ruler or to an equal in years when no young man is present. 

Cle. Exactly so, Stranger; and like a diviner, although not there at 
the time, you seem to me quite to have hit the meaning of the 
legislator, and to say what is most true. 

Ath. As there are no young men present, and the legislator has given 
old men free licence, there will be no impropriety in our discussing 
these very matters now that we are alone. 

Cle. True. And therefore you may be as free as you like in your 
censure of our laws, for there is no discredit in knowing what is 
wrong; he who receives what is said in a generous and friendly 
spirit will be all the better for it. 

Ath. Very good; however, I am not going to say anything against your 
laws until to the best of my ability I have examined them, but I am 
going to raise doubts about them. For you are the only people known to 
us, whether Greek or barbarian, whom the legislator commanded to 
eschew all great pleasures and amusements and never to touch them; 
whereas in the matter of pains or fears which we have just been 
discussing, he thought that they who from infancy had always avoided 
pains and fears and sorrows, when they were compelled to face them 
would run away from those who were hardened in them, and would 
become their subjects. Now the legislator ought to have considered 
that this was equally true of pleasure; he should have said to 
himself, that if our citizens are from their youth upward unacquainted 
with the greatest pleasures, and unused to endure amid the temptations 
of pleasure, and are not disciplined to refrain from all things 
evil, the sweet feeling of pleasure will overcome them just as fear 
would overcome the former class; and in another, and even a worse 
manner, they will be the slaves of those who are able to endure amid 
pleasures, and have had the opportunity of enjoying them, they being 
often the worst of mankind. One half of their souls will be a slave, 
the other half free; and they will not be worthy to be called in the 
true sense men and freemen. Tell me whether you assent to my words? 

Cle. On first hearing, what you say appears to be the truth; but 
to be hasty in coming to a conclusion about such important matters 
would be very childish and simple. 

Ath. Suppose, Cleinias and Megillus, that we consider the virtue 
which follows next of those which we intended to discuss (for after 



courage comes temperance) , what institutions shall we find relating to 
temperance, either in Crete or Lacedaemon, which, like your military 
institutions, differ from those of any ordinary state. 

Meg. That is not an easy question to answer; still I should say that 
the common meals and gymnastic exercises have been excellently devised 
for the promotion both of temperance and courage. 

Ath. There seems to be a difficulty, Stranger, with regard to 
states, in making words and facts coincide so that there can be no 
dispute about them. As in the human body, the regimen which does 
good in one way does harm in another; and we can hardly say that any 
one course of treatment is adapted to a particular constitution. Now 
the gymnasia and common meals do a great deal of good, and yet they 
are a source of evil in civil troubles; as is shown in the case of the 
Milesian, and Boeotian, and Thurian youth, among whom these 
institutions seem always to have had a tendency to degrade the ancient 
and natural custom of love below the level, not only of man, but of 
the beasts. The charge may be fairly brought against your cities above 
all others, and is true also of most other states which especially 
cultivate gymnastics. Whether such matters are to be regarded 
jestingly or seriously, I think that the pleasure is to be deemed 
natural which arises out of the intercourse between men and women; but 
that the intercourse of men with men, or of women with women, is 
contrary to nature, and that the bold attempt was originally due to 
unbridled lust. The Cretans are always accused of having invented 
the story of Ganymede and Zeus because they wanted to justify 
themselves in the enjoyment of unnatural pleasures by the practice 
of the god whom they believe to have been their lawgiver. Leaving 
the story, we may observe that any speculation about laws turns almost 
entirely on pleasure and pain, both in states and in individuals: 
these are two fountains which nature lets flow, and he who draws 
from them where and when, and as much as he ought, is happy; and 
this holds of men and animals-of individuals as well as states; and he 
who indulges in them ignorantly and at the wrong time, is the 
reverse of happy. 

Meg. I admit, Stranger, that your words are well spoken, and I 
hardly know what to say in answer to you; but still I think that the 
Spartan lawgiver was quite right in forbidding pleasure. Of the Cretan 
laws, I shall leave the defence to my Cnosian friend. But the laws 
of Sparta, in as far as they relate to pleasure, appear to me to be 
the best in the world; for that which leads mankind in general into 
the wildest pleasure and licence, and every other folly, the law has 
clean driven out; and neither in the country nor in towns which are 
under the control of Sparta, will you find revelries and the many 
incitements of every kind of pleasure which accompany them; and any 
one who meets a drunken and disorderly person, will immediately have 
him most severely punished, and will not let him off on any 
pretence, not even at the time of a Dionysiac festival; although I 
have remarked that this may happen at your performances "on the cart, " 
as they are called; and among our Tarentine colonists I have seen 
the whole city drunk at a Dionysiac festival; but nothing of the 
sort happens among us . 

Ath. Lacedaemonian Stranger, these festivities are praiseworthy 
where there is a spirit of endurance, but are very senseless when they 
are under no regulations. In order to retaliate, an Athenian has 
only to point out the licence which exists among your women. To all 
such accusations, whether they are brought against the Tarentines, 
or us, or you, there is one answer which exonerates the practice in 
question from impropriety. When a stranger expresses wonder at the 
singularity of what he sees, any inhabitant will naturally answer 
him: -Wonder not, stranger; this is our custom, and you may very 
likely have some other custom about the same things. Now we are 
speaking, my friends, not about men in general, but about the merits 
and defects of the lawgivers themselves. Let us then discourse a 
little more at length about intoxication, which is a very important 



subject, and will seriously task the discrimination of the legislator. 
I am not speaking of drinking, or not drinking, wine at all, but of 
intoxication. Are we to follow the custom of the Scythians, and 
Persians, and Carthaginians, and Celts, and Iberians, and Thracians, 
who are all warlike nations, or that of your countrymen, for they, 
as you say, altogether abstain? But the Scythians and Thracians, 
both men and women, drink unmixed wine, which they pour on their 
garments, and this they think a happy and glorious institution. The 
Persians, again, are much given to other practices of luxury which you 
reject, but they have more moderation in them than the Thracians and 
Scythians . 

Meg. best of men, we have only to take arms into our hands, and we 
send all these nations flying before us. 

Ath . Nay, my good friend, do not say that; there have been, as there 
always will be, flights and pursuits of which no account can be given, 
and therefore we cannot say that victory or defeat in battle affords 
more than a doubtful proof of the goodness or badness of institutions. 
For when the greater states conquer and enslave the lesser, as the 
Syracusans have done the Locrians, who appear to be the 
best-governed people in their part of the world, or as the Athenians 
have done the Ceans (and there are ten thousand other instances of the 
same sort of thing), all this is not to the point; let us endeavour 
rather to form a conclusion about each institution in itself and say 
nothing, at present, of victories and defeats. Let us only say that 
such and such a custom is honourable, and another not. And first 
permit me to tell you how good and bad are to be estimated in 
reference to these very matters. 

Meg. How do you mean? 

Ath. All those who are ready at a moment's notice to praise or 
censure any practice which is matter of discussion, seem to me to 
proceed in a wrong way. Let me give you an illustration of what I 
mean : -You may suppose a person to be praising wheat as a good kind 
of food, whereupon another person instantly blames wheat, without ever 
enquiring into its effect or use, or in what way, or to whom, or 
with what, or in what state and how, wheat is to be given. And that is 
just what we are doing in this discussion. At the very mention of 
the word intoxication, one side is ready with their praises and the 
other with their censures; which is absurd. For either side adduce 
their witnesses and approvers, and some of us think that we speak with 
authority because we have many witnesses; and others because they 
see those who abstain conquering in battle, and this again is disputed 
by us. Now I cannot say that I shall be satisfied, if we go on 
discussing each of the remaining laws in the same way. And about 
this very point of intoxication I should like to speak in another way, 
which I hold to be the right one; for if number is to be the 
criterion, are there not myriads upon myriads of nations ready to 
dispute the point with you, who are only two cities? 

Meg. I shall gladly welcome any method of enquiry which is right. 

Ath. Let me put the matter thus : -Suppose a person to praise the 
keeping of goats, and the creatures themselves as capital things to 
have, and then some one who had seen goats feeding without a 
goatherd in cultivated spots, and doing mischief, were to censure a 
goat or any other animal who has no keeper, or a bad keeper, would 
there be any sense or justice in such censure? 

Meg. Certainly not. 

Ath. Does a captain require only to have nautical knowledge in order 
to be a good captain, whether he is sea-sick or not? What do you say? 

Meg. I say that he is not a good captain if, although he have 
nautical skill, he is liable to sea-sickness. 

Ath. And what would you say of the commander of an army? Will he 
be able to command merely because he has military skill if he be a 
coward, who, when danger comes, is sick and drunk with fear? 

Meg. Impossible. 

Ath. And what if besides being a coward he has no skill? 



Meg. He is a miserable fellow, not fit to be a commander of men, but 
only of old women. 

Ath . And what would you say of some one who blames or praises any 
sort of meeting which is intended by nature to have a ruler, and is 
well enough when under his presidency? The critic, however, has 
never seen the society meeting together at an orderly feast under 
the control of a president, but always without a ruler or with a bad 
one : -when observers of this class praise or blame such meetings, are 
we to suppose that what they say is of any value? 

Meg. Certainly not, if they have never seen or been present at 
such a meeting when rightly ordered. 

Ath. Reflect; may not banqueters and banquets be said to 
constitute a kind of meeting? 

Meg. Of course. 

Ath. And did any one ever see this sort of convivial meeting rightly 
ordered? Of course you two will answer that you have never seen them 
at all, because they are not customary or lawful in your country; 
but I have come across many of them in many different places, and 
moreover I have made enquiries about them wherever I went, as I may 
say, and never did I see or hear of anything of the kind which was 
carried on altogether rightly; in some few particulars they might be 
right, but in general they were utterly wrong. 

Cle. What do you mean, Stranger, by this remark? Explain; For we, as 
you say, from our inexperience in such matters, might very likely 
not know, even if they came in our way, what was right or wrong in 
such societies . 

Ath. Likely enough; then let me try to be your instructor: You would 
acknowledge, would you not, that in all gatherings of man, kind, of 
whatever sort, there ought to be a leader? 

Cle. Certainly I should. 

Ath. And we were saying just now, that when men are at war the 
leader ought to be a brave man? 

Cle. We were. 

Ath. The brave man is less likely than the coward to be disturbed by 
fears? 

Cle. That again is true. 

Ath. And if there were a possibility of having a general of an 
army who was absolutely fearless and imperturbable, should we not by 
all means appoint him? 

Cle. Assuredly. 

Ath. Now, however, we are speaking not of a general who is to 
command an army, when foe meets foe in time of war, but of one who 
is to regulate meetings of another sort, when friend meets friend in 
time of peace. 

Cle. True. 

Ath. And that sort of meeting, if attended with drunkenness, is 
apt to be unquiet. 

Cle. Certainly; the reverse of quiet. 

Ath. In the first place, then, the revellers as well as the soldiers 
will require a ruler? 

Cle. To be sure; no men more so. 

Ath. And we ought, if possible, to provide them with a quiet ruler? 

Cle. Of course. 

Ath. And he should be a man who understands society; for his duty is 
to preserve the friendly feelings which exist among the company at the 
time, and to increase them for the future by his use of the occasion. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. Must we not appoint a sober man and a wise to be our master 
of the revels? For if the ruler of drinkers be himself young and 
drunken, and not over-wise, only by some special good fortune will 
he be saved from doing some great evil. 

Cle. It will be by a singular good fortune that he is saved. 

Ath. Now suppose such associations to be framed in the best way 
possible in states, and that some one blames the very fact of their 



existence-he may very likely be right. But if he blames a practice 
which he only sees very much mismanaged, he shows in the first place 
that he is not aware of the mismanagement, and also not aware that 
everything done in this way will turn out to be wrong, because done 
without the superintendence of a sober ruler. Do you not see that a 
drunken pilot or a drunken ruler of any sort will ruin ship, 
chariot, army-anything, in short, of which he has the direction? 

Cle. The last remark is very true, Stranger; and I see quite clearly 
the advantage of an army having a good leader-he will give victory 
in war to his followers, which is a very great advantage; and so of 
other things. But I do not see any similar advantage which either 
individuals or states gain from the good management of a feast; and 
I want you to tell me what great good will be effected, supposing that 
this drinking ordinance is duly established. 

Ath . If you mean to ask what great good accrues to the state from 
the right training of a single youth, or of a single chorus-when the 
question is put in that form, we cannot deny that the good is not very 
great in any particular instance. But if you ask what is the good of 
education in general, the answer is easy-that education makes good 
men, and that good men act nobly, and conquer their enemies in battle, 
because they are good. Education certainly gives victory, although 
victory sometimes produces f orgetf ulness of education; for many have 
grown insolent from victory in war, and this insolence has 
engendered in them innumerable evils; and many a victory has been 
and will be suicidal to the victors; but education is never suicidal. 

Cle. You seem to imply, my friend, that convivial meetings, when 
rightly ordered, are an important element of education. 

Ath. Certainly I do. 

Cle. And can you show that what you have been saying is true? 

Ath. To be absolutely sure of the truth of matters concerning 
which there are many opinions, is an attribute of the Gods not given 
to man, Stranger; but I shall be very happy to tell you what I 
think, especially as we are now proposing to enter on a discussion 
concerning laws and constitutions . 

Cle. Your opinion, Stranger, about the questions which are now being 
raised, is precisely what we want to hear. 

Ath. Very good; I will try to find a way of explaining my meaning, 
and you shall try to have the gift of understanding me. But first 
let me make an apology. The Athenian citizen is reputed among all 
the Hellenes to be a great talker, whereas Sparta is renowned for 
brevity, and the Cretans have more wit than words. Now I am afraid 
of appearing to elicit a very long discourse out of very small 
materials. For drinking indeed may appear to be a slight matter, and 
yet is one which cannot be rightly ordered according to nature, 
without correct principles of music; these are necessary to any 
clear or satisfactory treatment of the subject, and music again runs 
up into education generally, and there is much to be said about all 
this. What would you say then to leaving these matters for the 
present, and passing on to some other question of law? 

Meg. Athenian Stranger, let me tell you what perhaps you do not 
know, that our family is the proxenus of your state. I imagine that 
from their earliest youth all boys, when they are told that they are 
the proxeni of a particular state, feel kindly towards their second 
and this has certainly been my own feeling. I can well remember from 
the days of my boyhood, how, when any Lacedaemonians praised or blamed 
the Athenians, they used to say to me-"See, Megillus, how ill or how 
well," as the case might be, "has your state treated us"; and having 
always had to fight your battles against detractors when I heard you 
assailed, I became warmly attached to you. And I always like to hear 
the Athenian tongue spoken; the common saying is quite true, that a 
good Athenian is more than ordinarily good, for he is the only man who 
is freely and genuinely good by the divine inspiration of his own 
nature, and is not manufactured. Therefore be assured that I shall 
like to hear you say whatever you have to say. 



Cle. Yes, Stranger; and when you have heard me speak, say boldly 
what is in your thoughts. Let me remind you of a tie which unites 
you to Crete. You must have heard here the story of the prophet 
Epimenides, who was of my family, and came to Athens ten years 
before the Persian war, in accordance with the response of the Oracle, 
and offered certain sacrifices which the God commanded. The 
Athenians were at that time in dread of the Persian invasion; and he 
said that for ten years they would not come, and that when they 
came, they would go away again without accomplishing any of their 
objects, and would suffer more evil than they inflicted. At that 
time my forefathers formed ties of hospitality with you; thus 
ancient is the friendship which I and my parents have had for you. 

Ath . You seem to be quite ready to listen; and I am also ready to 
perform as much as I can of an almost impossible task, which I will 
nevertheless attempt. At the outset of the discussion, let me define 
the nature and power of education; for this is the way by which our 
argument must travel onwards to the God Dionysus . 

Cle. Let us proceed, if you please. 

Ath. Well, then, if I tell you what are my notions of education, 
will you consider whether they satisfy you? 

Cle. Let us hear. 

Ath. According to my view, any one who would be good at anything 
must practise that thing from his youth upwards, both in sport and 
earnest, in its several branches: for example, he who is to be a 
good builder, should play at building children's houses; he who is 
to be a good husbandman, at tilling the ground; and those who have the 
care of their education should provide them when young with mimic 
tools. They should learn beforehand the knowledge which they will 
afterwards require for their art. For example, the future carpenter 
should learn to measure or apply the line in play; and the future 
warrior should learn riding, or some other exercise, for amusement, 
and the teacher should endeavour to direct the children's inclinations 
and pleasures, by the help of amusements, to their final aim in 
life. The most important part of education is right training in the 
nursery. The soul of the child in his play should be guided to the 
love of that sort of excellence in which when he grows up to manhood 
he will have to be perfected. Do you agree with me thus far? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. Then let us not leave the meaning of education ambiguous or 
ill-defined. At present, when we speak in terms of praise or blame 
about the bringing-up of each person, we call one man educated and 
another uneducated, although the uneducated man may be sometimes 
very well educated for the calling of a retail trader, or of a captain 
of a ship, and the like. For we are not speaking of education in 
this narrower sense, but of that other education in virtue from 
youth upwards, which makes a man eagerly pursue the ideal perfection 
of citizenship, and teaches him how rightly to rule and how to obey. 
This is the only education which, upon our view, deserves the name; 
that other sort of training, which aims at the acquisition of wealth 
or bodily strength, or mere cleverness apart from intelligence and 
justice, is mean and illiberal, and is not worthy to be called 
education at all. But let us not quarrel with one another about a 
word, provided that the proposition which has just been granted hold 
good: to wit, that those who are rightly educated generally become 
good men. Neither must we cast a slight upon education, which is the 
first and fairest thing that the best of men can ever have, and which, 
though liable to take a wrong direction, is capable of reformation. 
And this work of reformation is the great business of every man 
while he lives . 

Cle. Very true; and we entirely agree with you. 

Ath. And we agreed before that they are good men who are able to 
rule themselves, and bad men who are not. 

Cle. You are quite right. 

Ath. Let me now proceed, if I can, to clear up the subject a 



little further by an illustration which I will offer you. 

Cle. Proceed. 

Ath . Do we not consider each of ourselves to be one? 

Cle. We do. 

Ath. And each one of us has in his bosom two counsellors, both 
foolish and also antagonistic; of which we call the one pleasure, 
and the other pain. 

Cle. Exactly. 

Ath. Also there are opinions about the future, which have the 
general name of expectations; and the specific name of fear, when 
the expectation is of pain; and of hope, when of pleasure; and 
further, there is reflection about the good or evil of them, and this, 
when embodied in a decree by the State, is called Law. 

Cle. I am hardly able to follow you; proceed, however, as if I were. 

Meg. I am in the like case. 

Ath. Let us look at the matter thus: May we not conceive each of 
us living beings to be a puppet of the Gods, either their plaything 
only, or created with a purpose-which of the two we cannot certainly 
know? But we do know, that these affections in us are like cords and 
strings, which pull us different and opposite ways, and to opposite 
actions; and herein lies the difference between virtue and vice. 
According to the argument there is one among these cords which every 
man ought to grasp and never let go, but to pull with it against all 
the rest; and this is the sacred and golden cord of reason, called 
by us the common law of the State; there are others which are hard and 
of iron, but this one is soft because golden; and there are several 
other kinds. Now we ought always to cooperate with the lead of the 
best, which is law. For inasmuch as reason is beautiful and gentle, 
and not violent, her rule must needs have ministers in order to help 
the golden principle in vanquishing the other principles. And thus the 
moral of the tale about our being puppets will not have been lost, and 
the meaning of the expression "superior or inferior to a man's self" 
will become clearer; and the individual, attaining to right reason 
in this matter of pulling the strings of the puppet, should live 
according to its rule; while the city, receiving the same from some 
god or from one who has knowledge of these things, should embody it in 
a law, to be her guide in her dealings with herself and with other 
states. In this way virtue and vice will be more clearly distinguished 
by us. And when they have become clearer, education and other 
institutions will in like manner become clearer; and in particular 
that question of convivial entertainment, which may seem, perhaps, 
to have been a very trifling matter, and to have taken a great many 
more words than were necessary. 

Cle. Perhaps, however, the theme may turn out not to be unworthy 
of the length of discourse. 

Ath. Very good; let us proceed with any enquiry which really bears 
on our present object. 

Cle. Proceed. 

Ath. Suppose that we give this puppet of ours drink-what will be the 
effect on him? 

Cle. Having what in view do you ask that question? 

Ath. Nothing as yet; but I ask generally, when the puppet is brought 
to the drink, what sort of result is likely to follow. I will 
endeavour to explain my meaning more clearly: what I am now asking 
is this-Does the drinking of wine heighten and increase pleasures 
and pains, and passions and loves? 

Cle. Very greatly. 

Ath. And are perception and memory, and opinion and prudence, 
heightened and increased? Do not these qualities entirely desert a man 
if he becomes saturated with drink? 

Cle. Yes, they entirely desert him. 

Ath. Does he not return to the state of soul in which he was when 
a young child? 

Cle. He does. 



Ath . Then at that time he will have the least control over himself? 

Cle. The least. 

Ath. And will he not be in a most wretched plight? 

Cle. Most wretched. 

Ath. Then not only an old man but also a drunkard becomes a second 
time a child? 

Cle. Well said, Stranger. 

Ath. Is there any argument which will prove to us that we ought to 
encourage the taste for drinking instead of doing all we can to 
avoid it? 

Cle. I suppose that there is; you at any rate, were just now 
saying that you were ready to maintain such a doctrine. 

Ath. True, I was; and I am ready still, seeing that you have both 
declared that you are anxious to hear me. 

Cle. To sure we are, if only for the strangeness of the paradox, 
which asserts that a man ought of his own accord to plunge into 
utter degradation. 

Ath. Are you speaking of the soul? 

Cle. Yes. 

Ath. And what would you say about the body, my friend? Are you not 
surprised at any one of his own accord bringing upon himself 
deformity, leanness, ugliness, decrepitude? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. Yet when a man goes of his own accord to a doctor's shop, and 
takes medicine, is he not aware that soon, and for many days 
afterwards, he will be in a state of body which he would die rather 
than accept as the permanent condition of his life? Are not those 
who train in gymnasia, at first beginning reduced to a state of 
weakness? 

Cle. Yes, all that is well known. 

Ath. Also that they go of their own accord for the sake of the 
subsequent benefit? 

Cle. Very good. 

Ath. And we may conceive this to be true in the same way of other 
practices? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. And the same view may be taken of the pastime of drinking wine, 
if we are right in supposing that the same good effect follows? 

Cle. To be sure. 

Ath. If such convivialities should turn out to have any advantage 
equal in importance to that of gymnastic, they are in their very 
nature to be preferred to mere bodily exercise, inasmuch as they 
have no accompaniment of pain. 

Cle. True; but I hardly think that we shall be able to discover 
any such benefits to be derived from them. 

Ath. That is just what we must endeavour to show. And let me ask you 
a question: -Do we not distinguish two kinds of fear, which are very 
different? 

Cle. What are they? 

Ath. There is the fear of expected evil. 

Cle. Yes. 
Ath. And there is the fear of an evil reputation; we are afraid 
of being thought evil, because we do or say some dishonourable 
thing, which fear we and all men term shame. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. These are the two fears, as I called them; one of which is 
the opposite of pain and other fears, and the opposite also of the 
greatest and most numerous sort of pleasures. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. And does not the legislator and every one who is good for 
anything, hold this fear in the greatest honour? This is what he terms 
reverence, and the confidence which is the reverse of this he terms 
insolence; and the latter he always deems to be a very great evil both 
to individuals and to states. 



Cle. True. 

Ath . Does not this kind of fear preserve us in many important 
ways? What is there which so surely gives victory and safety in war? 
For there are two things which give victory-confidence before enemies, 
and fear of disgrace before friends. 

Cle. There are. 

Ath. Then each of us should be fearless and also fearful; and why we 
should be either has now been determined. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. And when we want to make any one fearless, we and the law bring 
him face to face with many fears . 

Cle. Clearly. 

Ath. And when we want to make him rightly fearful, must we not 
introduce him to shameless pleasures, and train him to take up arms 
against them, and to overcome them? Or does this principle apply to 
courage only, and must he who would be perfect in valour fight against 
and overcome his own natural character-since if he be unpractised 
and inexperienced in such conflicts, he will not be half the man which 
he might have been-and are we to suppose, that with temperance it is 
otherwise, and that he who has never fought with the shameless and 
unrighteous temptations of his pleasures and lusts, and conquered 
them, in earnest and in play, by word, deed, and act, will still be 
perfectly temperate? 

Cle. A most unlikely supposition. 

Ath. Suppose that some God had given a fear-potion to men, and 
that the more a man drank of this the more he regarded himself at 
every draught as a child of misfortune, and that he feared 
everything happening or about to happen to him; and that at last the 
most courageous of men utterly lost his presence of mind for a time, 
and only came to himself again when he had slept off the influence 
of the draught. 

Cle. But has such a draught, Stranger, ever really been known 
among men? 

Ath. No; but, if there had been, might not such a draught have 
been of use to the legislator as a test of courage? Might we not go 
and say to him, "0 legislator, whether you are legislating for the 
Cretan, or for any other state, would you not like to have a 
touchstone of the courage and cowardice of your citizens?" 

Cle. "I should," will be the answer of every one. 

Ath. "And you would rather have a touchstone in which there is no 
risk and no great danger than the reverse?" 

Cle. In that proposition every one may safely agree. 

Ath. "And in order to make use of the draught, you would lead them 
amid these imaginary terrors, and prove them, when the affection of 
fear was working upon them, and compel them to be fearless, 
exhorting and admonishing them; and also honouring them, but 
dishonouring any one who will not be persuaded by you to be in all 
respects such as you command him; and if he underwent the trial well 
and manfully, you would let him go unscathed; but if ill, you would 
inflict a punishment upon him? Or would you abstain from using the 
potion altogether, although you have no reason for abstaining?" 

Cle. He would be certain, Stranger, to use the potion. 

Ath. This would be a mode of testing and training which would be 
wonderfully easy in comparison with those now in use, and might be 
applied to a single person, or to a few, or indeed to any number; 
and he would do well who provided himself with the potion only, rather 
than with any number of other things, whether he preferred to be by 
himself in solitude, and there contend with his fears, because he 
was ashamed to be seen by the eye of man until he was perfect; or 
trusting to the force of his own nature and habits, and believing that 
he had been already disciplined sufficiently, he did not hesitate to 
train himself in company with any number of others, and display his 
power in conquering the irresistible change effected by the 
draught-his virtue being such, that he never in any instance fell into 



any great unseemliness, but was always himself, and left off before he 
arrived at the last cup, fearing that he, like all other men, might be 
overcome by the potion. 

Cle. Yes, Stranger, in that last case, too, he might equally show 
his self-control. 

Ath . Let us return to the lawgiver, and say to him:-"Well, lawgiver, 
there is certainly no such fear-potion which man has either received 
from the Gods or himself discovered; for witchcraft has no place at 
our board. But is there any potion which might serve as a test of 
overboldness and excessive and indiscreet boasting? 

Cle. I suppose that he will say, Yes-meaning that wine is such a 
potion . 

Ath. Is not the effect of this quite the opposite of the effect of 
the other? When a man drinks wine he begins to be better pleased 
with himself, and the more he drinks the more he is filled full of 
brave hopes, and conceit of his power, and at last the string of his 
tongue is loosened, and fancying himself wise, he is brimming over 
with lawlessness, and has no more fear or respect, and is ready to 
do or say anything. 

Cle. I think that every one will admit the truth of your 
description . 

Meg. Certainly. 

Ath. Now, let us remember, as we were saying, that there are two 
things which should be cultivated in the soul: first, the greatest 
courage; secondly, the greatest fear- 

Cle. Which you said to be characteristic of reverence, if I am not 
mistaken . 

Ath. Thank you for reminding me. But now, as the habit of courage 
and fearlessness is to be trained amid fears, let us consider 
whether the opposite quality is not also to be trained among 
opposites . 

Cle. That is probably the case. 

Ath. There are times and seasons at which we are by nature more than 
commonly valiant and bold; now we ought to train ourselves on these 
occasions to be as free from impudence and shamelessness as 
possible, and to be afraid to say or suffer or do anything that is 
base . 

Cle. True. 

Ath. Are not the moments in which we are apt to be bold and 
shameless such as these?-when we are under the influence of anger, 
love, pride, ignorance, avarice, cowardice? or when wealth, beauty, 
strength, and all the intoxicating workings of pleasure madden us? 
What is better adapted than the festive use of wine, in the first 
place to test, and in the second place to train the character of a 
man, if care be taken in the use of it? What is there cheaper, or more 
innocent? For do but consider which is the greater risk:-Would you 
rather test a man of a morose and savage nature, which is the source 
of ten thousand acts of injustice, by making bargains with him at a 
risk to yourself, or by having him as a companion at the festival of 
Dionysus? Or would you, if you wanted to apply a touchstone to a man 
who is prone to love, entrust your wife, or your sons, or daughters to 
him, perilling your dearest interests in order to have a view of the 
condition of his soul? I might mention numberless cases, in which 
the advantage would be manifest of getting to know a character in 
sport, and without paying dearly for experience. And I do not 
believe that either a Cretan, or any other man, will doubt that such a 
test is a fair test, and safer, cheaper, and speedier than any other. 

Cle. That is certainly true. 

Ath. And this knowledge of the natures and habits of men's souls 
will be of the greatest use in that art which has the management of 
them; and that art, if I am not mistaken, is politics. 

Cle. Exactly so. 

BOOK II 



Athenian Stranger. And now we have to consider whether the insight 
into human nature is the only benefit derived from well ordered 
potations, or whether there are not other advantages great and much to 
be desired. The argument seems to imply that there are. But how and in 
what way these are to be attained, will have to be considered 
attentively, or we may be entangled in error. 

Cleinias . Proceed. 

Ath . Let me once more recall our doctrine of right education; which, 
if I am not mistaken, depends on the due regulation of convivial 
intercourse . 

Cle. You talk rather grandly. 

Ath. Pleasure and pain I maintain to be the first perceptions of 
children, and I say that they are the forms under which virtue and 
vice are originally present to them. As to wisdom and true and fixed 
opinions, happy is the man who acquires them, even when declining in 
years; and we may say that he who possesses them, and the blessings 
which are contained in them, is a perfect man. Now I mean by education 
that training which is given by suitable habits to the first instincts 
of virtue in children; -when pleasure, and friendship, and pain, and 
hatred, are rightly implanted in souls not yet capable of 
understanding the nature of them, and who find them, after they have 
attained reason, to be in harmony with her. This harmony of the 
soul, taken as a whole, is virtue; but the particular training in 
respect of pleasure and pain, which leads you always to hate what 
you ought to hate, and love what you ought to love from the 
beginning of life to the end, may be separated off; and, in my view, 
will be rightly called education. 

Cle. I think, Stranger, that you are quite right in all that you 
have said and are saying about education. 

Ath. I am glad to hear that you agree with me; for, indeed, the 
discipline of pleasure and pain which, when rightly ordered, is a 
principle of education, has been often relaxed and corrupted in 
human life. And the Gods, pitying the toils which our race is born 
to undergo, have appointed holy festivals, wherein men alternate 
rest with labour; and have given them the Muses and Apollo, the leader 
of the Muses, and Dionysus, to be companions in their revels, that 
they may improve their education by taking part in the festivals of 
the Gods, and with their help. I should like to know whether a 
common saying is in our opinion true to nature or not. For men say 
that the young of all creatures cannot be quiet in their bodies or 
in their voices; they are always wanting to move and cry out; some 
leaping and skipping, and overflowing with sportiveness and delight at 
something, others uttering all sorts of cries. But, whereas the 
animals have no perception of order or disorder in their movements, 
that is, of rhythm or harmony, as they are called, to us, the Gods, 
who, as we say, have been appointed to be our companions in the dance, 
have given the pleasurable sense of harmony and rhythm; and so they 
stir us into life, and we follow them, joining hands together in 
dances and songs; and these they call choruses, which is a term 
naturally expressive of cheerfulness. Shall we begin, then, with the 
acknowledgment that education is first given through Apollo and the 
Muses? What do you say? 

Cle. I assent. 

Ath. And the uneducated is he who has not been trained in the 
chorus, and the educated is he who has been well trained? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. And the chorus is made up of two parts, dance and song? 

Cle. True. 

Ath. Then he who is well educated will be able to sing and dance 
well? 

Cle. I suppose that he will. 

Ath. Let us see; what are we saying? 

Cle. What? 

Ath. He sings well and dances well; now must we add that he sings 



what is good and dances what is good? 

Cle. Let us make the addition. 

Ath . We will suppose that he knows the good to be good, and the 
bad to be bad, and makes use of them accordingly: which now is the 
better trained in dancing and music-he who is able to move his body 
and to use his voice in what is understood to be the right manner, but 
has no delight in good or hatred of evil; or he who is incorrect in 
gesture and voice, but is right in his sense of pleasure and pain, and 
welcomes what is good, and is offended at what is evil? 

Cle. There is a great difference, Stranger, in the two kinds of 
education . 

Ath. If we three know what is good in song and dance, then we 
truly know also who is educated and who is uneducated; but if not, 
then we certainly shall not know wherein lies the safeguard of 
education, and whether there is any or not. 

Cle. True. 

Ath. Let us follow the scent like hounds, and go in pursuit of 
beauty of figure, and melody, and song, and dance; if these escape us, 
there will be no use in talking about true education, whether Hellenic 
or barbarian. 

Cle. Yes. 

Ath. And what is beauty of figure, or beautiful melody? When a manly 
soul is in trouble, and when a cowardly soul is in similar case, are 
they likely to use the same figures and gestures, or to give utterance 
to the same sounds? 

Cle. How can they, when the very colours of their faces differ? 

Ath. Good, my friend; I may observe, however, in passing, that in 
music there certainly are figures and there are melodies: and music is 
concerned with harmony and rhythm, so that you may speak of a melody 
or figure having good rhythm or good harmony-the term is correct 
enough; but to speak metaphorically of a melody or figure having a 
"good colour, " as the masters of choruses do, is not allowable, 
although you can speak of the melodies or figures of the brave and the 
coward, praising the one and censuring the other. And not to be 
tedious, let us say that the figures and melodies which are expressive 
of virtue of soul or body, or of images of virtue, are without 
exception good, and those which are expressive of vice are the reverse 
of good. 

Cle. Your suggestion is excellent; and let us answer that these 
things are so. 

Ath. Once more, are all of us equally delighted with every sort of 
dance? 

Cle. Far otherwise. 

Ath. What, then, leads us astray? Are beautiful things not the 
same to us all, or are they the same in themselves, but not in our 
opinion of them? For no one will admit that forms of vice in the dance 
are more beautiful than forms of virtue, or that he himself delights 
in the forms of vice, and others in a muse of another character. And 
yet most persons say, that the excellence of music is to give pleasure 
to our souls. But this is intolerable and blasphemous; there is, 
however, a much more plausible account of the delusion. 

Cle. What? 

Ath. The adaptation of art to the characters of men. Choric 
movements are imitations of manners occurring in various actions, 
fortunes, dispositions-each particular is imitated, and those to 
whom the words, or songs, or dances are suited, either by nature or 
habit or both, cannot help feeling pleasure in them and applauding 
them, and calling them beautiful. But those whose natures, or ways, or 
habits are unsuited to them, cannot delight in them or applaud them, 
and they call them base. There are others, again, whose natures are 
right and their habits wrong, or whose habits are right and their 
natures wrong, and they praise one thing, but are pleased at 
another. For they say that all these imitations are pleasant, but 
not good. And in the presence of those whom they think wise, they 



are ashamed of dancing and singing in the baser manner, or of 
deliberately lending any countenance to such proceedings; and yet, 
they have a secret pleasure in them. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath . And is any harm done to the lover of vicious dances or songs, 
or any good done to the approver of the opposite sort of pleasure? 

Cle. I think that there is. 

Ath. "I think" is not the word, but I would say, rather, "I am 
certain." For must they not have the same effect as when a man 
associates with bad characters, whom he likes and approves rather than 
dislikes, and only censures playfully because he has a suspicion of 
his own badness? In that case, he who takes pleasure in them will 
surely become like those in whom he takes pleasure, even though he 
be ashamed to praise them. And what greater good or evil can any 
destiny ever make us undergo? 

Cle. I know of none. 

Ath. Then in a city which has good laws, or in future ages is to 
have them, bearing in mind the instruction and amusement which are 
given by music, can we suppose that the poets are to be allowed to 
teach in the dance anything which they themselves like, in the way 
of rhythm, or melody, or words, to the young children of any 
well-conditioned parents? Is the poet to train his choruses as he 
pleases, without reference to virtue or vice? 

Cle. That is surely quite unreasonable, and is not to be thought of. 

Ath. And yet he may do this in almost any state with the exception 
of Egypt. 

Cle. And what are the laws about music and dancing in Egypt? 

Ath. You will wonder when I tell you: Long ago they appear to have 
recognized the very principle of which we are now speaking-that 
their young citizens must be habituated to forms and strains of 
virtue. These they fixed, and exhibited the patterns of them in 
their temples; and no painter or artist is allowed to innovate upon 
them, or to leave the traditional forms and invent new ones. To this 
day, no alteration is allowed either in these arts, or in music at 
all. And you will find that their works of art are painted or 
moulded in the same forms which they had ten thousand years 
ago; -this is literally true and no exaggeration-their ancient 
paintings and sculptures are not a whit better or worse than the 
work of to-day, but are made with just the same skill. 

Cle. How extraordinary! 

Ath. I should rather say, How statesmanlike, how worthy of a 
legislator! I know that other things in Egypt are nat so well. But 
what I am telling you about music is true and deserving of 
consideration, because showing that a lawgiver may institute 
melodies which have a natural truth and correctness without any fear 
of failure. To do this, however, must be the work of God, or of a 
divine person; in Egypt they have a tradition that their ancient 
chants which have been preserved for so many ages are the 
composition of the Goddess Isis. And therefore, as I was saying, if 
a person can only find in any way the natural melodies, he may 
confidently embody them in a fixed and legal form. For the love of 
novelty which arises out of pleasure in the new and weariness of the 
old, has not strength enough to corrupt the consecrated song and 
dance, under the plea that they have become antiquated. At any rate, 
they are far from being corrupted in Egypt. 

Cle. Your arguments seem to prove your point. 

Ath. May we not confidently say that the true use of music and of 
choral festivities is as follows: We rejoice when we think that we 
prosper, and again we think that we prosper when we rejoice? 

Cle. Exactly. 

Ath. And when rejoicing in our good fortune, we are unable to be 
still? 

Cle. True. 

Ath. Our young men break forth into dancing and singing, and we 



who are their elders deem that we are fulfilling our part in life when 
we look on at them. Having lost our agility, we delight in their 
sports and merry-making, because we love to think of our former 
selves; and gladly institute contests for those who are able to awaken 
in us the memory of our youth. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath . Is it altogether unmeaning to say, as the common people do 
about festivals, that he should be adjudged the wisest of men, and the 
winner of the palm, who gives us the greatest amount of pleasure and 
mirth? For on such occasions, and when mirth is the order of the 
day, ought not he to be honoured most, and, as I was saying, bear 
the palm, who gives most mirth to the greatest number? Now is this a 
true way of speaking or of acting? 

Cle. Possibly. 

Ath. But, my dear friend, let us distinguish between different 
cases, and not be hasty in forming a judgment: One way of 
considering the question will be to imagine a festival at which 
there are entertainments of all sorts, including gymnastic, musical, 
and equestrian contests: the citizens are assembled; prizes are 
offered, and proclamation is made that any one who likes may enter the 
lists, and that he is to bear the palm who gives the most pleasure 
to the spectators-there is to be no regulation about the manner how; 
but he who is most successful in giving pleasure is to be crowned 
victor, and deemed to be the pleasantest of the candidates: What is 
likely to be the result of such a proclamation? 

Cle. In what respect? 

Ath. There would be various exhibitions: one man, like Homer, will 
exhibit a rhapsody, another a performance on the lute; one will have a 
tragedy, and another a comedy. Nor would there be anything astonishing 
in some one imagining that he could gain the prize by exhibiting a 
puppet-show. Suppose these competitors to meet, and not these only, 
but innumerable others as well can you tell me who ought to be the 
victor? 

Cle. I do not see how any one can answer you, or pretend to know, 
unless he has heard with his own ears the several competitors; the 
question is absurd. 

Ath. Well, then, if neither of you can answer, shall I answer this 
question which you deem so absurd? 

Cle. By all means. 

Ath. If very small children are to determine the question, they will 
decide for the puppet show. 

Cle. Of course. 

Ath. The older children will be advocates of comedy; educated women, 
and young men, and people in general, will favour tragedy. 

Cle. Very likely. 

Ath. And I believe that we old men would have the greatest 
pleasure in hearing a rhapsodist recite well the Iliad and Odyssey, or 
one of the Hesiodic poems, and would award the victory to him. But, 
who would really be the victor?-that is the question. 

Cle. Yes. 

Ath. Clearly you and I will have to declare that those whom we old 
men adjudge victors ought to win; for our ways are far and away better 
than any which at present exist anywhere in the world. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. Thus far I too should agree with the many, that the 
excellence of music is to be measured by pleasure. But the pleasure 
must not be that of chance persons; the fairest music is that which 
delights the best and best educated, and especially that which 
delights the one man who is pre-eminent in virtue and education. And 
therefore the judges must be men of character, for they will require 
both wisdom and courage; the true judge must not draw his 
inspiration from the theatre, nor ought he to be unnerved by the 
clamour of the many and his own incapacity; nor again, knowing the 
truth, ought he through cowardice and unmanliness carelessly to 



deliver a lying judgment, with the very same lips which have just 
appealed to the Gods before he judged. He is sitting not as the 
disciple of the theatre, but, in his proper place, as their 
instructor, and he ought to be the enemy of all pandering to the 
pleasure of the spectators. The ancient and common custom of Hellas, 
which still prevails in Italy and Sicily, did certainly leave the 
judgment to the body of spectators, who determined the victor by 
show of hands. But this custom has been the destruction of the 
poets; for they are now in the habit of composing with a view to 
please the bad taste of their judges, and the result is that the 
spectators instruct themselves ; -and also it has been the ruin of the 
theatre; they ought to be having characters put before them better 
than their own, and so receiving a higher pleasure, but now by their 
own act the opposite result follows. What inference is to be drawn 
from all this? Shall I tell you? 

Cle. What? 

Ath . The inference at which we arrive for the third or fourth time 
is, that education is the constraining and directing of youth 
towards that right reason, which the law affirms, and which the 
experience of the eldest and best has agreed to be truly right. In 
order, then, that the soul of the child may not be habituated to 
feel joy and sorrow in a manner at variance with the law, and those 
who obey the law, but may rather follow the law and rejoice and sorrow 
at the same things as the aged-in order, I say, to produce this 
effect, chants appear to have been invented, which really enchant, and 
are designed to implant that harmony of which we speak. And, because 
the mind of the child is incapable of enduring serious training, 
they are called plays and songs, and are performed in play; just as 
when men are sick and ailing in their bodies, their attendants give 
them wholesome diet in pleasant meats and drinks, but unwholesome diet 
in disagreeable things, in order that they may learn, as they ought, 
to like the one, and to dislike the other. And similarly the true 
legislator will persuade, and, if he cannot persuade, will compel 
the poet to express, as he ought, by fair and noble words, in his 
rhythms, the figures, and in his melodies, the music of temperate 
and brave and in every way good men. 

Cle. But do you really imagine, Stranger, that this is the way in 
which poets generally compose in States at the present day? As far 
as I can observe, except among us and among the Lacedaemonians, 
there are no regulations like those of which you speak; in other 
places novelties are always being introduced in dancing and in 
music, generally not under the authority of any law, but at the 
instigation of lawless pleasures; and these pleasures are so far 
from being the same, as you describe the Egyptian to be, or having the 
same principles, that they are never the same. 

Ath. Most true, Cleinias; and I daresay that I may have expressed 
myself obscurely, and so led you to imagine that I was speaking of 
some really existing state of things, whereas I was only saying what 
regulations I would like to have about music; and hence there occurred 
a misapprehension on your part. For when evils are far gone and 
irremediable, the task of censuring them is never pleasant, although 
at times necessary. But as we do not really differ, will you let me 
ask you whether you consider such institutions to be more prevalent 
among the Cretans and Lacedaemonians than among the other Hellenes? 

Cle. Certainly they are. 

Ath. And if they were extended to the other Hellenes, would it be an 
improvement on the present state of things? 

Cle. A very great improvement, if the customs which prevail among 
them were such as prevail among us and the Lacedaemonians, and such as 
you were just now saying ought to prevail. 

Ath. Let us see whether we understand one another: -Are not the 
principles of education and music which prevail among you as 
follows: you compel your poets to say that the good man, if he be 
temperate and just, is fortunate and happy; and this whether he be 



great and strong or small and weak, and whether he be rich or poor; 
and, on the other hand, if he have a wealth passing that of Cinyras or 
Midas, and be unjust, he is wretched and lives in misery? As the 
poet says, and with truth: I sing not, I care not about him who 
accomplishes all noble things, not having justice; let him who 
"draws near and stretches out his hand against his enemies be a just 
man." But if he be unjust, I would not have him "look calmly upon 
bloody death," nor "surpass in swiftness the Thracian Boreas"; and let 
no other thing that is called good ever be his. For the goods of which 
the many speak are not really good: first in the catalogue is placed 
health, beauty next, wealth third; and then innumerable others, as for 
example to have a keen eye or a quick ear, and in general to have 
all the senses perfect; or, again, to be a tyrant and do as you 
like; and the final consummation of happiness is to have acquired 
all these things, and when you have acquired them to become at once 
immortal. But you and I say, that while to the just and holy all these 
things are the best of possessions, to the unjust they are all, 
including even health, the greatest of evils. For in truth, to have 
sight, and hearing, and the use of the senses, or to live at all 
without justice and virtue, even though a man be rich in all the 
so-called goods of fortune, is the greatest of evils, if life be 
immortal; but not so great, if the bad man lives only a very short 
time. These are the truths which, if I am not mistaken, you will 
persuade or compel your poets to utter with suitable accompaniments of 
harmony and rhythm, and in these they must train up your youth. Am I 
not right? For I plainly declare that evils as they are termed are 
goods to the unjust, and only evils to the just, and that goods are 
truly good to the good, but evil to the evil. Let me ask again, Are 
you and I agreed about this? 

Cle. I think that we partly agree and partly do not. 

Ath . When a man has health and wealth and a tyranny which lasts, and 
when he is preeminent in strength and courage, and has the gift of 
immortality, and none of the so-called evils which counter-balance 
these goods, but only the injustice and insolence of his own nature-of 
such an one you are, I suspect, unwilling to believe that he is 
miserable rather than happy. 

Cle. That is quite true. 

Ath. Once more: Suppose that he be valiant and strong, and 
handsome and rich, and does throughout his whole life whatever he 
likes, still, if he be unrighteous and insolent, would not both of you 
agree that he will of necessity live basely? You will surely grant 
so much? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. And an evil life too? 

Cle. I am not equally disposed to grant that. 

Ath. Will he not live painfully and to his own disadvantage? 

Cle. How can I possibly say so? 

Ath. How! Then may Heaven make us to be of one mind, for now we 
are of two. To me, dear Cleinias, the truth of what I am saying is 
as plain as the fact that Crete is an island. And, if I were a 
lawgiver, I would try to make the poets and all the citizens speak 
in this strain, and I would inflict the heaviest penalties on any 
one in all the land who should dare to say that there are bad men 
who lead pleasant lives, or that the profitable and gainful is one 
thing, and the just another; and there are many other matters about 
which I should make my citizens speak in a manner different from the 
Cretans and Lacedaemonians of this age, and I may say, indeed, from 
the world in general. For tell me, my good friends, by Zeus and Apollo 
tell me, if I were to ask these same Gods who were your legislators-Is 
not the most just life also the pleasantest? or are there two lives, 
one of which is the justest and the other the pleasantest?-and they 
were to reply that there are two; and thereupon I proceeded to ask, 
(that would be the right way of pursuing the enquiry) , Which are the 
happier-those who lead the justest, or those who lead the 



pleasantest life? and they replied, Those who lead the 
pleasantest-that would be a very strange answer, which I should not 
like to put into the mouth of the Gods. The words will come with 
more propriety from the lips of fathers and legislators, and therefore 
I will repeat my former questions to one of them, and suppose him to 
say again that he who leads the pleasantest life is the happiest. 
And to that I rejoin : -0 my father, did you not wish me to live as 
happily as possible? And yet you also never ceased telling me that I 
should live as justly as possible. Now, here the giver of the rule, 
whether he be legislator or father, will be in a dilemma, and will 
in vain endeavour to be consistent with himself. But if he were to 
declare that the justest life is also the happiest, every one 
hearing him would enquire, if I am not mistaken, what is that good and 
noble principle in life which the law approves, and which is 
superior to pleasure. For what good can the just man have which is 
separated from pleasure? Shall we say that glory and fame, coming from 
Gods and men, though good and noble, are nevertheless unpleasant, 
and infamy pleasant? Certainly not, sweet legislator. Or shall we 
say that the not-doing of wrong and there being no wrong done is 
good and honourable, although there is no pleasure in it, and that the 
doing wrong is pleasant, but evil and base? 

Cle. Impossible. 

Ath . The view which identifies the pleasant and the pleasant and the 
just and the good and the noble has an excellent moral and religious 
tendency. And the opposite view is most at variance with the designs 
of the legislator, and is, in his opinion, infamous; for no one, if he 
can help, will be persuaded to do that which gives him more pain 
than pleasure. But as distant prospects are apt to make us dizzy, 
especially in childhood, the legislator will try to purge away the 
darkness and exhibit the truth; he will persuade the citizens, in some 
way or other, by customs and praises and words, that just and unjust 
are shadows only, and that injustice, which seems opposed to 
justice, when contemplated by the unjust and evil man appears pleasant 
and the just most unpleasant; but that from the just man's point of 
view, the very opposite is the appearance of both of them. 

Cle. True. 

Ath. And which may be supposed to be the truer judgment-that of 
the inferior or of the better soul? 

Cle. Surely, that of the better soul. 

Ath. Then the unjust life must not only be more base and depraved, 
but also more unpleasant than the just and holy life? 

Cle. That seems to be implied in the present argument. 

Ath. And even supposing this were otherwise, and not as the argument 
has proven, still the lawgiver, who is worth anything, if he ever 
ventures to tell a lie to the young for their good, could not invent a 
more useful lie than this, or one which will have a better effect in 
making them do what is right, not on compulsion but voluntarily. 

Cle. Truth, Stranger, is a noble thing and a lasting, but a thing of 
which men are hard to be persuaded. 

Ath. And yet the story of the Sidonian Cadmus, which is so 
improbable, has been readily believed, and also innumerable other 
tales . 

Cle. What is that story? 

Ath. The story of armed men springing up after the sowing of 
teeth, which the legislator may take as a proof that he can persuade 
the minds of the young of anything; so that he has only to reflect and 
find out what belief will be of the greatest public advantage, and 
then use all his efforts to make the whole community utter one and the 
same word in their songs and tales and discourses all their life long. 
But if you do not agree with me, there is no reason why you should not 
argue on the other side. 

Cle. I do not see that any argument can fairly be raised by either 
of us against what you are now saying. 

Ath. The next suggestion which I have to offer is, that all our 



three choruses shall sing to the young and tender souls of children, 
reciting in their strains all the noble thoughts of which we have 
already spoken, or are about to speak; and the sum of them shall be, 
that the life which is by the Gods deemed to be the happiest is also 
the best; -we shall affirm this to be a most certain truth; and the 
minds of our young disciples will be more likely to receive these 
words of ours than any others which we might address to them. 

Cle. I assent to what you say. 

Ath. First will enter in their natural order the sacred choir 
composed of children, which is to sing lustily the heaven-taught lay 
to the whole city. Next will follow the choir of young men under the 
age of thirty, who will call upon the God Paean to testify to the 
truth of their words, and will pray him to be gracious to the youth 
and to turn their hearts. Thirdly, the choir of elder men, who are 
from thirty to sixty years of age, will also sing. There remain 
those who are too old to sing, and they will tell stories, 
illustrating the same virtues, as with the voice of an oracle. 

Cle. Who are those who compose the third choir, Stranger? for I do 
not clearly understand what you mean to say about them. 

Ath. And yet almost all that I have been saying has said with a view 
to them. 

Cle. Will you try to be a little plainer? 

Ath. I was speaking at the commencement of our discourse, as you 
will remember, of the fiery nature of young creatures: I said that 
they were unable to keep quiet either in limb or voice, and that 
they called out and jumped about in a disorderly manner; and that no 
other animal attained to any perception of order, but man only. Now 
the order of motion is called rhythm, and the order of the voice, in 
which high and low are duly mingled, is called harmony; and both 
together are termed choric song. And I said that the Gods had pity 
on us, and gave us Apollo and the Muses to be our playfellows and 
leaders in the dance; and Dionysus, as I dare say that you will 
remember, was the third. 

Cle. I quite remember. 

Ath. Thus far I have spoken of the chorus of Apollo and the Muses, 
and I have still to speak of the remaining chorus, which is that of 
Dionysus . 

Cle. How is that arranged? There is something strange, at any rate 
on first hearing, in a Dionysiac chorus of old men, if you really mean 
that those who are above thirty, and may be fifty, or from fifty to 
sixty years of age, are to dance in his honour. 

Ath. Very true; and therefore it must be shown that there is good 
reason for the proposal . 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. Are we agreed thus far? 

Cle. About what? 

Ath. That every man and boy, slave and free, both sexes, and the 
whole city, should never cease charming themselves with the strains of 
which we have spoken; and that there should be every sort of change 
and variation of them in order to take away the effect of sameness, so 
that the singers may always receive pleasure from their hymns, and may 
never weary of them? 

Cle. Every one will agree. 

Ath. Where, then, will that best part of our city which, by reason 
of age and intelligence, has the greatest influence, sing these 
fairest of strains, which are to do so much good? Shall we be so 
foolish as to let them off who would give us the most beautiful and 
also the most useful of songs? 

Cle. But, says the argument, we cannot let them off. 

Ath. Then how can we carry out our purpose with decorum? Will this 
be the way? 

Cle. What? 

Ath. When a man is advancing in years, he is afraid and reluctant to 
sing; -he has no pleasure in his own performances; and if compulsion is 



used, he will be more and more ashamed, the older and more discreet he 
grows; -is not this true? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath . Well, and will he not be yet more ashamed if he has to stand up 
and sing in the theatre to a mixed audience?-and if moreover when he 
is required to do so, like the other choirs who contend for prizes, 
and have been trained under a singing master, he is pinched and 
hungry, he will certainly have a feeling of shame and discomfort which 
will make him very unwilling to exhibit. 

Cle. No doubt. 

Ath. How, then, shall we reassure him, and get him to sing? Shall we 
begin by enacting that boys shall not taste wine at all until they are 
eighteen years of age; we will tell them that fire must not be 
poured upon fire, whether in the body or in the soul, until they begin 
to go to work-this is a precaution which has to be taken against the 
excitableness of youth; -afterwards they may taste wine in moderation 
up to the age of thirty, but while a man is young he should abstain 
altogether from intoxication and from excess of wine; when, at length, 
he has reached forty years, after dinner at a public mess, he may 
invite not only the other Gods, but Dionysus above all, to the mystery 
and festivity of the elder men, making use of the wine which he has 
given men to lighten the sourness of old age; that in age we may renew 
our youth, and forget our sorrows; and also in order that the nature 
of the soul, like iron melted in the fire, may become softer and so 
more impressible. In the first place, will not any one who is thus 
mellowed be more ready and less ashamed to sing-I do not say before 
a large audience, but before a moderate company; nor yet among 
strangers, but among his familiars, and, as we have often said, to 
chant, and to enchant? 

Cle. He will be far more ready. 

Ath. There will be no impropriety in our using such a method of 
persuading them to join with us in song. 

Cle. None at all. 

Ath. And what strain will they sing, and what muse will they hymn? 
The strain should clearly be one suitable to them. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. And what strain is suitable for heroes? Shall they sing a 
choric strain? 

Cle. Truly, Stranger, we of Crete and Lacedaemon know no strain 
other than that which we have learnt and been accustomed to sing in 
our chorus . 

Ath. I dare say; for you have never acquired the knowledge of the 
most beautiful kind of song, in your military way of life, which is 
modelled after the camp, and is not like that of dwellers in cities; 
and you have your young men herding and feeding together like young 
colts. No one takes his own individual colt and drags him away from 
his fellows against his will, raging and foaming, and gives him a 
groom to attend to him alone, and trains and rubs him down 
privately, and gives him the qualities in education which will make 
him not only a good soldier, but also a governor of a state and of 
cities. Such an one, as we said at first, would be a greater warrior 
than he of whom Tyrtaeus sings; and he would honour courage 
everywhere, but always as the fourth, and not as the first part of 
virtue, either in individuals or states. 

Cle. Once more, Stranger, I must complain that you depreciate our 
lawgivers . 

Ath. Not intentionally, if at all, my good friend; but whither the 
argument leads, thither let us follow; for if there be indeed some 
strain of song more beautiful than that of the choruses or the 
public theatres, I should like to impart it to those who, as we say, 
are ashamed of these, and want to have the best. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. When things have an accompanying charm, either the best thing 
in them is this very charm, or there is some rightness or utility 



possessed by them; -for example, I should say that eating and drinking, 
and the use of food in general, have an accompanying charm which we 
call pleasure; but that this rightness and utility is just the 
healthf ulness of the things served up to us, which is their true 
rightness . 

Cle. Just so. 

Ath . Thus, too, I should say that learning has a certain 
accompanying charm which is the pleasure; but that the right and the 
profitable, the good and the noble, are qualities which the truth 
gives to it. 

Cle. Exactly. 

Ath. And so in the imitative arts-if they succeed in making 
likenesses, and are accompanied by pleasure, may not their works be 
said to have a charm? 

Cle. Yes. 

Ath. But equal proportions, whether of quality or quantity, and 
not pleasure, speaking generally, would give them truth or rightness. 

Cle. Yes. 

Ath. Then that only can be rightly judged by the standard of 
pleasure, which makes or furnishes no utility or truth or likeness, 
nor on the other hand is productive of any hurtful quality, but exists 
solely for the sake of the accompanying charm; and the term "pleasure" 
is most appropriately applied to it when these other qualities are 
absent . 

Cle. You are speaking of harmless pleasure, are you not? 

Ath. Yes; and this I term amusement, when doing neither harm nor 
good in any degree worth speaking of. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. Then, if such be our principles, we must assert that 
imitation is not to be judged of by pleasure and false opinion; and 
this is true of all equality, for the equal is not equal or the 
symmetrical symmetrical, because somebody thinks or likes something, 
but they are to be judged of by the standard of truth, and by no other 
whatever . 

Cle. Quite true. 

Ath. Do we not regard all music as representative and imitative? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. Then, when any one says that music is to be judged of by 
pleasure, his doctrine cannot be admitted; and if there be any music 
of which pleasure is the criterion, such music is not to be sought out 
or deemed to have any real excellence, but only that other kind of 
music which is an imitation of the good. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. And those who seek for the best kind of song and music ought 
not to seek for that which is pleasant, but for that which is true; 
and the truth of imitation consists, as we were saying, in rendering 
the thing imitated according to quantity and quality. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. And every one will admit that musical compositions are all 
imitative and representative. Will not poets and spectators and actors 
all agree in this? 

Cle. They will . 

Ath. Surely then he who would judge correctly must know what each 
composition is; for if he does not know what is the character and 
meaning of the piece, and what it represents, he will never discern 
whether the intention is true or false. 

Cle. Certainly not. 

Ath. And will he who does not know what is true be able to 
distinguish what is good and bad? My statement is not very clear; 
but perhaps you will understand me better if I put the matter in 
another way. 

Cle. How? 

Ath. There are ten thousand likenesses of objects of sight? 

Cle. Yes. 



Ath . And can he who does not know what the exact object is which 
is imitated, ever know whether the resemblance is truthfully executed? 
I mean, for example, whether a statue has the proportions of a body, 
and the true situation of the parts; what those proportions are, and 
how the parts fit into one another in due order; also their colours 
and conformations, or whether this is all confused in the execution: 
do you think that any one can know about this, who does not know 
what the animal is which has been imitated? 

Cle. Impossible. 

Ath. But even if we know that the thing pictured or sculptured is 
a man, who has received at the hand of the artist all his proper parts 
and colours and shapes, must we not also know whether the work is 
beautiful or in any respect deficient in beauty? 

Cle. If this were not required, Stranger, we should all of us be 
judges of beauty. 

Ath. Very true; and may we not say that in everything imitated, 
whether in drawing, music, or any other art, he who is to be a 
competent judge must possess three things; -he must know, in the 
first place, of what the imitation is; secondly, he must know that 
it is true; and thirdly, that it has been well executed in words and 
melodies and rhythms? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. Then let us not faint in discussing the peculiar difficulty 
of music. Music is more celebrated than any other kind of imitation, 
and therefore requires the greatest care of them all. For if a man 
makes a mistake here, he may do himself the greatest injury by 
welcoming evil dispositions, and the mistake may be very difficult 
to discern, because the poets are artists very inferior in character 
to the Muses themselves, who would never fall into the monstrous error 
of assigning to the words of men the gestures and songs of women; 
nor after combining the melodies with the gestures of freemen would 
they add on the rhythms of slaves and men of the baser sort; nor, 
beginning with the rhythms and gestures of freemen, would they 
assign to them a melody or words which are of an opposite character; 
nor would they mix up the voices and sounds of animals and of men 
and instruments, and every other sort of noise, as if they were all 
one. But human poets are fond of introducing this sort of inconsistent 
mixture, and so make themselves ridiculous in the eyes of those who, 
as Orpheus says, "are ripe for true pleasure." The experienced see all 
this confusion, and yet the poets go on and make still further havoc 
by separating the rhythm and the figure of the dance from the 
melody, setting bare words to metre, and also separating the melody 
and the rhythm from the words, using the lyre or the flute alone. 
For when there are no words, it is very difficult to recognize the 
meaning of the harmony and rhythm, or to see that any worthy object is 
imitated by them. And we must acknowledge that all this sort of thing, 
which aims only at swiftness and smoothness and a brutish noise, and 
uses the flute and the lyre not as the mere accompaniments of the 
dance and song, is exceedingly coarse and tasteless. The use of either 
instrument, when unaccompanied, leads to every sort of irregularity 
and trickery. This is all rational enough. But we are considering 
not how our choristers, who are from thirty to fifty years of age, and 
may be over fifty, are not to use the Muses, but how they are to use 
them. And the considerations which we have urged seem to show in 
what way these fifty year-old choristers who are to sing, may be 
expected to be better trained. For they need to have a quick 
perception and knowledge of harmonies and rhythms; otherwise, how 
can they ever know whether a melody would be rightly sung to the 
Dorian mode, or to the rhythm which the poet has assigned to it? 

Cle. Clearly they cannot. 

Ath. The many are ridiculous in imagining that they know what is 
in proper harmony and rhythm, and what is not, when they can only be 
made to sing and step in rhythm by force; it never occurs to them that 
they are ignorant of what they are doing. Now every melody is right 



when it has suitable harmony and rhythm, and wrong when unsuitable. 

Cle. That is most certain. 

Ath . But can a man who does not know a thing, as we were saying, 
know that the thing is right? 

Cle. Impossible. 

Ath. Then now, as would appear, we are making the discovery that our 
newly-appointed choristers, whom we hereby invite and, although they 
are their own masters, compel to sing, must be educated to such an 
extent as to be able to follow the steps of the rhythm and the notes 
of the song, that they may know the harmonies and rhythms, and be able 
to select what are suitable for men of their age and character to 
sing; and may sing them, and have innocent pleasure from their own 
performance, and also lead younger men to welcome with dutiful delight 
good dispositions. Having such training, they will attain a more 
accurate knowledge than falls to the lot of the common people, or even 
of the poets themselves. For the poet need not know the third point, 
viz., whether the imitation is good or not, though he can hardly 
help knowing the laws of melody and rhythm. But the aged chorus must 
know all the three, that they may choose the best, and that which is 
nearest to the best; for otherwise they will never be able to charm 
the souls of young men in the way of virtue. And now the original 
design of the argument which was intended to bring eloquent aid to the 
Chorus of Dionysus, has been accomplished to the best of our 
ability, and let us see whether we were right: -I should imagine that a 
drinking assembly is likely to become more and more tumultuous as 
the drinking goes on: this, as we were saying at first, will certainly 
be the case. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. Every man has a more than natural elevation; his heart is 
glad within him, and he will say anything and will be restrained by 
nobody at such a time; he fancies that he is able to rule over himself 
and all mankind. 

Cle. Quite true. 

Ath. Were we not saying that on such occasions the souls of the 
drinkers become like iron heated in the fire, and grow softer and 
younger, and are easily moulded by him who knows how to educate and 
fashion them, just as when they were young, and that this fashioner of 
them is the same who prescribed for them in the days of their youth, 
viz., the good legislator; and that he ought to enact laws of the 
banquet, which, when a man is confident, bold, and impudent, and 
unwilling to wait his turn and have his share of silence and speech, 
and drinking and music, will change his character into the 
opposite-such laws as will infuse into him a just and noble fear, 
which will take up arms at the approach of insolence, being that 
divine fear which we have called reverence and shame? 

Cle. True. 

Ath. And the guardians of these laws and fellow-workers with them 
are the calm and sober generals of the drinkers; and without their 
help there is greater difficulty in fighting against drink than in 
fighting against enemies when the commander of an army is not 
himself calm; and he who is unwilling to obey them and the 
commanders of Dionysiac feasts who are more than sixty years of age, 
shall suffer a disgrace as great as he who disobeys military 
leaders, or even greater. 

Cle. Right. 

Ath. If, then, drinking and amusement were regulated in this way, 
would not the companions of our revels be improved? they would part 
better friends than they were, and not, as now enemies. Their whole 
intercourse would be regulated by law and observant of it, and the 
sober would be the leaders of the drunken. 

Cle. I think so too, if drinking were regulated as you propose. 

Ath. Let us not then simply censure the gift of Dionysus as bad 
and unfit to be received into the State. For wine has many 
excellences, and one pre-eminent one, about which there is a 



difficulty in speaking to the many, from a fear of their misconceiving 
and misunderstanding what is said. 

Cle. To what do you refer? 

Ath . There is a tradition or story, which has somehow crept about 
the world, that Dionysus was robbed of his wits by his stepmother 
Here, and that out of revenge he inspires Bacchic furies and dancing 
madnesses in others; for which reason he gave men wine. Such 
traditions concerning the Gods I leave to those who think that they 
may be safely uttered; I only know that no animal at birth is mature 
or perfect in intelligence; and in the intermediate period, in which 
he has not yet acquired his own proper sense, he rages and roars 
without rhyme or reason; and when he has once got on his legs he jumps 
about without rhyme or reason; and this, as you will remember, has 
been already said by us to be the origin of music and gymnastic. 

Cle. To be sure, I remember. 

Ath. And did we not say that the sense of harmony and rhythm 
sprang from this beginning among men, and that Apollo and the Muses 
and Dionysus were the Gods whom we had to thank for them? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. The other story implied that wine was given man out of revenge, 
and in order to make him mad; but our present doctrine, on the 
contrary, is, that wine was given him as a balm, and in order to 
implant modesty in the soul, and health and strength in the body. 

Cle. That, Stranger, is precisely what was said. 

Ath. Then half the subject may now be considered to have been 
discussed; shall we proceed to the consideration of the other half? 

Cle. What is the other half, and how do you divide the subject? 

Ath. The whole choral art is also in our view the whole of 
education; and of this art, rhythms and harmonies form the part 
which has to do with the voice. 

Cle. Yes. 

Ath. The movement of the body has rhythm in common with the movement 
of the voice, but gesture is peculiar to it, whereas song is simply 
the movement of the voice. 

Cle. Most true. 

Ath. And the sound of the voice which reaches and educates the soul, 
we have ventured to term music. 

Cle. We were right. 

Ath. And the movement of the body, when regarded as an amusement, we 
termed dancing; but when extended and pursued with a view to the 
excellence of the body, this scientific training may be called 
gymnastic . 

Cle. Exactly. 

Ath. Music, which was one half of the choral art, may be said to 
have been completely discussed. Shall we proceed to the other half 
or not? What would you like? 

Cle. My good friend, when you are talking with a Cretan and 
Lacedaemonian, and we have discussed music and not gymnastic, what 
answer are either of us likely to make to such an enquiry? 

Ath. An answer is contained in your question; and I understand and 
accept what you say not only as an answer, but also as a command to 
proceed with gymnastic. 

Cle. You quite understand me; do as you say. 

Ath. I will; and there will not be any difficulty in speaking 
intelligibly to you about a subject with which both of you are far 
more familiar than with music. 

Cle. There will not. 

Ath. Is not the origin of gymnastics, too, to be sought in the 
tendency to rapid motion which exists in all animals; man, as we 
were saying, having attained the sense of rhythm, created and invented 
dancing; and melody arousing and awakening rhythm, both united 
formed the choral art? 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. And one part of this subject has been already discussed by 



us, and there still remains another to be discussed? 

Cle. Exactly. 

Ath . I have first a final word to add to my discourse about drink, 
if you will allow me to do so. 

Cle. What more have you to say? 

Ath. I should say that if a city seriously means to adopt the 
practice of drinking under due regulation and with a view to the 
enforcement of temperance, and in like manner, and on the same 
principle, will allow of other pleasures, designing to gain the 
victory over them in this way all of them may be used. But if the 
State makes drinking an amusement only, and whoever likes may drink 
whenever he likes, and with whom he likes, and add to this any other 
indulgences, I shall never agree or allow that this city or this man 
should practise drinking. I would go further than the Cretans and 
Lacedaemonians, and am disposed rather to the law of the 
Carthaginians, that no one while he is on a campaign should be allowed 
to taste wine at all, but that he should drink water during all that 
time, and that in the city no slave, male or female, should ever drink 
wine; and that no magistrates should drink during their year of 
office, nor should pilots of vessels or judges while on duty taste 
wine at all, nor any one who is going to hold a consultation about any 
matter of importance; nor in the daytime at all, unless in consequence 
of exercise or as medicine; nor again at night, when any one, either 
man or woman, is minded to get children. There are numberless other 
cases also in which those who have good sense and good laws ought 
not to drink wine, so that if what I say is true, no city will need 
many vineyards. Their husbandry and their way of life in general 
will follow an appointed order, and their cultivation of the vine will 
be the most limited and the least common of their employments. And 
this, Stranger, shall be the crown of my discourse about wine, if 
you agree . 

Cle. Excellent: we agree. 

BOOK III 

Athenian Stranger. Enough of this. And what, then, is to be regarded 
as the origin of government? Will not a man be able to judge of it 
best from a point of view in which he may behold the progress of 
states and their transitions to good or evil? 

Cleinias . What do you mean? 

Ath. I mean that he might watch them from the point of view of time, 
and observe the changes which take place in them during infinite ages. 

Cle. How so? 

Ath. Why, do you think that you can reckon the time which has 
elapsed since cities first existed and men were citizens of them? 

Cle. Hardly. 

Ath. But are sure that it must be vast and incalculable? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. And have not thousands and thousands of cities come into 
being during this period and as many perished? And has not each of 
them had every form of government many times over, now growing larger, 
now smaller, and again improving or declining? 

Cle. To be sure. 

Ath. Let us endeavour to ascertain the cause of these changes; for 
that will probably explain the first origin and development of forms 
of government. 

Cle. Very good. You shall endeavour to impart your thoughts to us, 
and we will make an effort to understand you. 

Ath. Do you believe that there is any truth in ancient traditions? 

Cle. What traditions? 

Ath. The traditions about the many destructions of mankind which 
have been occasioned by deluges and pestilences, and in many other 
ways, and of the survival of a remnant? 

Cle. Every one is disposed to believe them. 

Ath. Let us consider one of them, that which was caused by the 



famous deluge. 

Cle. What are we to observe about it? 

Ath . I mean to say that those who then escaped would only be hill 
shepherds-small sparks of the human race preserved on the tops of 
mountains . 

Cle. Clearly. 

Ath. Such survivors would necessarily be unacquainted with the 
arts and the various devices which are suggested to the dwellers in 
cities by interest or ambition, and with all the wrongs which they 
contrive against one another. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. Let us suppose, then, that the cities in the plain and on the 
sea-coast were utterly destroyed at that time. 

Cle. Very good. 

Ath. Would not all implements have then perished and every other 
excellent invention of political or any other sort of wisdom have 
utterly disappeared? 

Cle. Why, yes, my friend; and if things had always continued as they 
are at present ordered, how could any discovery have ever been made 
even in the least particular? For it is evident that the arts were 
unknown during ten thousand times ten thousand years . And no more than 
a thousand or two thousand years have elapsed since the discoveries of 
Daedalus, Orpheus and Palamedes-since Marsyas and Olympus invented 
music, and Amphion the lyre-not to speak of numberless other 
inventions which are but of yesterday. 

Ath. Have you forgotten, Cleinias, the name of a friend who is 
really of yesterday? 

Cle. I suppose that you mean Epimenides. 

Ath. The same, my friend; he does indeed far overleap the heads of 
all mankind by his invention; for he carried out in practice, as you 
declare, what of old Hesiod only preached. 

Cle. Yes, according to our tradition. 

Ath. After the great destruction, may we not suppose that the 
state of man was something of this sort: -In the beginning of things 
there was a fearful illimitable desert and a vast expanse of land; a 
herd or two of oxen would be the only survivors of the animal world; 
and there might be a few goats, these too hardly enough to maintain 
the shepherds who tended them? 

Cle. True. 

Ath. And of cities or governments or legislation, about which we are 
now talking, do you suppose that they could have any recollection at 
all? 

Cle. None whatever. 

Ath. And out of this state of things has there not sprung all that 
we now are and have: cities and governments, and arts and laws, and 
a great deal of vice and a great deal of virtue? 

Cle. What do you mean? 

Ath. Why, my good friend, how can we possibly suppose that those who 
knew nothing of all the good and evil of cities could have attained 
their full development, whether of virtue or of vice? 

Cle. I understand your meaning, and you are quite right. 

Ath. But, as time advanced and the race multiplied, the world came 
to be what the world is. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. Doubtless the change was not made all in a moment, but little 
by little, during a very long period of time. 

Cle. A highly probable supposition. 

Ath. At first, they would have a natural fear ringing in their 
ears which would prevent their descending from the heights into the 
plain . 

Cle. Of course. 

Ath. The fewness of the survivors at that time would have made 
them all the more desirous of seeing one another; but then the means 
of travelling either by land or sea had been almost entirely lost, 



as I may say, with the loss of the arts, and there was great 
difficulty in getting at one another; for iron and brass and all 
metals were jumbled together and had disappeared in the chaos; nor was 
there any possibility of extracting ore from them; and they had 
scarcely any means of felling timber. Even if you suppose that some 
implements might have been preserved in the mountains, they must 
quickly have worn out and vanished, and there would be no more of them 
until the art of metallurgy had again revived. 

Cle. There could not have been. 

Ath . In how many generations would this be attained? 

Cle. Clearly, not for many generations. 

Ath. During this period, and for some time afterwards, all the 
arts which require iron and brass and the like would disappear. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. Faction and war would also have died out in those days, and for 
many reasons . 

Cle. How would that be? 

Ath. In the first place, the desolation of these primitive men would 
create in them a feeling of affection and good-will towards one 
another; and, secondly, they would have no occasion to quarrel about 
their subsistence, for they would have pasture in abundance, except 
just at first, and in some particular cases; and from their 
pasture-land they would obtain the greater part of their food in a 
primitive age, having plenty of milk and flesh; moreover they would 
procure other food by the chase, not to be despised either in quantity 
or quality. They would also have abundance of clothing, and bedding, 
and dwellings, and utensils either capable of standing on the fire 
or not; for the plastic and weaving arts do not require any use of 
iron: and God has given these two arts to man in order to provide 
him with all such things, that, when reduced to the last extremity, 
the human race may still grow and increase. Hence in those days 
mankind were not very poor; nor was poverty a cause of difference 
among them; and rich they could not have been, having neither gold nor 
silver: -such at that time was their condition. And the community which 
has neither poverty nor riches will always have the noblest 
principles; in it there is no insolence or injustice, nor, again, 
are there any contentions or envyings . And therefore they were good, 
and also because they were what is called simple-minded; and when they 
were told about good and evil, they in their simplicity believed 
what they heard to be very truth and practised it. No one had the 
wit to suspect another of a falsehood, as men do now; but what they 
heard about Gods and men they believed to be true, and lived 
accordingly; and therefore they were in all respects such as we have 
described them. 

Cle. That quite accords with my views, and with those of my friend 
here . 

Ath. Would not many generations living on in a simple manner, 
although ruder, perhaps, and more ignorant of the arts generally, 
and in particular of those of land or naval warfare, and likewise of 
other arts, termed in cities legal practices and party conflicts, 
and including all conceivable ways of hurting one another in word 
and deed; -although inferior to those who lived before the deluge, or 
to the men of our day in these respects, would they not, I say, be 
simpler and more manly, and also more temperate and altogether more 
just? The reason has been already explained. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. I should wish you to understand that what has preceded and what 
is about to follow, has been, and will be said, with the intention 
of explaining what need the men of that time had of laws, and who 
was their lawgiver. 

Cle. And thus far what you have said has been very well said. 

Ath. They could hardly have wanted lawgivers as yet; nothing of that 
sort was likely to have existed in their days, for they had no letters 
at this early period; they lived by habit and the customs of their 



ancestors, as they are called. 

Cle. Probably. 

Ath . But there was already existing a form of government which, if I 
am not mistaken, is generally termed a lordship, and this still 
remains in many places, both among Hellenes and barbarians, and is the 
government which is declared by Homer to have prevailed among the 
Cyclopes : 

They have neither councils nor judgments, but they dwell in hollow 
caves on the tops of high mountains, and every one gives law to his 
wife and children, and they do not busy themselves about one another. 

Cle. That seems to be a charming poet of yours; I have read some 
other verses of his, which are very clever; but I do not know much 
of him, for foreign poets are very little read among the Cretans. 

Megillus. But they are in Lacedaemon, and he appears to be the 
prince of them all; the manner of life, however, which he describes is 
not Spartan, but rather Ionian, and he seems quite to confirm what you 
are saying, when he traces up the ancient state of mankind by the help 
of tradition to barbarism. 

Ath. Yes, he does confirm it; and we may accept his witness to the 
fact that such forms of government sometimes arise. 

Cle. We may. 

Ath. And were not such states composed of men who had been dispersed 
in single habitations and families by the poverty which attended the 
devastations; and did not the eldest then rule among them, because 
with them government originated in the authority of a father and a 
mother, whom, like a flock of birds, they followed, forming one 
troop under the patriarchal rule and sovereignty of their parents, 
which of all sovereignties is the most just? 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. After this they came together in greater numbers, and increased 
the size of their cities, and betook themselves to husbandry, first of 
all at the foot of the mountains, and made enclosures of loose walls 
and works of defence, in order to keep off wild beasts; thus 
creating a single large and common habitation. 

Cle. Yes; at least we may suppose so. 

Ath. There is another thing which would probably happen. 

Cle. What? 

Ath. When these larger habitations grew up out of the lesser 
original ones, each of the lesser ones would survive in the larger; 
every family would be under the rule of the eldest, and, owing to 
their separation from one another, would have peculiar customs in 
things divine and human, which they would have received from their 
several parents who had educated them; and these customs would incline 
them to order, when the parents had the element of order in their 
nature, and to courage, when they had the element of courage. And they 
would naturally stamp upon their children, and upon their children's 
children, their own likings; and, as we are saying, they would find 
their way into the larger society, having already their own peculiar 
laws . 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. And every man surely likes his own laws best, and the laws of 
others not so well. 

Cle. True. 

Ath. Then now we seem to have stumbled upon the beginnings of 
legislation . 

Cle. Exactly. 

Ath. The next step will be that these persons who have met together, 
will select some arbiters, who will review the laws of all of them, 
and will publicly present such as they approve to the chiefs who 
lead the tribes, and who are in a manner their kings, allowing them to 
choose those which they think best. These persons will themselves be 
called legislators, and will appoint the magistrates, framing some 



sort of aristocracy, or perhaps monarchy, out of the dynasties or 
lordships, and in this altered state of the government they will live. 

Cle. Yes, that would be the natural order of things. 

Ath . Then, now let us speak of a third form of government, in 
which all other forms and conditions of polities and cities concur. 

Cle. What is that? 

Ath. The form which in fact Homer indicates as following the second. 
This third form arose when, as he says, Dardanus founded Dardania: 

For not as yet had the holy Ilium been built on the plain to be a 
city of speaking men; but they were still dwelling at the foot of 
many-f ountained Ida. 

For indeed, in these verses, and in what he said of the Cyclopes, he 
speaks the words of God and nature; for poets are a divine race and 
often in their strains, by the aid of the Muses and the Graces, they 
attain truth. 

Cle. Yes. 

Ath. Then now let us proceed with the rest of our tale, which will 
probably be found to illustrate in some degree our proposed 
design : -Shall we do so? 

Cle. By all means. 

Ath. Ilium was built, when they descended from the mountain, in a 
large and fair plain, on a sort of low hill, watered by many rivers 
descending from Ida. 

Cle. Such is the tradition. 

Ath. And we must suppose this event to have taken place many ages 
after the deluge? 

Ath. A marvellous f orgetf ulness of the former destruction would 
appear to have come over them, when they placed their town right under 
numerous streams flowing from the heights, trusting for their security 
to not very high hills, either. 

Cle. There must have been a long interval, clearly. 

Ath. And, as population increased, many other cities would begin 
to be inhabited. 

Cle. Doubtless. 

Ath. Those cities made war against Troy-by sea as well as land-for 
at that time men were ceasing to be afraid of the sea. 

Cle. Clearly. 

Ath. The Achaeans remained ten years, and overthrew Troy. 

Cle. True. 

Ath. And during the ten years in which the Achaeans were besieging 
Ilium, the homes of the besiegers were falling into an evil plight. 
Their youth revolted; and when the soldiers returned to their own 
cities and families, they did not receive them properly, and as they 
ought to have done, and numerous deaths, murders, exiles, were the 
consequence. The exiles came again, under a new name, no longer 
Achaeans, but Dorians-a name which they derived from Dorieus; for it 
was he who gathered them together. The rest of the story is told by 
you Lacedaemonians as part of the history of Sparta. 

Meg. To be sure. 

Ath. Thus, after digressing from the original subject of laws into 
music and drinking-bouts, the argument has, providentially, come 
back to the same point, and presents to us another handle. For we have 
reached the settlement of Lacedaemon; which, as you truly say, is in 
laws and in institutions the sister of Crete. And we are all the 
better for the digression, because we have gone through various 
governments and settlements, and have been present at the foundation 
of a first, second, and third state, succeeding one another in 
infinite time. And now there appears on the horizon a fourth state 
or nation which was once in process of settlement and has continued 
settled to this day. If, out of all this, we are able to discern 
what is well or ill settled, and what laws are the salvation and 
what are the destruction of cities, and what changes would make a 



state happy, Megillus and Cleinias, we may now begin again, unless 
we have some fault to find with the previous discussion. 

Meg. If some God, Stranger, would promise us that our new enquiry 
about legislation would be as good and full as the present, I would go 
a great way to hear such another, and would think that a day as long 
as this-and we are now approaching the longest day of the year-was too 
short for the discussion. 

Ath . Then I suppose that we must consider this subject? 

Meg. Certainly. 

Ath. Let us place ourselves in thought at the moment when Lacedaemon 
and Argos and Messene and the rest of the Peloponnesus were all in 
complete subjection, Megillus, to your ancestors; for afterwards, as 
the legend informs us, they divided their army into three portions, 
and settled three cities, Argos, Messene, Lacedaemon. 

Meg. True. 

Ath. Temenus was the king of Argos, Cresphontes of Messene, 
Procles and Eurysthenes of Lacedaemon. 

Meg. Certainly. 

Ath. To these kings all the men of that day made oath that they 
would assist them, if any one subverted their kingdom. 

Meg. True. 

Ath. But can a kingship be destroyed, or was any other form of 
government ever destroyed, by any but the rulers themselves? No 
indeed, by Zeus. Have we already forgotten what was said a little 
while ago? 

Meg. No. 

Ath. And may we not now further confirm what was then mentioned? For 
we have come upon facts which have brought us back again to the same 
principle; so that, in resuming the discussion, we shall not be 
enquiring about an empty theory, but about events which actually 
happened. The case was as follows : -Three royal heroes made oath to 
three cities which were under a kingly government, and the cities to 
the kings, that both rulers and subjects should govern and be governed 
according to the laws which were common to all of them: the rulers 
promised that as time and the race went forward they would not make 
their rule more arbitrary; and the subjects said that, if the rulers 
observed these conditions, they would never subvert or permit others 
to subvert those kingdoms; the kings were to assist kings and 
peoples when injured, and the peoples were to assist peoples and kings 
in like manner. Is not this the fact? 

Meg. Yes. 

Ath. And the three states to whom these laws were given, whether 
their kings or any others were the authors of them, had therefore 
the greatest security for the maintenance of their constitutions? 

Meg. What security? 

Ath. That the other two states were always to come to the rescue 
against a rebellious third. 

Meg. True. 

Ath. Many persons say that legislators ought to impose such laws 
as the mass of the people will be ready to receive; but this is just 
as if one were to command gymnastic masters or physicians to treat 
or cure their pupils or patients in an agreeable manner. 

Meg. Exactly. 

Ath. Whereas the physician may often be too happy if he can 
restore health, and make the body whole, without any very great 
infliction of pain. 

Meg. Certainly. 

Ath. There was also another advantage possessed by the men of that 
day, which greatly lightened the task of passing laws. 

Meg. What advantage? 

Ath. The legislators of that day, when they equalized property, 
escaped the great accusation which generally arises in legislation, if 
a person attempts to disturb the possession of land, or to abolish 
debts, because he sees that without this reform there can never be any 



real equality. Now, in general, when the legislator attempts to make a 
new settlement of such matters, every one meets him with the cry, that 
"he is not to disturb vested interests"-declaring with imprecations 
that he is introducing agrarian laws and cancelling of debts, until 
a man is at his wits end; whereas no one could quarrel with the 
Dorians for distributing the land-there was nothing to hinder them; 
and as for debts, they had none which were considerable or of old 
standing . 

Meg. Very true. 

Ath . But then, my good friends, why did the settlement and 
legislation of their country turn out so badly? 

Meg. How do you mean; and why do you blame them? 

Ath. There were three kingdoms, and of these, two quickly 
corrupted their original constitution and laws, and the only one which 
remained was the Spartan. 

Meg. The question which you ask is not easily answered. 

Ath. And yet must be answered when we are enquiring about laws, this 
being our old man's sober game of play, whereby we beguile the way, as 
I was saying when we first set out on our journey. 

Meg. Certainly; and we must find out why this was. 

Ath. What laws are more worthy of our attention than those which 
have regulated such cities? or what settlements of states are 
greater or more famous? 

Meg. I know of none. 

Ath. Can we doubt that your ancestors intended these institutions 
not only for the protection of Peloponnesus, but of all the 
Hellenes, in case they were attacked by the barbarian? For the 
inhabitants of the region about Ilium, when they provoked by their 
insolence the Trojan war, relied upon the power of the Assyrians and 
the Empire of Ninus, which still existed and had a great prestige; the 
people of those days fearing the united Assyrian Empire just as we now 
fear the Great King. And the second capture of Troy was a serious 
offence against them, because Troy was a portion of the Assyrian 
Empire. To meet the danger the single army was distributed between 
three cities by the royal brothers, sons of Heracles-a fair device, as 
it seemed, and a far better arrangement than the expedition against 
Troy. For, firstly, the people of that day had, as they thought, in 
the Heraclidae better leaders than the Pelopidae; in the next place, 
they considered that their army was superior in valour to that which 
went against Troy; for, although the latter conquered the Trojans, 
they were themselves conquered by the Heraclidae-Achaeans by 
Dorians. May we not suppose that this was the intention with which the 
men of those days framed the constitutions of their states? 

Meg. Quite true. 

Ath. And would not men who had shared with one another many dangers, 
and were governed by a single race of royal brothers, and had taken 
the advice of oracles, and in particular of the Delphian Apollo, be 
likely to think that such states would be firmly and lastingly 
established? 

Meg. Of course they would. 

Ath. Yet these institutions, of which such great expectations were 
entertained, seem to have all rapidly vanished away; with the 
exception, as I was saying, of that small part of them which existed 
in yourland.And this third part has never to this day ceased warring 
against the two others; whereas, if the original idea had been carried 
out, and they had agreed to be one, their power would have been 
invincible in war. 

Meg. No doubt. 

Ath. But what was the ruin of this glorious confederacy? Here is a 
subject well worthy of consideration. 

Meg. Certainly, no one will ever find more striking instances of 
laws or governments being the salvation or destruction of great and 
noble interests, than are here presented to his view. 

Ath. Then now we seem to have happily arrived at a real and 



important question. 

Meg. Very true. 

Ath . Did you never remark, sage friend, that all men, and we 
ourselves at this moment, often fancy that they see some beautiful 
thing which might have effected wonders if any one had only known 
how to make a right use of it in some way; and yet this mode of 
looking at things may turn out after all to be a mistake, and not 
according to nature, either in our own case or in any other? 

Meg. To what are you referring, and what do you mean? 

Ath. I was thinking of my own admiration of the aforesaid 
Heracleid expedition, which was so noble, and might have had such 
wonderful results for the Hellenes, if only rightly used; and I was 
just laughing at myself. 

Meg. But were you not right and wise in speaking as you did, and 
we in assenting to you? 

Ath. Perhaps; and yet I cannot help observing that any one who 
sees anything great or powerful, immediately has the feeling 
that- "If the owner only knew how to use his great and noble 
possession, how happy would he be, and what great results would he 
achieve ! " 

Meg. And would he not be justified? 

Ath. Reflect; in what point of view does this sort of praise 
appear just: First, in reference to the question in hand: -If the 
then commanders had known how to arrange their army properly, how 
would they have attained success? Would not this have been the way? 
They would have bound them all firmly together and preserved them 
for ever, giving them freedom and dominion at pleasure, combined 
with the power of doing in the whole world, Hellenic and barbarian, 
whatever they and their descendants desired. What other aim would they 
have had? 

Meg. Very good. 

Ath. Suppose any one were in the same way to express his 
admiration at the sight of great wealth or family honour, or the like, 
he would praise them under the idea that through them he would 
attain either all or the greater and chief part of what he desires. 

Meg. He would. 

Ath. Well, now, and does not the argument show that there is one 
common desire of all mankind? 

Meg. What is it? 

Ath. The desire which a man has, that all things, if possible-at any 
rate, things human-may come to pass in accordance with his soul's 
desire . 

Meg. Certainly. 

Ath. And having this desire always, and at every time of life, in 
youth, in manhood, in age, he cannot help always praying for the 
fulfilment of it. 

Meg. No doubt. 

Ath. And we join in the prayers of our friends, and ask for them 
what they ask for themselves. 

Meg. We do. 

Ath. Dear is the son to the father-the younger to the elder. 

Meg. Of course. 

Ath. And yet the son often prays to obtain things which the father 
prays that he may not obtain. 

Meg. When the son is young and foolish, you mean? 

Ath. Yes; or when the father, in the dotage of age or the heat of 
youth, having no sense of right and justice, prays with fervour, under 
the influence of feelings akin to those of Theseus when he cursed 
the unfortunate Hippolytus, do you imagine that the son, having a 
sense of right and justice, will join in his father's prayers? 

Meg. I understand you to mean that a man should not desire or be 
in a hurry to have all things according to his wish, for his wish 
may be at variance with his reason. But every state and every 
individual ought to pray and strive for wisdom. 



Ath . Yes; and I remember, and you will remember, what I said at 
first, that a statesman and legislator ought to ordain laws with a 
view to wisdom; while you were arguing that the good lawgiver ought to 
order all with a view to war. And to this I replied that there were 
four virtues, but that upon your view one of them only was the aim 
of legislation; whereas you ought to regard all virtue, and especially 
that which comes first, and is the leader of all the rest-I mean 
wisdom and mind and opinion, having affection and desire in their 
train. And now the argument returns to the same point, and I say 
once more, in jest if you like, or in earnest if you like, that the 
prayer of a fool is full of danger, being likely to end in the 
opposite of what he desires. And if you would rather receive my 
words in earnest, I am willing that you should; and you will find, I 
suspect, as I have said already, that not cowardice was the cause of 
the ruin of the Dorian kings and of their whole design, nor 
ignorance of military matters, either on the part of the rulers or 
of their subjects; but their misfortunes were due to their general 
degeneracy, and especially to their ignorance of the most important 
human affairs. That was then, and is still, and always will be the 
case, as I will endeavour, if you will allow me, to make out and 
demonstrate as well as I am able to you who are my friends, in the 
course of the argument. 

Cle. Pray go on, Stranger ; -compliments are troublesome, but we 
will show, not in word but in deed, how greatly we prize your words, 
for we will give them our best attention; and that is the way in which 
a freeman best shows his approval or disapproval. 

Meg. Excellent, Cleinias; let us do as you say. 

Cle. By all means, if Heaven wills. Go on. 

Ath. Well, then, proceeding in the same train of thought, I say that 
the greatest ignorance was the ruin of the Dorian power, and that now, 
as then, ignorance is ruin. And if this be true, the legislator must 
endeavour to implant wisdom in states, and banish ignorance to the 
utmost of his power. 

Cle. That is evident. 

Ath. Then now consider what is really the greatest ignorance. I 
should like to know whether you and Megillus would agree with me in 
what I am about to say; for my opinion is- 

Cle. What? 

Ath. That the greatest ignorance is when a man hates that which he 
nevertheless thinks to be good and noble, and loves and embraces 
that which he knows to be unrighteous and evil. This disagreement 
between the sense of pleasure and the judgment of reason in the soul 
is, in my opinion, the worst ignorance; and also the greatest, because 
affecting the great mass of the human soul; for the principle which 
feels pleasure and pain in the individual is like the mass or populace 
in a state. And when the soul is opposed to knowledge, or opinion, 
or reason, which are her natural lords, that I call folly, just as 
in the state, when the multitude refuses to obey their rulers and 
the laws; or, again, in the individual, when fair reasonings have 
their habitation in the soul and yet do no good, but rather the 
reverse of good. All these cases I term the worst ignorance, whether 
in individuals or in states. You will understand, Stranger, that I 
am speaking of something which is very different from the ignorance of 
handicraftsmen . 

Cle. Yes, my friend, we understand and agree. 

Ath. Let us, then, in the first place declare and affirm that the 
citizen who does not know these things ought never to have any kind of 
authority entrusted to him: he must be stigmatized as ignorant, even 
though he be versed in calculation and skilled in all sorts of 
accomplishments, and feats of mental dexterity; and the opposite are 
to be called wise, even although, in the words of the proverb, they 
know neither how to read nor how to swim; and to them, as to men of 
sense, authority is to be committed. For, my friends, how can 
there be the least shadow of wisdom when there is no harmony? There is 



none; but the noblest and greatest of harmonies may be truly said to 
be the greatest wisdom; and of this he is a partaker who lives 
according to reason; whereas he who is devoid of reason is the 
destroyer of his house and the very opposite of a saviour of the 
state: he is utterly ignorant of political wisdom. Let this, then, 
as I was saying, be laid down by us. 

Cle. Let it be so laid down. 

Ath . I suppose that there must be rulers and subjects in states? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. And what are the principles on which men rule and obey in 
cities, whether great or small; and similarly in families? What are 
they, and how many in number? Is there not one claim of authority 
which is always just-that of fathers and mothers and in general of 
progenitors to rule over their offspring? 

Cle. There is. 

Ath. Next follows the principle that the noble should rule over 
the ignoble; and, thirdly, that the elder should rule and the 
younger obey? 

Cle. To be sure. 

Ath. And, fourthly, that slaves should be ruled, and their masters 
rule? 

Cle. Of course. 

Ath. Fifthly, if I am not mistaken, comes the principle that the 
stronger shall rule, and the weaker be ruled? 

Cle. That is a rule not to be disobeyed. 

Ath. Yes, and a rule which prevails very widely among all creatures, 
and is according to nature, as the Theban poet Pindar once said; and 
the sixth principle, and the greatest of all, is, that the wise should 
lead and command, and the ignorant follow and obey; and yet, thou 
most wise Pindar, as I should reply him, this surely is not contrary 
to nature, but according to nature, being the rule of law over willing 
subjects, and not a rule of compulsion. 

Cle. Most true. 

Ath. There is a seventh kind of rule which is awarded by lot, and is 
dear to the Gods and a token of good fortune: he on whom the lot falls 
is a ruler, and he who fails in obtaining the lot goes away and is the 
subject; and this we affirm to be quite just. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. "Then now," as we say playfully to any of those who lightly 
undertake the making of laws, "you see, legislator, the principles 
of government, how many they are, and that they are naturally 
opposed to each other. There we have discovered a fountain-head of 
seditions, to which you must attend. And, first, we will ask you to 
consider with us, how and in what respect the kings of Argos and 
Messene violated these our maxims, and ruined themselves and the great 
and famous Hellenic power of the olden time. Was it because they did 
not know how wisely Hesiod spoke when he said that the half is often 
more than the whole? His meaning was, that when to take the whole 
would be dangerous, and to take the half would be the safe and 
moderate course, then the moderate or better was more than the 
immoderate or worse." 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. And may we suppose this immoderate spirit to be more fatal when 
found among kings than when among peoples? 

Cle. The probability is that ignorance will be a disorder especially 
prevalent among kings, because they lead a proud and luxurious life. 

Ath. Is it not palpable that the chief aim of the kings of that time 
was to get the better of the established laws, and that they were 
not in harmony with the principles which they had agreed to observe by 
word and oath? This want of harmony may have had the appearance of 
wisdom, but was really, as we assert, the greatest ignorance, and 
utterly overthrew the whole empire by dissonance and harsh discord. 

Cle. Very likely. 

Ath. Good; and what measures ought the legislator to have then taken 



in order to avert this calamity? Truly there is no great wisdom in 
knowing, and no great difficulty in telling, after the evil has 
happened; but to have foreseen the remedy at the time would have taken 
a much wiser head than ours. 

Meg. What do you mean? 

Ath . Any one who looks at what has occurred with you Lacedaemonians, 
Megillus, may easily know and may easily say what ought to have been 
done at that time. 

Meg. Speak a little more clearly. 

Ath. Nothing can be clearer than the observation which I am about to 
make . 

Meg. What is it? 

Ath. That if any one gives too great a power to anything, too 
large a sail to a vessel, too much food to the body, too much 
authority to the mind, and does not observe the mean, everything is 
overthrown, and, in the wantonness of excess runs in the one case to 
disorders, and in the other to injustice, which is the child of 
excess. I mean to say, my dear friends, that there is no soul of 
man, young and irresponsible, who will be able to sustain the 
temptation of arbitrary power-no one who will not, under such 
circumstances, become filled with folly, that worst of diseases, and 
be hated by his nearest and dearest friends: when this happens, his 
kingdom is undermined, and all his power vanishes from him. And 
great legislators who know the mean should take heed of the danger. As 
far as we can guess at this distance of time, what happened was as 
follows : - 

Meg. What? 

Ath. A God, who watched over Sparta, seeing into the future, gave 
you two families of kings instead of one; and thus brought you more 
within the limits of moderation. In the next place, some human 
wisdom mingled with divine power, observing that the constitution of 
your government was still feverish and excited, tempered your inborn 
strength and pride of birth with the moderation which comes of age, 
making the power of your twenty-eight elders equal with that of the 
kings in the most important matters. But your third saviour, 
perceiving that your government was still swelling and foaming, and 
desirous to impose a curb upon it, instituted the Ephors, whose 
power he made to resemble that of magistrates elected by lot; and by 
this arrangement the kingly office, being compounded of the right 
elements and duly moderated, was preserved, and was the means of 
preserving all the rest. Since, if there had been only the original 
legislators, Temenus, Cresphontes, and their contemporaries, as far as 
they were concerned not even the portion of Aristodemus would have 
been preserved; for they had no proper experience in legislation, or 
they would surely not have imagined that oaths would moderate a 
youthful spirit invested with a power which might be converted into 
a tyranny. Now that God has instructed us what sort of government 
would have been or will be lasting, there is no wisdom, as I have 
already said, in judging after the event; there is no difficulty in 
learning from an example which has already occurred. But if any one 
could have foreseen all this at the time, and had been able to 
moderate the government of the three kingdoms and unite them into one, 
he might have saved all the excellent institutions which were then 
conceived; and no Persian or any other armament would have dared to 
attack us, or would have regarded Hellas as a power to be despised. 

Cle. True. 

Ath. There was small credit to us, Cleinias, in defeating them; 
and the discredit was, not that the conquerors did not win glorious 
victories both by land and sea, but what, in my opinion, brought 
discredit was, first of all, the circumstance that of the three cities 
one only fought on behalf of Hellas, and the two others were so 
utterly good for nothing that the one was waging a mighty war 
against Lacedaemon, and was thus preventing her from rendering 
assistance, while the city of Argos, which had the precedence at the 



time of the distribution, when asked to aid in repelling the 
barbarian, would not answer to the call, or give aid. Many things 
might be told about Hellas in connection with that war which are far 
from honourable; nor, indeed, can we rightly say that Hellas 
repelled the invader; for the truth is, that unless the Athenians 
and Lacedaemonians, acting in concert, had warded off the impending 
yoke, all the tribes of Hellas would have been fused in a chaos of 
Hellenes mingling with one another, of barbarians mingling with 
Hellenes, and Hellenes with barbarians; just as nations who are now 
subject to the Persian power, owing to unnatural separations and 
combinations of them, are dispersed and scattered, and live miserably. 
These, Cleinias and Megillus, are the reproaches which we have to make 
against statesmen and legislators, as they are called, past and 
present, if we would analyse the causes of their failure, and find out 
what else might have been done. We said, for instance, just now, 
that there ought to be no great and unmixed powers; and this was under 
the idea that a state ought to be free and wise and harmonious, and 
that a legislator ought to legislate with a view to this end. Nor is 
there any reason to be surprised at our continually proposing aims for 
the legislator which appear not to be always the same; but we should 
consider when we say that temperance is to be the aim, or wisdom is to 
be the aim, or friendship is to be the aim, that all these aims are 
really the same; and if so, a variety in the modes of expression ought 
not to disturb us. 

Cle. Let us resume the argument in that spirit. And now, speaking of 
friendship and wisdom and freedom, I wish that you would tell me at 
what, in your opinion, the legislator should aim. 

Ath. Hear me, then: there are two mother forms of states from 
which the rest may be truly said to be derived; and one of them may be 
called monarchy and the other democracy: the Persians have the highest 
form of the one, and we of the other; almost all the rest, as I was 
saying, are variations of these. Now, if you are to have liberty and 
the combination of friendship with wisdom, you must have both these 
forms of government in a measure; the argument emphatically declares 
that no city can be well governed which is not made up of both. 

Cle. Impossible. 

Ath. Neither the one, if it be exclusively and excessively 
attached to monarchy, nor the other, if it be similarly attached to 
freedom, observes moderation; but your states, the Laconian and 
Cretan, have more of it; and the same was the case with the 
Athenians and Persians of old time, but now they have less. Shall I 
tell you why? 

Cle. By all means, if it will tend to elucidate our subject. 

Ath. Hear, then: -There was a time when the Persians had more of 
the state which is a mean between slavery and freedom. In the reign of 
Cyrus they were freemen and also lords of many others: the rulers gave 
a share of freedom to the subjects, and being treated as equals, the 
soldiers were on better terms with their generals, and showed 
themselves more ready in the hour of danger. And if there was any wise 
man among them, who was able to give good counsel, he imparted his 
wisdom to the public; for the king was not jealous, but allowed him 
full liberty of speech, and gave honour to those who could advise 
him in any matter. And the nation waxed in all respects, because there 
was freedom and friendship and communion of mind among them. 

Cle. That certainly appears to have been the case. 

Ath. How, then, was this advantage lost under Cambyses, and again 
recovered under Darius? Shall I try to divine? 

Cle. The enquiry, no doubt, has a bearing upon our subject. 

Ath. I imagine that Cyrus, though a great and patriotic general, had 
never given his mind to education, and never attended to the order 
of his household. 

Cle. What makes you say so? 

Ath. I think that from his youth upwards he was a soldier, and 
entrusted the education of his children to the women; and they brought 



them up from their childhood as the favourites of fortune, who were 
blessed already, and needed no more blessings. They thought that 
they were happy enough, and that no one should be allowed to oppose 
them in any way, and they compelled every one to praise all that 
they said or did. This was how they brought them up. 

Cle. A splendid education truly! 

Ath . Such an one as women were likely to give them, and especially 
princesses who had recently grown rich, and in the absence of the men, 
too, who were occupied in wars and dangers, and had no time to look 
after them. 

Cle. What would you expect? 

Ath. Their father had possessions of cattle and sheep, and many 
herds of men and other animals, but he did not consider that those 
to whom he was about to make them over were not trained in his own 
calling, which was Persian; for the Persians are shepherds-sons of a 
rugged land, which is a stern mother, and well fitted to produce 
sturdy race able to live in the open air and go without sleep, and 
also to fight, if fighting is required. He did not observe that his 
sons were trained differently; through the so-called blessing of being 
royal they were educated in the Median fashion by women and eunuchs, 
which led to their becoming such as people do become when they are 
brought up unreproved. And so, after the death of Cyrus, his sons, 
in the fulness of luxury and licence, took the kingdom, and first 
one slew the other because he could not endure a rival; and, 
afterwards, the slayer himself, mad with wine and brutality, lost 
his kingdom through the Medes and the Eunuch, as they called him, 
who despised the folly of Cambyses. 

Cle. So runs the tale, and such probably were the facts. 

Ath. Yes; and the tradition says, that the empire came back to the 
Persians, through Darius and the seven chiefs. 

Cle. True. 

Ath. Let us note the rest of the story. Observe, that Darius was not 
the son of a king, and had not received a luxurious education. When he 
came to the throne, being one of the seven, he divided the country 
into seven portions, and of this arrangement there are some shadowy 
traces still remaining; he made laws upon the principle of introducing 
universal equality in the order of the state, and he embodied in his 
laws the settlement of the tribute which Cyrus promised-thus 
creating a feeling of friendship and community among all the Persians, 
and attaching the people to him with money and gifts. Hence his armies 
cheerfully acquired for him countries as large as those which Cyrus 
had left behind him. Darius was succeeded by his son Xerxes; and he 
again was brought up in the royal and luxurious fashion. Might we 
not most justly say: "0 Darius, how came you to bring up Xerxes in the 
same way in which Cyrus brought up Cambyses, and not to see his 
fatal mistake?" For Xerxes, being the creation of the same 
education, met with much the same fortune as Cambyses; and from that 
time until now there has never been a really great king among the 
Persians, although they are all called Great. And their degeneracy 
is not to be attributed to chance, as I maintain; the reason is rather 
the evil life which is generally led by the sons of very rich and 
royal persons; for never will boy or man, young or old, excel in 
virtue, who has been thus educated. And this, I say, is what the 
legislator has to consider, and what at the present moment has to be 
considered by us. Justly may you, Lacedaemonians, be praised, in 
that you do not give special honour or a special education to wealth 
rather than to poverty, or to a royal rather than to a private 
station, where the divine and inspired lawgiver has not originally 
commanded them to be given. For no man ought to have pre-eminent 
honour in a state because he surpasses others in wealth, any more than 
because he is swift of foot or fair or strong, unless he have some 
virtue in him; nor even if he have virtue, unless he have this 
particular virtue of temperance. 

Meg. What do you mean, Stranger? 



Ath . I suppose that courage is a part of virtue? 

Meg. To be sure. 

Ath. Then, now hear and judge for yourself : -Would you like to have 
for a fellow-lodger or neighbour a very courageous man, who had no 
control over himself? 

Meg. Heaven forbid! 

Ath. Or an artist, who was clever in his profession, but a rogue? 

Meg. Certainly not. 

Ath. And surely justice does not grow apart from temperance? 

Meg. Impossible. 

Ath. Any more than our pattern wise man, whom we exhibited as having 
his pleasures and pains in accordance with and corresponding to true 
reason, can be intemperate? 

Meg. No. 

Ath. There is a further consideration relating to the due and 
undue award of honours in states. 

Meg. What is it? 

Ath. I should like to know whether temperance without the other 
virtues, existing alone in the soul of man, is rightly to be praised 
or blamed? 

Meg. I cannot tell. 

Ath. And that is the best answer; for whichever alternative you 
had chosen, I think that you would have gone wrong. 

Meg. I am fortunate. 

Ath. Very good; a quality, which is a mere appendage of things which 
can be praised or blamed, does not deserve an expression of opinion, 
but is best passed over in silence. 

Meg. You are speaking of temperance? 

Ath. Yes; but of the other virtues, that which having this appendage 
is also most beneficial, will be most deserving of honour, and next 
that which is beneficial in the next degree; and so each of them 
will be rightly honoured according to a regular order. 

Meg. True. 

Ath. And ought not the legislator to determine these classes? 

Meg. Certainly he should. 

Ath. Suppose that we leave to him the arrangement of details. But 
the general division of laws according to their importance into a 
first and second and third class, we who are lovers of law may make 
ourselves . 

Meg. Very; good. 

Ath. We maintain, then, that a State which would be safe and 
happy, as far as the nature of man allows, must and ought to 
distribute honour and dishonour in the right way. And the right way is 
to place the goods of the soul first and highest in the scale, 
always assuming temperance to be the condition of them; and to 
assign the second place to the goods of the body; and the third 
place to money and property. And it any legislator or state departs 
from this rule by giving money the place of honour, or in any way 
preferring that which is really last, may we not say, that he or the 
state is doing an unholy and unpatriotic thing? 

Meg. Yes; let that be plainly declared. 

Ath. The consideration of the Persian governments led us thus far to 
enlarge. We remarked that the Persians grew worse and worse. And we 
affirm the reason of this to have been, that they too much 
diminished the freedom of the people, and introduced too much of 
despotism, and so destroyed friendship and community of feeling. And 
when there is an end of these, no longer do the governors govern on 
behalf of their subjects or of the people, but on behalf of 
themselves; and if they think that they can gain ever so small an 
advantage for themselves, they devastate cities, and send fire and 
desolation among friendly races. And as they hate ruthlessly and 
horribly, so are they hated; and when they want the people to fight 
for them, they find no community of feeling or willingness to risk 
their lives on their behalf; their untold myriads are useless to 



them on the field of battle, and they think that their salvation 
depends on the employment of mercenaries and strangers whom they hire, 
as if they were in want of more men. And they cannot help being 
stupid, since they proclaim by actions that the ordinary 
distinctions of right and wrong which are made in a state are a 
trifle, when compared with gold and silver. 

Meg. Quite true. 

Ath . And now enough of the Persians, and their present 
maladministration of their government, which is owing to the excess of 
slavery and despotism among them. 

Meg. Good. 

Ath. Next, we must pass in review the government of Attica in like 
manner, and from this show that entire freedom and the absence of 
all superior authority is not by any means so good as government by 
others when properly limited, which was our ancient Athenian 
constitution at the time when the Persians made their attack on 
Hellas, or, speaking more correctly, on the whole continent of Europe. 
There were four classes, arranged according to a property census, 
and reverence was our queen and mistress, and made us willing to 
live in obedience to the laws which then prevailed. Also the 
vastness of the Persian armament, both by sea and on land, caused a 
helpless terror, which made us more and more the servants of our 
rulers and of the laws; and for all these reasons an exceeding harmony 
prevailed among us. About ten years before the naval engagement at 
Salamis, Datis came, leading a Persian host by command of Darius, 
which was expressly directed against the Athenians and Eretrians, 
having orders to carry them away captive; and these orders he was to 
execute under pain of death. Now Datis and his myriads soon became 
complete masters of Eretria, and he sent a fearful report to Athens 
that no Eretrian had escaped him; for the soldiers of Datis had joined 
hands and netted the whole of Eretria. And this report, whether well 
or ill founded, was terrible to all the Hellenes, and above all to the 
Athenians, and they dispatched embassies in all directions, but no one 
was willing to come to their relief, with the exception of the 
Lacedaemonians; and they, either because they were detained by the 
Messenian war, which was then going on, or for some other reason of 
which we are not told, came a day too late for the battle of Marathon. 
After a while, the news arrived of mighty preparations being made, and 
innumerable threats came from the king. Then, as time went on, a 
rumour reached us that Darius had died, and that his son, who was 
young and hot-headed, had come to the throne and was persisting in his 
design. The Athenians were under the impression that the whole 
expedition was directed against them, in consequence of the battle 
of Marathon; and hearing of the bridge over the Hellespont, and the 
canal of Athos, and the host of ships, considering that there was no 
salvation for them either by land or by sea, for there was no one to 
help them, and remembering that in the first expedition, when the 
Persians destroyed Eretria, no one came to their help, or would risk 
the danger of an alliance with them, they thought that this would 
happen again, at least on land; nor, when they looked to the sea, 
could they descry any hope of salvation; for they were attacked by a 
thousand vessels and more. One chance of safety remained, slight 
indeed and desperate, but their only one. They saw that on the 
former occasion they had gained a seemingly impossible victory, and 
borne up by this hope, they found that their only refuge was in 
themselves and in the Gods. All these things created in them the 
spirit of friendship; there was the fear of the moment, and there 
was that higher fear, which they had acquired by obedience to their 
ancient laws, and which I have several times in the preceding 
discourse called reverence, of which the good man ought to be a 
willing servant, and of which the coward is independent and 
fearless. If this fear had not possessed them, they would never have 
met the enemy, or defended their temples and sepulchres and their 
country, and everything that was near and dear to them, as they did; 



but little by little they would have been all scattered and dispersed. 

Meg. Your words, Athenian, are quite true, and worthy of yourself 
and of your country. 

Ath . They are true, Megillus; and to you, who have inherited the 
virtues of your ancestors, I may properly speak of the actions of that 
day. And I would wish you and Cleinias to consider whether my words 
have not also a bearing on legislation; for I am not discoursing 
only for the pleasure of talking, but for the argument's sake. 
Please to remark that the experience both of ourselves and the 
Persians was, in a certain sense, the same; for as they led their 
people into utter servitude, so we too led ours into all freedom. 
And now, how shall we proceed? for I would like you to observe that 
our previous arguments have good deal to say for themselves . 

Meg. True; but I wish that you would give us a fuller explanation. 

Ath. I will. Under the ancient laws, my friends, the people was 
not as now the master, but rather the willing servant of the laws. 

Meg. What laws do you mean? 

Ath. In the first place, let us speak of the laws about music-that 
is to say, such music as then existed-in order that we may trace the 
growth of the excess of freedom from the beginning. Now music was 
early divided among us into certain kinds and manners . One sort 
consisted of prayers to the Gods, which were called hymns; and there 
was another and opposite sort called lamentations, and another 
termed paeans, and another, celebrating the birth of Dionysus, called, 
I believe, "dithyrambs." And they used the actual word "laws," or 
nomoi, for another kind of song; and to this they added the term 
"citharoedic . " All these and others were duly distinguished, nor 
were the performers allowed to confuse one style of music with 
another. And the authority which determined and gave judgment, and 
punished the disobedient, was not expressed in a hiss, nor in the most 
unmusical shouts of the multitude, as in our days, nor in applause and 
clapping of hands. But the directors of public instruction insisted 
that the spectators should listen in silence to the end; and boys 
and their tutors, and the multitude in general, were kept quiet by a 
hint from a stick. Such was the good order which the multitude were 
willing to observe; they would never have dared to give judgment by 
noisy cries. And then, as time went on, the poets themselves 
introduced the reign of vulgar and lawless innovation. They were men 
of genius, but they had no perception of what is just and lawful in 
music; raging like Bacchanals and possessed with inordinate 
delights-mingling lamentations with hymns, and paeans with dithyrambs; 
imitating the sounds of the flute on the lyre, and making one 
general confusion; ignorantly affirming that music has no truth, 
and, whether good or bad, can only be judged of rightly by the 
pleasure of the hearer. And by composing such licentious works, and 
adding to them words as licentious, they have inspired the multitude 
with lawlessness and boldness, and made them fancy that they can judge 
for themselves about melody and song. And in this way the theatres 
from being mute have become vocal, as though they had understanding of 
good and bad in music and poetry; and instead of an aristocracy, an 
evil sort of theatrocracy has grown up. For if the democracy which 
judged had only consisted of educated persons, no fatal harm would 
have been done; but in music there first arose the universal conceit 
of omniscience and general lawlessness ; -freedom came following 
afterwards, and men, fancying that they knew what they did not know, 
had no longer any fear, and the absence of fear begets 
shamelessness . For what is this shamelessness, which is so evil a 
thing, but the insolent refusal to regard the opinion of the better by 
reason of an over-daring sort of liberty? 

Meg. Very true. 

Ath. Consequent upon this freedom comes the other freedom, of 
disobedience to rulers; and then the attempt to escape the control and 
exhortation of father, mother, elders, and when near the end, the 
control of the laws also; and at the very end there is the contempt of 



oaths and pledges, and no regard at all for the Gods-herein they 
exhibit and imitate the old so called Titanic nature, and come to 
the same point as the Titans when they rebelled against God, leading a 
life of endless evils. But why have I said all this? I ask, because 
the argument ought to be pulled up from time to time, and not be 
allowed to run away, but held with bit and bridle, and then we shall 
not, as the proverb says, fall off our ass. Let us then once more 
ask the question, To what end has all this been said? 

Meg. Very good. 

Ath . This, then, has been said for the sake- 
Meg. Of what? 

Ath. We were maintaining that the lawgiver ought to have three 
things in view: first, that the city for which he legislates should be 
free; and secondly, be at unity with herself; and thirdly, should have 
understanding; -these were our principles, were they not? 

Meg. Certainly. 

Ath. With a view to this we selected two kinds of government, the 
despotic, and the other the most free; and now we are considering 
which of them is the right form: we took a mean in both cases, of 
despotism in the one, and of liberty in the other, and we saw that 
in a mean they attained their perfection; but that when they were 
carried to the extreme of either, slavery or licence, neither party 
were the gainers . 

Meg. Very true. 

Ath. And that was our reason for considering the settlement of the 
Dorian army, and of the city built by Dardanus at the foot of the 
mountains, and the removal of cities to the seashore, and of our 
mention of the first men, who were the survivors of the deluge. And 
all that was previously said about music and drinking, and what 
preceded, was said with the view of seeing how a state might be best 
administered, and how an individual might best order his own life. And 
now, Megillus and Cleinias, how can we put to the proof the value of 
our words? 

Cle. Stranger, I think that I see how a proof of their value may 
be obtained. This discussion of ours appears to me to have been 
singularly fortunate, and just what I at this moment want; most 
auspiciously have you and my friend Megillus come in my way. For I 
will tell you what has happened to me; and I regard the coincidence as 
a sort of omen. The greater part of Crete is going to send out a 
colony, and they have entrusted the management of the affair to the 
Cnosians; and the Cnosian government to me and nine others. And they 
desire us to give them any laws which we please, whether taken from 
the Cretan model or from any other; and they do not mind about their 
being foreign if they are better. Grant me then this favour, which 
will also be a gain to yourselves : -Let us make a selection from what 
has been said, and then let us imagine a State of which we will 
suppose ourselves to be the original founders. Thus we shall proceed 
with our enquiry, and, at the same time, I may have the use of the 
framework which you are constructing, for the city which is in 
contemplation . 

Ath. Good news, Cleinias; if Megillus has no objection, you may 
be sure that I will do all in my power to please you. 

Cle. Thank you. 

Meg. And so will I . 

Cle. Excellent; and now let us begin to frame the State. 

BOOK IV 

Athenian Stranger. And now, what will this city be? I do not mean to 
ask what is or will hereafter be the name of the place; that may be 
determined by the accident of locality or of the original settlement-a 
river or fountain, or some local deity may give the sanction of a name 
to the newly-founded city; but I do want to know what the situation 
is, whether maritime or inland. 

Cleinias. I should imagine, Stranger, that the city of which we 



are speaking is about eighty stadia distant from the sea. 

Ath . And are there harbours on the seaboard? 

Cle. Excellent harbours, Stranger; there could not be better. 

Ath. Alas! what a prospect! And is the surrounding country 
productive, or in need of importations? 

Cle. Hardly in need of anything. 

Ath. And is there any neighbouring State? 

Cle. None whatever, and that is the reason for selecting the 
place; in days of old, there was a migration of the inhabitants, and 
the region has been deserted from time immemorial . 

Ath. And has the place a fair proportion of hill, and plain, and 
wood? 

Cle. Like the rest of Crete in that. 

Ath. You mean to say that there is more rock than plain? 

Cle. Exactly. 

Ath. Then there is some hope that your citizens may be virtuous: had 
you been on the sea, and well provided with harbours, and an importing 
rather than a producing country, some mighty saviour would have been 
needed, and lawgivers more than mortal, if you were ever to have a 
chance of preserving your state from degeneracy and discordance of 
manners. But there is comfort in the eighty stadia; although the sea 
is too near, especially if, as you say, the harbours are so good. 
Still we may be content. The sea is pleasant enough as a daily 
companion, but has indeed also a bitter and brackish quality; 
filling the streets with merchants and shopkeepers, and begetting in 
the souls of men uncertain and unfaithful ways-making the state 
unfriendly and unfaithful both to her own citizens, and also to 
other nations. There is a consolation, therefore, in the country 
producing all things at home; and yet, owing to the ruggedness of 
the soil, not providing anything in great abundance. Had there been 
abundance, there might have been a great export trade, and a great 
return of gold and silver; which, as we may safely affirm, has the 
most fatal results on a State whose aim is the attainment of just 
and noble sentiments: this was said by us, if you remember, in the 
previous discussion. 

Cle. I remember, and am of opinion that we both were and are in 
the right. 

Ath. Well, but let me ask, how is the country supplied with timber 
for ship-building? 

Cle. There is no fir of any consequence, nor pine, and not much 
cypress; and you will find very little stone-pine or plane-wood, which 
shipwrights always require for the interior of ships. 

Ath. These are also natural advantages. 

Cle. Why so? 

Ath. Because no city ought to be easily able to imitate its 
enemies in what is mischievous. 

Cle. How does that bear upon any of the matters of which we have 
been speaking? 

Ath. Remember, my good friend, what I said at first about the Cretan 
laws, that they look to one thing only, and this, as you both 
agreed, was war; and I replied that such laws, in so far as they 
tended to promote virtue, were good; but in that they regarded a 
part only, and not the whole of virtue, I disapproved of them. And now 
I hope that you in your turn will follow and watch me if I legislate 
with a view to anything but virtue, or with a view to a part of virtue 
only. For I consider that the true lawgiver, like an archer, aims only 
at that on which some eternal beauty is always attending, and 
dismisses everything else, whether wealth or any other benefit, when 
separated from virtue. I was saying that the imitation of enemies 
was a bad thing; and I was thinking of a case in which a maritime 
people are harassed by enemies, as the Athenians were by Minos (I do 
not speak from any desire to recall past grievances); but he, as we 
know, was a great naval potentate, who compelled the inhabitants of 
Attica to pay him a cruel tribute; and in those days they had no ships 



of war as they now have, nor was the country filled with 
ship-timber, and therefore they could not readily build them. Hence 
they could not learn how to imitate their enemy at sea, and in this 
way, becoming sailors themselves, directly repel their enemies. Better 
for them to have lost many times over the seven youths, than that 
heavy-armed and stationary troops should have been turned into 
sailors, and accustomed to be often leaping on shore, and again to 
come running back to their ships; or should have fancied that there 
was no disgrace in not awaiting the attack of an enemy and dying 
boldly; and that there were good reasons, and plenty of them, for a 
man throwing away his arms, and betaking himself to flight-which is 
not dishonourable, as people say, at certain times. This is the 
language of naval warfare, and is anything but worthy of extraordinary 
praise. For we should not teach bad habits, least of all to the best 
part of the citizens. You may learn the evil of such a practice from 
Homer, by whom Odysseus is introduced, rebuking Agamemnon because he 
desires to draw down the ships to the sea at a time when the 
Achaeans are hard pressed by the Trojans-he gets angry with him, and 
says : 

Who, at a time when the battle is in full cry, biddest to drag the 
well-benched ships into the sea, that the prayers of the Trojans may 
be accomplished yet more, and high ruin falls upon us. For the 
Achaeans will not maintain the battle, when the ships are drawn into 
the sea, but they will look behind and will cease from strife; in that 
the counsel which you give will prove injurious. 

You see that he quite knew triremes on the sea, in the neighbourhood 
of fighting men, to be an evil; -lions might be trained in that way 
to fly from a herd of deer. Moreover, naval powers which owe their 
safety to ships, do not give honour to that sort of warlike excellence 
which is most deserving of it. For he who owes his safety to the pilot 
and the captain, and the oarsman, and all sorts of rather inferior 
persons cannot rightly give honour to whom honour is due. But how 
can a state be in a right condition which cannot justly award honour? 

Cle. It is hardly possible, I admit; and yet, Stranger, we Cretans 
are in the habit of saying that the battle of Salamis was the 
salvation of Hellas. 

Ath . Why, yes; and that is an opinion which is widely spread both 
among Hellenes and barbarians. But Megillus and I say rather, that the 
battle of Marathon was the beginning, and the battle of Plataea the 
completion, of the great deliverance, and that these battles by land 
made the Hellenes better; whereas the sea-fights of Salamis and 
Artemisium-f or I may as well put them both together-made them no 
better, if I may say so without offence about the battles which helped 
to save us. And in estimating the goodness of a state, we regard 
both the situation of the country and the order of the laws, 
considering that the mere preservation and continuance of life is 
not the most honourable thing for men, as the vulgar think, but the 
continuance of the best life, while we live; and that again, if I am 
jot mistaken, is remark which has been made already. 

Cle. Yes. 

Ath. Then we have only to ask whether we are taking the course which 
we acknowledge to be the best for the settlement and legislation of 
states . 

Cle. The best by far. 

Ath. And now let me proceed to another question: Who are to be the 
colonists? May any one come out of all Crete; and is the idea that the 
population in the several states is too numerous for the means of 
subsistence? For I suppose that you are not going to send out a 
general invitation to any Hellene who likes to come. And yet I observe 
that to your country settlers have come from Argos and Aegina and 
other parts of Hellas. Tell me, then, whence do you draw your recruits 
in the present enterprise? 



Cle. They will come from all Crete; and of other Hellenes, 
Peloponnesians will be most acceptable. For, as you truly observe, 
there are Cretans of Argive descent; and the race of Cretans which has 
the highest character at the present day is the Gortynian, and this 
has come from Gortys in the Peloponnesus . 

Ath . Cities find colonization in some respects easier if the 
colonists are one race, which like a swarm of bees is sent out from 
a single country, either when friends leave friends, owing to some 
pressure of population or other similar necessity, or when a portion 
of a state is driven by factions to emigrate. And there have been 
whole cities which have taken flight when utterly conquered by a 
superior power in war. This, however, which is in one way an advantage 
to the colonist or legislator, in another point of view creates a 
difficulty. There is an element of friendship in the community of 
race, and language, and language, and laws, and in common temples 
and rites of worship; but colonies which are of this homogeneous 
sort are apt to kick against any laws or any form of constitution 
differing from that which they had at home; and although the badness 
of their own laws may have been the cause of the factions which 
prevailed among them, yet from the force of habit they would fain 
preserve the very customs which were their ruin, and the leader of the 
colony, who is their legislator, finds them troublesome and 
rebellious. On the other hand, the conflux of several populations 
might be more disposed to listen to new laws; but then, to make them 
combine and pull together, as they say of horses, is a most 
difficult task, and the work of years. And yet there is nothing 
which tends more to the improvement of mankind than legislation and 
colonization . 

Cle. No doubt; but I should like to know why you say so. 

Ath. My good friend, I am afraid that the course of my 
speculations is leading me to say something depreciatory of 
legislators; but if the word be to the purpose, there can be no 
harm. And yet, why am I disquieted, for I believe that the same 
principle applies equally to all human things? 

Cle. To what are you referring? 

Ath. I was going to say that man never legislates, but accidents 
of all sorts, which legislate for us in all sorts of ways. The 
violence of war and the hard necessity of poverty are constantly 
overturning governments and changing laws. And the power of disease 
has often caused innovations in the state, when there have been 
pestilences, or when there has been a succession of bad seasons 
continuing during many years. Any one who sees all this, naturally 
rushes to the conclusion of which I was speaking, that no mortal 
legislates in anything, but that in human affairs chance is almost 
everything. And this may be said of the arts of the sailor, and the 
pilot, and the physician, and the general, and may seem to be well 
said; and yet there is another thing which may be said with equal 
truth of all of them. 

Cle. What is it? 

Ath. That God governs all things, and that chance and opportunity 
co-operate with him in the government of human affairs. There is, 
however, a third and less extreme view, that art should be there also; 
for I should say that in a storm there must surely be a great 
advantage in having the aid of the pilot's art. You would agree? 

Cle. Yes. 

Ath. And does not a like principle apply to legislation as well as 
to other things: even supposing all the conditions to be favourable 
which are needed for the happiness of the state, yet the true 
legislator must from time to time appear on the scene? 

Cle. Most true. 

Ath. In each case the artist would be able to pray rightly for 
certain conditions, and if these were granted by fortune, he would 
then only require to exercise his art? 

Cle. Certainly. 



Ath . And all the other artists just now mentioned, if they were 
bidden to offer up each their special prayer, would do so? 

Cle. Of course. 

Ath. And the legislator would do likewise? 

Cle. I believe that he would. 

Ath. "Come, legislator," we will say to him; "what are the 
conditions which you require in a state before you can organize it?" 
How ought he to answer this question? Shall I give his answer? 

Cle. Yes. 

Ath. He will say-"Give me a state which is governed by a tyrant, and 
let the tyrant be young and have a good memory; let him be quick at 
learning, and of a courageous and noble nature; let him have that 
quality which, as I said before, is the inseparable companion of all 
the other parts of virtue, if there is to be any good in them." 

Cle. I suppose, Megillus, that this companion virtue of which the 
Stranger speaks, must be temperance? 

Ath. Yes, Cleinias, temperance in the vulgar sense; not that which 
in the forced and exaggerated language of some philosophers is 
called prudence, but that which is the natural gift of children and 
animals, of whom some live continently and others incontinently, but 
when isolated, was as we said, hardly worth reckoning in the catalogue 
of goods. I think that you must understand my meaning. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. Then our tyrant must have this as well as the other 
qualities, if the state is to acquire in the best manner and in the 
shortest time the form of government which is most conducive to 
happiness; for there neither is nor ever will be a better or 
speedier way of establishing a polity than by a tyranny. 

Cle. By what possible arguments, Stranger, can any man persuade 
himself of such a monstrous doctrine? 

Ath. There is surely no difficulty in seeing, Cleinias, what is in 
accordance with the order of nature? 

Cle. You would assume, as you say, a tyrant who was young, 
temperate, quick at learning, having a good memory, courageous, of a 
noble nature? 

Ath. Yes; and you must add fortunate; and his good fortune must be 
that he is the contemporary of a great legislator, and that some happy 
chance brings them together. When this has been accomplished, God 
has done all that he ever does for a state which he desires to be 
eminently prosperous; He has done second best for a state in which 
there are two such rulers, and third best for a state in which there 
are three. The difficulty increases with the increase, and 
diminishes with the diminution of the number. 

Cle. You mean to say, I suppose, that the best government is 
produced from a tyranny, and originates in a good lawgiver and an 
orderly tyrant, and that the change from such a tyranny into a perfect 
form of government takes place most easily; less easily when from an 
oligarchy; and, in the third degree, from a democracy: is not that 
your meaning? 

Ath. Not so; I mean rather to say that the change is best made out 
of a tyranny; and secondly, out of a monarchy; and thirdly, out of 
some sort of democracy: fourth, in the capacity for improvement, comes 
oligarchy, which has the greatest difficulty in admitting of such a 
change, because the government is in the hands of a number of 
potentates. I am supposing that the legislator is by nature of the 
true sort, and that his strength is united with that of the chief 
men of the state; and when the ruling element is numerically small, 
and at the same time very strong, as in a tyranny, there the change is 
likely to be easiest and most rapid. 

Cle. How? I do not understand. 

Ath. And yet I have repeated what I am saying a good many times; but 
I suppose that you have never seen a city which is under a tyranny? 

Cle. No, and I cannot say that I have any great desire to see one. 

Ath. And yet, where there is a tyranny, you might certainly see that 



of which I am now speaking. 

Cle. What do you mean? 

Ath . I mean that you might see how, without trouble and in no very 
long period of time, the tyrant, if he wishes, can change the 
manners of a state: he has only to go in the direction of virtue or of 
vice, whichever he prefers, he himself indicating by his example the 
lines of conduct, praising and rewarding some actions and reproving 
others, and degrading those who disobey. 

Cle. But how can we imagine that the citizens in general will at 
once follow the example set to them; and how can he have this power 
both of persuading and of compelling them? 

Ath. Let no one, my friends, persuade us that there is any quicker 
and easier way in which states change their laws than when the 
rulers lead: such changes never have, nor ever will, come to pass in 
any other way. The real impossibility or difficulty is of another 
sort, and is rarely surmounted in the course of ages; but when once it 
is surmounted, ten thousand or rather all blessings follow. 

Cle. Of what are you speaking? 

Ath. The difficulty is to find the divine love of temperate and just 
institutions existing in any powerful forms of government, whether 
in a monarchy or oligarchy of wealth or of birth. You might as well 
hope to reproduce the character of Nestor, who is said to have 
excelled all men in the power of speech, and yet more in his 
temperance. This, however, according to the tradition, was in the 
times of Troy; in our own days there is nothing of the sort; but if 
such an one either has or ever shall come into being, or is now 
among us, blessed is he and blessed are they who hear the wise words 
that flow from his lips. And this may be said of power in general: 
When the supreme power in man coincides with the greatest wisdom and 
temperance, then the best laws and the best constitution come into 
being; but in no other way. And let what I have been saying be 
regarded as a kind of sacred legend or oracle, and let this be our 
proof that, in one point of view, there may be a difficulty for a city 
to have good laws, but that there is another point of view in which 
nothing can be easier or sooner effected, granting our supposition. 

Cle. How do you mean? 

Ath. Let us try to amuse ourselves, old boys as we are, by 
moulding in words the laws which are suitable to your state. 

Cle. Let us proceed without delay. 

Ath. Then let us invoke God at the settlement of our state; may he 
hear and be propitious to us, and come and set in order the State 
and the laws ! 

Cle. May he come! 

Ath. But what form of polity are we going to give the city? 

Cle. Tell us what you mean a little more clearly. Do you mean some 
form of democracy, or oligarchy, or aristocracy, or monarchy? For we 
cannot suppose that you would include tyranny. 

Ath. Which of you will first tell me to which of these classes his 
own government is to be referred? 

Megillus. Ought I to answer first, since I am the elder? 

Cle. Perhaps you should. 

Meg. And yet, Stranger, I perceive that I cannot say, without more 
thought, what I should call the government of Lacedaemon, for it seems 
to me to be like a tyranny-the power of our Ephors is marvellously 
tyrannical; and sometimes it appears to me to be of all cities the 
most democratical ; and who can reasonably deny that it is an 
aristocracy? We have also a monarchy which is held for life, and is 
said by all mankind, and not by ourselves only, to be the most ancient 
of all monarchies; and, therefore, when asked on a sudden, I cannot 
precisely say which form of government the Spartan is. 

Cle. I am in the same difficulty, Megillus; for I do not feel 
confident that the polity of Cnosus is any of these. 

Ath. The reason is, my excellent friends, that you really have 
polities, but the states of which we were just now speaking are merely 



aggregations of men dwelling in cities who are the subjects and 
servants of a part of their own state, and each of them is named after 
the dominant power; they are not polities at all. But if states are to 
be named after their rulers, the true state ought to be called by 
the name of the God who rules over wise men. 

Cle. And who is this God? 

Ath . May I still make use of fable to some extent, in the hope 
that I may be better able to answer your question: shall I? 

Cle. By all means. 

Ath. In the primeval world, and a long while before the cities 
came into being whose settlements we have described, there is said 
to have been in the time of Cronos a blessed rule and life, of which 
the best-ordered of existing states is a copy. 

Cle. It will be very necessary to hear about that. 

Ath. I quite agree with you; and therefore I have introduced the 
subject . 

Cle. Most appropriately; and since the tale is to the point, you 
will do well in giving us the whole story. 

Ath. I will do as you suggest. There is a tradition of the happy 
life of mankind in days when all things were spontaneous and abundant. 
And of this the reason is said to have been as follows : -Cronos knew 
what we ourselves were declaring, that no human nature invested with 
supreme power is able to order human affairs and not overflow with 
insolence and wrong. Which reflection led him to appoint not men but 
demigods, who are of a higher and more divine race, to be the kings 
and rulers of our cities; he did as we do with flocks of sheep and 
other tame animals. For we do not appoint oxen to be the lords of 
oxen, or goats of goats; but we ourselves are a superior race, and 
rule over them. In like manner God, in his love of mankind, placed 
over us the demons, who are a superior race, and they with great 
case and pleasure to themselves, and no less to us, taking care us and 
giving us peace and reverence and order and justice never failing, 
made the tribes of men happy and united. And this tradition, which 
is true, declares that cities of which some mortal man and not God 
is the ruler, have no escape from evils and toils. Still we must do 
all that we can to imitate the life which is said to have existed in 
the days of Cronos, and, as far as the principle of immortality dwells 
in us, to that we must hearken, both in private and public life, and 
regulate our cities and houses according to law, meaning by the very 
term "law," the distribution of mind. But if either a single person or 
an oligarchy or a democracy has a soul eager after pleasures and 
desires-wanting to be filled with them, yet retaining none of them, 
and perpetually afflicted with an endless and insatiable disorder; and 
this evil spirit, having first trampled the laws under foot, becomes 
the master either of a state or of an individual-then, as I was 
saying, salvation is hopeless. And now, Cleinias, we have to 
consider whether you will or will not accept this tale of mine. 

Cle. Certainly we will. 

Ath. You are aware-are you not?-that there are of said to be as many 
forms of laws as there are of governments, and of the latter we have 
already mentioned all those which are commonly recognized. Now you 
must regard this as a matter of first-rate importance. For what is 
to be the standard of just and unjust, is once more the point at 
issue. Men say that the law ought not to regard either military 
virtue, or virtue in general, but only the interests and power and 
preservation of the established form of government; this is thought by 
them to be the best way of expressing the natural definition of 
justice . 

Cle. How? 

Ath. Justice is said by them to be the interest of the stronger. 

Cle. Speak plainer. 

Ath. I will : -"Surely, " they say, "the governing power makes whatever 
laws have authority in any state?" 

Cle. True. 



Ath. "Well," they would add, "and do you suppose that tyranny or 
democracy, or any other conquering power, does not make the 
continuance of the power which is possessed by them the first or 
principal object of their laws?" 

Cle. How can they have any other? 

Ath. "And whoever transgresses these laws is punished as an 
evil-doer by the legislator, who calls the laws just?" 

Cle. Naturally. 

Ath. "This, then, is always the mode and fashion in which justice 
exists . " 

Cle. Certainly, if they are correct in their view. 

Ath. Why, yes, this is one of those false principles of government 
to which we were referring. 

Cle. Which do you mean? 

Ath. Those which we were examining when we spoke of who ought to 
govern whom. Did we not arrive at the conclusion that parents ought to 
govern their children, and the elder the younger, and the noble the 
ignoble? And there were many other principles, if you remember, and 
they were not always consistent. One principle was this very principle 
of might, and we said that Pindar considered violence natural and 
justified it. 

Cle. Yes; I remember. 

Ath. Consider, then, to whom our state is to be entrusted. For there 
is a thing which has occurred times without number in states- 

Cle. What thing? 

Ath. That when there has been a contest for power, those who gain 
the upper hand so entirely monopolize the government, as to refuse all 
share to the defeated party and their descendants-they live watching 
one another, the ruling class being in perpetual fear that some one 
who has a recollection of former wrongs will come into power and 
rise up against them. Now, according to our view, such governments are 
not polities at all, nor are laws right which are passed for the 
good of particular classes and not for the good of the whole state. 
States which have such laws are not polities but parties, and their 
notions of justice are simply unmeaning. I say this, because I am 
going to assert that we must not entrust the government in your 
state to any one because he is rich, or because he possesses any other 
advantage, such as strength, or stature, or again birth: but he who is 
most obedient to the laws of the state, he shall win the palm; and 
to him who is victorious in the first degree shall be given the 
highest office and chief ministry of the gods; and the second to him 
who bears the second palm; and on a similar principle shall all the 
other be assigned to those who come next in order. And when I call the 
rulers servants or ministers of the law, I give them this name not for 
the sake of novelty, but because I certainly believe that upon such 
service or ministry depends the well- or ill-being of the state. For 
that state in which the law is subject and has no authority, I 
perceive to be on the highway to ruin; but I see that the state in 
which the law is above the rulers, and the rulers are the inferiors of 
the law, has salvation, and every blessing which the Gods can confer. 

Cle. Truly, Stranger, you see with the keen vision of age. 

Ath. Why, yes; every man when he is young has that sort of vision 
dullest, and when he is old keenest. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. And now, what is to be the next step? May we not suppose the 
colonists to have arrived, and proceed to make our speech to them? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. "Friends," we say to them, -"God, as the old tradition declares, 
holding in his hand the beginning, middle, and end of all that is, 
travels according to his nature in a straight line towards the 
accomplishment of his end. Justice always accompanies him, and is 
the punisher of those who fall short of the divine law. To justice, he 
who would be happy holds fast, and follows in her company with all 
humility and order; but he who is lifted up with pride, or elated by 



wealth or rank, or beauty, who is young and foolish, and has a soul 
hot with insolence, and thinks that he has no need of any guide or 
ruler, but is able himself to be the guide of others, he, I say, is 
left deserted of God; and being thus deserted, he takes to him 
others who are like himself, and dances about, throwing all things 
into confusion, and many think that he is a great man, but in a 
short time he pays a penalty which justice cannot but approve, and 
is utterly destroyed, and his family and city with him. Wherefore, 
seeing that human things are thus ordered, what should a wise man do 
or think, or not do or think? 

Cle. Every man ought to make up his mind that he will be one of 
the followers of God; there can be no doubt of that. 

Ath . Then what life is agreeable to God, and becoming in his 
followers? One only, expressed once for all in the old saying that 
"like agrees with like, with measure measure," but things which have 
no measure agree neither with themselves nor with the things which 
have. Now God ought to be to us the measure of all things, and not 
man, as men commonly say (Protagoras) : the words are far more true 
of him. And he who would be dear to God must, as far as is possible, 
be like him and such as he is. Wherefore the temperate man is the 
friend of God, for he is like him; and the intemperate man is unlike 
him, and different from him, and unjust. And the same applies to other 
things; and this is the conclusion, which is also the noblest and 
truest of all sayings-that for the good man to offer sacrifice to 
the Gods, and hold converse with them by means of prayers and 
offerings and every kind of service, is the noblest and best of all 
things, and also the most conducive to a happy life, and very fit 
and meet. But with the bad man, the opposite of this is true: for 
the bad man has an impure soul, whereas the good is pure; and from one 
who is polluted, neither good man nor God can without impropriety 
receive gifts. Wherefore the unholy do only waste their much service 
upon the Gods, but when offered by any holy man, such service is 
most acceptable to them. This is the mark at which we ought to aim. 
But what weapons shall we use, and how shall we direct them? In the 
first place, we affirm that next after the Olympian Gods and the 
Gods of the State, honour should be given to the Gods below; they 
should receive everything in even and of the second choice, and ill 
omen, while the odd numbers, and the first choice, and the things of 
lucky omen, are given to the Gods above, by him who would rightly 
hit the mark of piety. Next to these Gods, a wise man will do 
service to the demons or spirits, and then to the heroes, and after 
them will follow the private and ancestral Gods, who are worshipped as 
the law prescribes in the places which are sacred to them. Next 
comes the honour of living parents, to whom, as is meet, we have to 
pay the first and greatest and oldest of all debts, considering that 
all which a man has belongs to those who gave him birth and brought 
him up, and that he must do all that he can to minister to them, 
first, in his property, secondly, in his person, and thirdly, in his 
soul, in return for the endless care and travail which they bestowed 
upon him of old, in the days of his infancy, and which he is now to 
pay back to them when they are old and in the extremity of their need. 
And all his life long he ought never to utter, or to have uttered, 
an unbecoming word to them; for of light and fleeting words the 
penalty is most severe; Nemesis, the messenger of justice, is 
appointed to watch over all such matters. When they are angry and want 
to satisfy their feelings in word or deed, he should give way to them; 
for a father who thinks that he has been wronged by his son may be 
reasonably expected to be very angry. At their death, the most 
moderate funeral is best, neither exceeding the customary expense, nor 
yet falling short of the honour which has been usually shown by the 
former generation to their parents. And let a man not forget to pay 
the yearly tribute of respect to the dead, honouring them chiefly by 
omitting nothing that conduces to a perpetual remembrance of them, and 
giving a reasonable portion of his fortune to the dead. Doing this, 



and living after this manner, we shall receive our reward from the 
Gods and those who are above us [i.e., the demons]; and we shall spend 
our days for the most part in good hope. And how a man ought to 
order what relates to his descendants and his kindred and friends 
and fellow-citizens, and the rites of hospitality taught by Heaven, 
and the intercourse which arises out of all these duties, with a 
view to the embellishment and orderly regulation of his own life-these 
things, I say, the laws, as we proceed with them, will accomplish, 
partly persuading, and partly when natures do not yield to the 
persuasion of custom, chastising them by might and right, and will 
thus render our state, if the Gods co-operate with us, prosperous 
and happy. But of what has to be said, and must be said by the 
legislator who is of my way of thinking, and yet, if said in the 
form of law, would be out of place-of this I think that he may give 
a sample for the instruction of himself and of those for whom he is 
legislating; and then when, as far as he is able, he has gone 
through all the preliminaries, he may proceed to the work of 
legislation. Now, what will be the form of such prefaces? There may be 
a difficulty in including or describing them all under a single 
form, but I think that we may get some notion of them if we can 
guarantee one thing. 

Cle. What is that? 

Ath . I should wish the citizens to be as readily persuaded to virtue 
as possible; this will surely be the aim of the legislator in all 
his laws. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. The proposal appears to me to be of some value; and I think 
that a person will listen with more gentleness and good-will to the 
precepts addressed to him by the legislator, when his soul is not 
altogether unprepared to receive them. Even a little done in the way 
of conciliation gains his ear, and is always worth having. For there 
is no great inclination or readiness on the part of mankind to be made 
as good, or as quickly good, as possible. The case of the many 
proves the wisdom of Hesiod, who says that the road to wickedness is 
smooth and can be travelled without perspiring, because it is so 
very short: 

But before virtue the immortal Gods have placed the sweat of labour, 
and long and steep is the way thither, and rugged at first; but when 
you have reached the top, although difficult before, it is then easy. 

Cle. Yes; and he certainly speaks well. 

Ath. Very true: and now let me tell you the effect which the 
preceding discourse has had upon me. 

Cle. Proceed. 

Ath. Suppose that we have a little conversation with the legislator, 
and say to him-"0, legislator, speak; if you know what we ought to say 
and do, you can surely tell." 

Cle. Of course he can. 

Ath. "Did we not hear you just now saying, that the legislator ought 
not to allow the poets to do what they liked? For that they would 
not know in which of their words they went against the laws, to the 
hurt of the state." 

Cle. That is true. 

Ath. May we not fairly make answer to him on behalf of the poets? 

Cle. What answer shall we make to him? 

Ath. That the poet, according to the tradition which has ever 
prevailed among us, and is accepted of all men, when he sits down on 
the tripod of the muse, is not in his right mind; like a fountain, 
he allows to flow out freely whatever comes in, and his art being 
imitative, he is often compelled to represent men of opposite 
dispositions, and thus to contradict himself; neither can he tell 
whether there is more truth in one thing that he has said than in 
another, this is not the case in a law; the legislator must give not 



two rules about the same thing, but one only. Take an example from 
what you have just been saying. Of three kinds of funerals, there is 
one which is too extravagant, another is too niggardly, the third is a 
mean; and you choose and approve and order the last without 
qualification. But if I had an extremely rich wife, and she bade me 
bury her and describe her burial in a poem, I should praise the 
extravagant sort; and a poor miserly man, who had not much money to 
spend, would approve of the niggardly; and the man of moderate 
means, who was himself moderate, would praise a moderate funeral. 
Now you in the capacity of legislator must not barely say "a 
moderate funeral," but you must define what moderation is, and how 
much; unless you are definite, you must not suppose that you are 
speaking a language that can become law. 

Cle. Certainly not. 

Ath . And is our legislator to have no preface to his laws, but to 
say at once Do this, avoid that-and then holding the penalty in 
terrorem to go on to another law; offering never a word of advice or 
exhortation to those for whom he is legislating, after the manner of 
some doctors? For of doctors, as I may remind you, some have a 
gentler, others a ruder method of cure; and as children ask the doctor 
to be gentle with them, so we will ask the legislator to cure our 
disorders with the gentlest remedies. What I mean to say is, that 
besides doctors there are doctors' servants, who are also styled 
doctors . 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. And whether they are slaves or freemen makes no difference; 
they acquire their knowledge of medicine by obeying and observing 
their masters; empirically and not according to the natural way of 
learning, as the manner of freemen is, who have learned scientifically 
themselves the art which they impart scientifically to their pupils. 
You are aware that there are these two classes of doctors? 

Cle. To be sure. 

Ath. And did you ever observe that there are two classes of patients 
in states, slaves and freemen; and the slave doctors run about and 
cure the slaves, or wait for them in the dispensaries-practitioners of 
this sort never talk to their patients individually, or let them 
talk about their own individual complaints? The slave doctor 
prescribes what mere experience suggests, as if he had exact 
knowledge; and when he has given his orders, like a tyrant, he 
rushes off with equal assurance to some other servant who is ill; 
and so he relieves the master of the house of the care of his 
invalid slaves. But the other doctor, who is a freeman, attends and 
practises upon freemen; and he carries his enquiries far back, and 
goes into the nature of the disorder; he enters into discourse with 
the patient and with his friends, and is at once getting information 
from the sick man, and also instructing him as far as he is able, 
and he will not prescribe for him until he has first convinced him; at 
last, when he has brought the patient more and more under his 
persuasive influences and set him on the road to health, he attempts 
to effect a cure. Now which is the better way of proceeding in a 
physician and in a trainer? Is he the better who accomplishes his ends 
in a double way, or he who works in one way, and that the ruder and 
inferior? 

Cle. I should say, Stranger, that the double way is far better. 

Ath. Should you like to see an example of the double and single 
method in legislation? 

Cle. Certainly I should. 

Ath. What will be our first law? Will not the the order of nature, 
begin by making regulations for states about births? 

Cle. He will. 

Ath. In all states the birth of children goes back to the connection 
of marriage? 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. And, according to the true order, the laws relating to marriage 



should be those which are first determined in every state? 

Cle. Quite so. 

Ath . Then let me first give the law of marriage in a simple form; it 
may run as follows: -A man shall marry between the ages of thirty and 
thirty-five, or, if he does not, he shall pay such and such a fine, or 
shall suffer the loss of such and such privileges. This would be the 
simple law about marriage. The double law would run thus: -A man 
shall marry between the ages of thirty and thirty-five, considering 
that in a manner the human race naturally partakes of immortality, 
which every man is by nature inclined to desire to the utmost; for the 
desire of every man that he may become famous, and not lie in the 
grave without a name, is only the love of continuance. Now mankind are 
coeval with all time, and are ever following, and will ever follow, 
the course of time; and so they are immortal, because they leave 
children's children behind them, and partake of immortality in the 
unity of generation. And for a man voluntarily to deprive himself of 
this gift, as he deliberately does who will not have a wife or 
children, is impiety. He who obeys the law shall be free, and shall 
pay no fine; but he who is disobedient, and does not marry, when he 
has arrived at the age of thirty-five, shall pay a yearly fine of a 
certain amount, in order that he may not imagine his celibacy to bring 
ease and profit to him; and he shall not share in the honours which 
the young men in the state give to the aged. Comparing now the two 
forms of the law, you will be able to arrive at a judgment about any 
other laws-whether they should be double in length even when shortest, 
because they have to persuade as well as threaten, or whether they 
shall only threaten and be of half the length. 

Meg. The shorter form, Stranger, would be more in accordance with 
Lacedaemonian custom; although, for my own part, if any one were to 
ask me which I myself prefer in the state, I should certainly 
determine in favour of the longer; and I would have every law made 
after the same pattern, if I had to choose. But I think that 
Cleinias is the person to be consulted, for his is the state which 
is going to use these laws. 

Cle. Thank you, Megillus. 

Ath. Whether, in the abstract, words are to be many or few, is a 
very foolish question; the best form, and not the shortest, is to be 
approved; nor is length at all to be regarded. Of the two forms of law 
which have been recited, the one is not only twice as good in 
practical usefulness as the other, but the case is like that of the 
two kinds of doctors, which I was just now mentioning. And yet 
legislators never appear to have considered that they have two 
instruments which they might use in legislation-persuasion and 
force; for in dealing with the rude and uneducated multitude, they use 
the one only as far as they can; they do not mingle persuasion with 
coercion, but employ force pure and simple. Moreover, there is a third 
point, sweet friends, which ought to be, and never is, regarded in our 
existing laws. 

Cle. What is it? 

Ath. A point arising out of our previous discussion, which comes 
into my mind in some mysterious way. All this time, from early dawn 
until noon, have we been talking about laws in this charming 
retreat: now we are going to promulgate our laws, and what has 
preceded was only the prelude of them. Why do I mention this? For this 
reason : -Because all discourses and vocal exercises have preludes and 
overtures, which are a sort of artistic beginnings intended to help 
the strain which is to be performed; lyric measures and music of every 
other kind have preludes framed with wonderful care. But of the 
truer and higher strain of law and politics, no one has ever yet 
uttered any prelude, or composed or published any, as though there was 
no such thing in nature. Whereas our present discussion seems to me to 
imply that there is; -these double laws, of which we were speaking, are 
not exactly double, but they are in two parts, the law and the prelude 
of the law. The arbitrary command, which was compared to the 



commands of doctors, whom we described as of the meaner sort, was 
the law pure and simple; and that which preceded, and was described by 
our friend here as being hortatory only, was, although in fact, an 
exhortation, likewise analogous to the preamble of a discourse. For 
I imagine that all this language of conciliation, which the legislator 
has been uttering in the preface of the law, was intended to create 
goodwill in the person whom he addressed, in order that, by reason 
of this good-will, he might more intelligently receive his command, 
that is to say, the law. And therefore, in my way of speaking, this is 
more rightly described as the preamble than as the matter of the 
law. And I must further proceed to observe, that to all his laws, 
and to each separately, the legislator should prefix a preamble; he 
should remember how great will be the difference between them, 
according as they have, or have not, such preambles, as in the case 
already given. 

Cle. The lawgiver, if he asks my opinion, will certainly legislate 
in the form which you advise. 

Ath . I think that you are right, Cleinias, in affirming that all 
laws have preambles, and that throughout the whole of this work of 
legislation every single law should have a suitable preamble at the 
beginning; for that which is to follow is most important, and it makes 
all the difference whether we clearly remember the preambles or not. 
Yet we should be wrong in requiring that all laws, small and great 
alike, should have preambles of the same kind, any more than all songs 
or speeches; although they may be natural to all, they are not 
always necessary, and whether they are to be employed or not has in 
each case to be left to the judgment of the speaker or the musician, 
or, in the present instance, of the lawgiver. 

Cle. That I think is most true. And now, Stranger, without delay let 
us return to the argument, and, as people say in play, make a second 
and better beginning, if you please, with the principles which we have 
been laying down, which we never thought of regarding as a preamble 
before, but of which we may now make a preamble, and not merely 
consider them to be chance topics of discourse. Let us acknowledge, 
then, that we have a preamble. About the honour of the Gods and the 
respect of parents, enough has been already said; and we may proceed 
to the topics which follow next in order, until the preamble is deemed 
by you to be complete; and after that you shall go through the laws 
themselves . 

Ath. I understand you to mean that we have made a sufficient 
preamble about Gods and demi-gods, and about parents living or dead; 
and now you would have us bring the rest of the subject into the light 
of day? 

Cle. Exactly. 

Ath. After this, as is meet and for the interest of us all, I the 
speaker, and you the listeners, will try to estimate all that 
relates to the souls and bodies and properties of the citizens, as 
regards both their occupations and arrive, as far as in us lies, at 
the nature of education. These then are the topics which follow next 
in order. 

Cle. Very good. 

BOOK V 

Athenian Stranger. Listen, all ye who have just now heard the laws 
about Gods, and about our dear f oref athers : -Of all the things which 
a man has, next to the Gods, his soul is the most divine and most 
truly his own. Now in every man there are two parts: the better and 
superior, which rules, and the worse and inferior, which serves; and 
the ruling part of him is always to be preferred to the subject. 
Wherefore I am right in bidding every one next to the Gods, who are 
our masters, and those who in order follow them [i.e., the demons], to 
honour his own soul, which every one seems to honour, but no one 
honours as he ought; for honour is a divine good, and no evil thing is 
honourable; and he who thinks that he can honour the soul by word or 



gift, or any sort of compliance, without making her in any way better, 
seems to honour her, but honours her not at all. For example, every 
man, from his very boyhood, fancies that he is able to know 
everything, and thinks that he honours his soul by praising her, and 
he is very ready to let her do whatever she may like. But I mean to 
say that in acting thus he injures his soul, and is far from honouring 
her; whereas, in our opinion, he ought to honour her as second only to 
the Gods. Again, when a man thinks that others are to be blamed, and 
not himself, for the errors which he has committed from time to 
time, and the many and great evils which befell him in consequence, 
and is always fancying himself to be exempt and innocent, he is 
under the idea that he is honouring his soul; whereas the very reverse 
is the fact, for he is really injuring her. And when, disregarding the 
word and approval of the legislator, he indulges in pleasure, then 
again he is far from honouring her; he only dishonours her, and 
fills her full of evil and remorse; or when he does not endure to 
the end the labours and fears and sorrows and pains which the 
legislator approves, but gives way before them, then, by yielding, 
he does not honour the soul, but by all such conduct he makes her to 
be dishonourable; nor when he thinks that life at any price is a good, 
does he honour her, but yet once more he dishonours her; for the 
soul having a notion that the world below is all evil, he yields to 
her, and does not resist and teach or convince her that, for aught she 
knows, the world of the Gods below, instead of being evil, may be 
the greatest of all goods. Again, when any one prefers beauty to 
virtue, what is this but the real and utter dishonour of the soul? For 
such a preference implies that the body is more honourable than the 
soul; and this is false, for there is nothing of earthly birth which 
is more honourable than the heavenly, and he who thinks otherwise of 
the soul has no idea how greatly he undervalues this wonderful 
possession; nor, again, when a person is willing, or not unwilling, to 
acquire dishonest gains, does he then honour his soul with gifts-far 
otherwise; he sells her glory and honour for a small piece of gold; 
but all the gold which is under or upon the earth is not enough to 
give in exchange for virtue. In a word, I may say that he who does not 
estimate the base and evil, the good and noble, according to the 
standard of the legislator, and abstain in every possible way from the 
one and practise the other to the utmost of his power, does not know 
that in all these respects he is most foully and disgracefully abusing 
his soul, which is the divinest part of man; for no one, as I may say, 
ever considers that which is declared to be the greatest penalty of 
evil-doing--namely, to grow into the likeness of bad men, and 
growing like them to fly from the conversation of the good, and be cut 
off from them, and cleave to and follow after the company of the 
bad. And he who is joined to them must do and suffer what such men 
by nature do and say to one another-a suffering which is not justice 
but retribution; for justice and the just are noble, whereas 
retribution is the suffering which waits upon injustice; and whether a 
man escape or endure this, he is miserable-in the former case, because 
he is not cured; while in the latter, he perishes in order that the 
rest of mankind may be saved. 

Speaking generally, our glory is to follow the better and improve 
the inferior, which is susceptible of improvement, as far as this is 
possible. And of all human possessions, the soul is by nature most 
inclined to avoid the evil, and track out and find the chief good; 
which when a man has found, he should take up his abode with it during 
the remainder of his life. Wherefore the soul also is second [or 
next to God] in honour; and third, as every one will perceive, comes 
the honour of the body in natural order. Having determined this, we 
have next to consider that there is a natural honour of the body, 
and that of honours some are true and some are counterfeit. To 
decide which are which is the business of the legislator; and he, I 
suspect, would intimate that they are as follows : -Honour is not to 
be given to the fair body, or to the strong or the swift or the 



tall, or to the healthy body (although many may think otherwise), 
any more than to their opposites; but the mean states of all these 
habits are by far the safest and most moderate; for the one extreme 
makes the soul braggart and insolent, and the other, illiberal and 
base; and money, and property, and distinction all go to the same 
tune. The excess of any of these things is apt to be a source of 
hatreds and divisions among states and individuals; and the defect 
of them is commonly a cause of slavery. And, therefore, I would not 
have any one fond of heaping up riches for the sake of his children, 
in order that he may leave them as rich as possible. For the 
possession of great wealth is of no use, either to them or to the 
state. The condition of youth which is free from flattery, and at 
the same time not in need of the necessaries of life, is the best 
and most harmonious of all, being in accord and agreement with our 
nature, and making life to be most entirely free from sorrow. Let 
parents, then, bequeath to their children not a heap of riches, but 
the spirit of reverence. We, indeed, fancy that they will inherit 
reverence from us, if we rebuke them when they show a want of 
reverence. But this quality is not really imparted to them by the 
present style of admonition, which only tells them that the young 
ought always to be reverential. A sensible legislator will rather 
exhort the elders to reverence the younger, and above all to take heed 
that no young man sees or hears one of themselves doing or saying 
anything disgraceful; for where old men have no shame, there young men 
will most certainly be devoid of reverence. The best way of training 
the young is to train yourself at the same time; not to admonish them, 
but to be always carrying out your own admonitions in practice. He who 
honours his kindred, and reveres those who share in the same Gods 
and are of the same blood and family, may fairly expect that the 
Gods who preside over generation will be propitious to him, and will 
quicken his seed. And he who deems the services which his friends 
and acquaintances do for him, greater and more important than they 
themselves deem them, and his own favours to them less than theirs 
to him, will have their good-will in the intercourse of life. And 
surely in his relations to the state and his fellow citizens, he is by 
far the best, who rather than the Olympic or any other victory of 
peace or war, desires to win the palm of obedience to the laws of 
his country, and who, of all mankind, is the person reputed to have 
obeyed them best through life. In his relations to strangers, a man 
should consider that a contract is a most holy thing, and that all 
concerns and wrongs of strangers are more directly dependent on the 
protection of God, than wrongs done to citizens; for the stranger, 
having no kindred and friends, is more to be pitied by Gods and men. 
Wherefore, also, he who is most able to avenge him is most zealous 
in his cause; and he who is most able is the genius and the god of the 
stranger, who follow in the train of Zeus, the god of strangers. And 
for this reason, he who has a spark of caution in him, will do his 
best to pass through life without sinning against the stranger. And of 
offences committed, whether against strangers or fellow-countrymen, 
that against suppliants is the greatest. For the god who witnessed 
to the agreement made with the suppliant, becomes in a special 
manner the guardian of the sufferer; and he will certainly not 
suffer unavenged. 

Thus we have fairly described the manner in which a man is to act 
about his parents, and himself, and his own affairs; and in relation 
to the state, and his friends, and kindred, both in what concerns 
his own countrymen, and in what concerns the stranger. We will now 
consider what manner of man he must be who would best pass through 
life in respect of those other things which are not matters of law, 
but of praise and blame only; in which praise and blame educate a man, 
and make him more tractable and amenable to the laws which are about 
to be imposed. 

Truth is the beginning of every good thing, both to Gods and men; 
and he who would be blessed and happy, should be from the first a 



partaker of the truth, that he may live a true man as long as 
possible, for then he can be trusted; but he is not to be trusted 
who loves voluntary falsehood, and he who loves involuntary 
falsehood is a fool. Neither condition is enviable, for the 
untrustworthy and ignorant has no friend, and as time advances he 
becomes known, and lays up in store for himself isolation in crabbed 
age when life is on the wane: so that, whether his children or friends 
are alive or not, he is equally solitary . -Worthy of honour is he who 
does no injustice, and of more than twofold honour, if he not only 
does no injustice himself, but hinders others from doing any; the 
first may count as one man, the second is worth many men, because he 
informs the rulers of the injustice of others. And yet more highly 
to be esteemed is he who co-operates with the rulers in correcting the 
citizens as far as he can-he shall be proclaimed the great and perfect 
citizen, and bear away the palm of virtue. The same praise may be 
given about temperance and wisdom, and all other goods which may be 
imparted to others, as well as acquired by a man for himself; he who 
imparts them shall be honoured as the man of men, and he who is 
willing, yet is not able, may be allowed the second place; but he 
who is jealous and will not, if he can help, allow others to partake 
in a friendly way of any good, is deserving of blame: the good, 
however, which he has, is not to be undervalued by us because it is 
possessed by him, but must be acquired by us also to the utmost of our 
power. Let every man, then, freely strive for the prize of virtue, and 
let there be no envy. For the unenvious nature increases the greatness 
of states-he himself contends in the race, blasting the fair fame of 
no man; but the envious, who thinks that he ought to get the better by 
defaming others, is less energetic himself in the pursuit of true 
virtue, and reduces his rivals to despair by his unjust slanders of 
them. And so he makes the whole city to enter the arena untrained in 
the practice of virtue, and diminishes her glory as far as in him 
lies. Now every man should be valiant, but he should also be gentle. 
From the cruel, or hardly curable, or altogether incurable acts of 
injustice done to him by others, a man can only escape by fighting and 
defending himself and conquering, and by never ceasing to punish them; 
and no man who is not of a noble spirit is able to accomplish this. As 
to the actions of those who do evil, but whose evil is curable, in the 
first place, let us remember that the unjust man is not unjust of 
his own free will. For no man of his own free will would choose to 
possess the greatest of evils, and least of all in the most honourable 
part of himself. And the soul, as we said, is of a truth deemed by all 
men the most honourable. In the soul, then, which is the most 
honourable part of him, no one, if he could help, would admit, or 
allow to continue the greatest of evils. The unrighteous and vicious 
are always to be pitied in any case; and one can afford to forgive 
as well as pity him who is curable, and refrain and calm one's 
anger, not getting into a passion, like a woman, and nursing 
ill-feeling. But upon him who is incapable of reformation and wholly 
evil, the vials of our wrath should be poured out; wherefore I say 
that good men ought, when occasion demands, to be both gentle and 
passionate . 

Of all evils the greatest is one which in the souls of most men is 
innate, and which a man is always excusing in himself and never 
correcting; mean, what is expressed in the saying that "Every man by 
nature is and ought to be his own friend." Whereas the excessive 
love of self is in reality the source to each man of all offences; for 
the lover is blinded about the beloved, so that he judges wrongly of 
the just, the good, and the honourable, and thinks that he ought 
always to prefer himself to the truth. But he who would be a great man 
ought to regard, not himself or his interests, but what is just, 
whether the just act be his own or that of another. Through a 
similar error men are induced to fancy that their own ignorance is 
wisdom, and thus we who may be truly said to know nothing, think 
that we know all things; and because we will not let others act for us 



in what we do not know, we are compelled to act amiss ourselves. 
Wherefore let every man avoid excess of self-love, and condescend to 
follow a better man than himself, not allowing any false shame to 
stand in the way. There are also minor precepts which are often 
repeated, and are quite as useful; a man should recollect them and 
remind himself of them. For when a stream is flowing out, there should 
be water flowing in too; and recollection flows in while wisdom is 
departing. Therefore I say that a man should refrain from excess 
either of laughter or tears, and should exhort his neighbour to do the 
same; he should veil his immoderate sorrow or joy, and seek to 
behave with propriety, whether the genius of his good fortune 
remains with him, or whether at the crisis of his fate, when he 
seems to be mounting high and steep places, the Gods oppose him in 
some of his enterprises. Still he may ever hope, in the case of good 
men, that whatever afflictions are to befall them in the future God 
will lessen, and that present evils he will change for the better; and 
as to the goods which are the opposite of these evils, he will not 
doubt that they will be added to them, and that they will be 
fortunate. Such should be men's hopes, and such should be the 
exhortations with which they admonish one another, never losing an 
opportunity, but on every occasion distinctly reminding themselves and 
others of all these things, both in jest and earnest. 

Enough has now been said of divine matters, both as touching the 
practices which men ought to follow, and as to the sort of persons who 
they ought severally to be. But of human things we have not as yet 
spoken, and we must; for to men we are discoursing and not to Gods. 
Pleasures and pains and desires are a part of human nature, and on 
them every mortal being must of necessity hang and depend with the 
most eager interest. And therefore we must praise the noblest life, 
not only as the fairest in appearance, but as being one which, if a 
man will only taste, and not, while still in his youth, desert for 
another, he will find to surpass also in the very thing which we all 
of us desire-I mean in having a greater amount of pleasure and less of 
pain during the whole of life. And this will be plain, if a man has 
a true taste of them, as will be quickly and clearly seen. But what is 
a true taste? That we have to learn from the argument-the point 
being what is according to nature, and what is not according to 
nature. One life must be compared with another, the more pleasurable 
with the more painful, after this manner: -We desire to have 
pleasure, but we neither desire nor choose pain; and the neutral state 
we are ready to take in exchange, not for pleasure but for pain; and 
we also wish for less pain and greater pleasure, but less pleasure and 
greater pain we do not wish for; and an equal balance of either we 
cannot venture to assert that we should desire. And all these differ 
or do not differ severally in number and magnitude and intensity and 
equality, and in the opposites of these when regarded as objects of 
choice, in relation to desire. And such being the necessary order of 
things, we wish for that life in which there are many great and 
intense elements of pleasure and pain, and in which the pleasures 
are in excess, and do not wish for that in which the opposites exceed; 
nor, again, do we wish for that in which the elements of either are 
small and few and feeble, and the pains exceed. And when, as I said 
before, there is a balance of pleasure and pain in life, this is to be 
regarded by us as the balanced life; while other lives are preferred 
by us because they exceed in what we like, or are rejected by us 
because they exceed in what we dislike. All the lives of men may be 
regarded by us as bound up in these, and we must also consider what 
sort of lives we by nature desire. And if we wish for any others, I 
say that we desire them only through some ignorance and inexperience 
of the lives which actually exist. 

Now, what lives are they, and how many in which, having searched out 
and beheld the objects of will and desire and their opposites, and 
making of them a law, choosing, I say, the dear and the pleasant and 
the best and noblest, a man may live in the happiest way possible? Let 



us say that the temperate life is one kind of life, and the rational 
another, and the courageous another, and the healthful another; and to 
these four let us oppose four other lives-the foolish, the cowardly, 
the intemperate, the diseased. He who knows the temperate life will 
describe it as in all things gentle, having gentle pains and gentle 
pleasures, and placid desires and loves not insane; whereas the 
intemperate life is impetuous in all things, and has violent pains and 
pleasures, and vehement and stinging desires, and loves utterly 
insane; and in the temperate life the pleasures exceed the pains, 
but in the intemperate life the pains exceed the pleasures in 
greatness and number and frequency. Hence one of the two lives is 
naturally and necessarily more pleasant and the other more painful, 
and he who would live pleasantly cannot possibly choose to live 
intemperately . And if this is true, the inference clearly is that no 
man is voluntarily intemperate; but that the whole multitude of men 
lack temperance in their lives, either from ignorance, or from want of 
self-control, or both. And the same holds of the diseased and 
healthy life; they both have pleasures and pains, but in health the 
pleasure exceeds the pain, and in sickness the pain exceeds the 
pleasure. Now our intention in choosing the lives is not that the 
painful should exceed, but the life in which pain is exceeded by 
pleasure we have determined to be the more pleasant life. And we 
should say that the temperate life has the elements both of pleasure 
and pain fewer and smaller and less frequent than the intemperate, and 
the wise life than the foolish life, and the life of courage than 
the life of cowardice; one of each pair exceeding in pleasure and 
the other in pain, the courageous surpassing the cowardly, and the 
wise exceeding the foolish. And so the one dass of lives exceeds the 
other class in pleasure; the temperate and courageous and wise and 
healthy exceed the cowardly and foolish and intemperate and diseased 
lives; and generally speaking, that which has any virtue, whether of 
body or soul, is pleasanter than the vicious life, and far superior in 
beauty and rectitude and excellence and reputation, and causes him who 
lives accordingly to be infinitely happier than the opposite. 

Enough of the preamble; and now the laws should follow; or, to speak 
more correctly, outline of them. As, then, in the case of a web or any 
other tissue, the warp and the woof cannot be made of the same 
materials, but the warp is necessarily superior as being stronger, and 
having a certain character of firmness, whereas the woof is softer and 
has a proper degree of elasticity; -in a similar manner those who are 
to hold great offices in states, should be distinguished truly in each 
case from those who have been but slenderly proven by education. Let 
us suppose that there are two parts in the constitution of a state-one 
the creation of offices, the other the laws which are assigned to them 
to administer. 

But, before all this, comes the following consideration : -The 
shepherd or herdsman, or breeder of horses or the like, when he has 
received his animals will not begin to train them until he has first 
purified them in a manner which befits a community of animals; he will 
divide the healthy and unhealthy, and the good breed and the bad 
breed, and will send away the unhealthy and badly bred to other herds, 
and tend the rest, reflecting that his labours will be vain and have 
no effect, either on the souls or bodies of those whom nature and 
ill nurture have corrupted, and that they will involve in 
destruction the pure and healthy nature and being of every other 
animal, if he should neglect to purify them. Now the case of other 
animals is not so important-they are only worth introducing for the 
sake of illustration; but what relates to man is of the highest 
importance; and the legislator should make enquiries, and indicate 
what is proper for each one in the way of purification and of any 
other procedure. Take, for example, the purification of a city-there 
are many kinds of purification, some easier and others more difficult; 
and some of them, and the best and most difficult of them, the 
legislator, if he be also a despot, may be able to effect; but the 



legislator, who, not being a despot, sets up a new government and 
laws, even if he attempt the mildest of purgations, may think 
himself happy if he can complete his work. The best kind of 
purification is painful, like similar cures in medicine, involving 
righteous punishment and inflicting death or exile in the last resort. 
For in this way we commonly dispose of great sinners who are 
incurable, and are the greatest injury of the whole state. But the 
milder form of purification is as follows : -when men who have 
nothing, and are in want of food, show a disposition to follow their 
leaders in an attack on the property of the rich-these, who are the 
natural plague of the state, are sent away by the legislator in a 
friendly spirit as far as he is able; and this dismissal of them is 
euphemistically termed a colony. And every legislator should 
contrive to do this at once. Our present case, however, is peculiar. 
For there is no need to devise any colony or purifying separation 
under the circumstances in which we are placed. But as, when many 
streams flow together from many sources, whether springs or mountain 
torrents, into a single lake, we ought to attend and take care that 
the confluent waters should be perfectly clear, and in order to effect 
this, should pump and draw off and divert impurities, so in every 
political arrangement there may be trouble and danger. But, seeing 
that we are now only discoursing and not acting, let our selection 
be supposed to be completed, and the desired purity attained. Touching 
evil men, who want to join and be citizens of our state, after we have 
tested them by every sort of persuasion and for a sufficient time, 
we will prevent them from coming; but the good we will to the utmost 
of our ability receive as friends with open arms. 

Another piece of good fortune must not be forgotten, which, as we 
were saying, the Heraclid colony had, and which is also ours-that we 
have escaped division of land and the abolition of debts; for these 
are always a source of dangerous contention, and a city which is 
driven by necessity to legislate upon such matters can neither allow 
the old ways to continue, nor yet venture to alter them. We must 
have recourse to prayers, so to speak, and hope that a slight change 
may be cautiously effected in a length of time. And such a change 
can be accomplished by those who have abundance of land, and having 
also many debtors, are willing, in a kindly spirit, to share with 
those who are in want, sometimes remitting and sometimes giving, 
holding fast in a path of moderation, and deeming poverty to be the 
increase of a man's desires and not the diminution of his property. 
For this is the great beginning of salvation to a state, and upon this 
lasting basis may be erected afterwards whatever political order is 
suitable under the circumstances; but if the change be based upon an 
unsound principle, the future administration of the country will be 
full of difficulties. That is a danger which, as I am saying, is 
escaped by us, and yet we had better say how, if we had not escaped, 
we might have escaped; and we may venture now to assert that no 
other way of escape, whether narrow or broad, can be devised but 
freedom from avarice and a sense of justice-upon this rock our city 
shall be built; for there ought to be no disputes among citizens about 
property. If there are quarrels of long standing among them, no 
legislator of any degree of sense will proceed a step in the 
arrangement of the state until they are settled. But that they to whom 
God has given, as he has to us, to be the founders of a new state as 
yet free from enmity-that they should create themselves enmities by 
their mode of distributing lands and houses, would be superhuman folly 
and wickedness. 

How then can we rightly order the distribution of the land? In the 
first place, the number of the citizens has to be determined, and also 
the number and size of the divisions into which they will have to be 
formed; and the land and the houses will then have to be apportioned 
by us as fairly as we can. The number of citizens can only be 
estimated satisfactorily in relation to the territory and the 
neighbouring states. The territory must be sufficient to maintain a 



certain number of inhabitants in a moderate way of life-more than this 
is not required; and the number of citizens should be sufficient to 
defend themselves against the injustice of their neighbours, and 
also to give them the power of rendering efficient aid to their 
neighbours when they are wronged. After having taken a survey of 
theirs and their neighbours' territory, we will determine the limits 
of them in fact as well as in theory. And now, let us proceed to 
legislate with a view to perfecting the form and outline of our state. 
The number of our citizens shall be 5040-this will be a convenient 
number; and these shall be owners of the land and protectors of the 
allotment. The houses and the land will be divided in the same way, so 
that every man may correspond to a lot. Let the whole number be 
first divided into two parts, and then into three; and the number is 
further capable of being divided into four or five parts, or any 
number of parts up to ten. Every legislator ought to know so much 
arithmetic as to be able to tell what number is most likely to be 
useful to all cities; and we are going to take that number which 
contains the greatest and most regular and unbroken series of 
divisions. The whole of number has every possible division, and the 
number 5040 can be divided by exactly fifty-nine divisors, and ten 
of these proceed without interval from one to ten: this will furnish 
numbers for war and peace, and for all contracts and dealings, 
including taxes and divisions of the land. These properties of 
number should be ascertained at leisure by those who are bound by 
law to know them; for they are true, and should be proclaimed at the 
foundation of the city, with a view to use. Whether the legislator 
is establishing a new state or restoring an old and decayed one, in 
respect of Gods and temples-the temples which are to be built in 
each city, and the Gods or demi-gods after whom they are to be 
called-if he be a man of sense, he will make no change in anything 
which the oracle of Delphi, or Dodona, or the God Ammon, or any 
ancient tradition has sanctioned in whatever manner, whether by 
apparitions or reputed inspiration of Heaven, in obedience to which 
mankind have established sacrifices in connection with mystic rites, 
either originating on the spot, or derived from Tyrrhenia or Cyprus or 
some other place, and on the strength of which traditions they have 
consecrated oracles and images, and altars and temples, and 
portioned out a sacred domain for each of them. The least part of 
all these ought not to be disturbed by the legislator; but he should 
assign to the several districts some God, or demi-god, or hero, and, 
in the distribution of the soil, should give to these first their 
chosen domain and all things fitting, that the inhabitants of the 
several districts may meet at fixed times, and that they may readily 
supply their various wants, and entertain one another with sacrifices, 
and become friends and acquaintances; for there is no greater good 
in a state than that the citizens should be known to one another. When 
not light but darkness and ignorance of each other's characters 
prevails among them, no one will receive the honour of which he is 
deserving, or the power or the justice to which he is fairly entitled: 
wherefore, in every state, above all things, every man should take 
heed that he have no deceit in him, but that he be always true and 
simple; and that no deceitful person take any advantage of him. 

The next move in our pastime of legislation, like the withdrawal 
of the stone from the holy line in the game of draughts, being an 
unusual one, will probably excite wonder when mentioned for the 
first time. And yet, if a man will only reflect and weigh the matter 
with care, he will see that our city is ordered in a manner which, 
if not the best, is the second best. Perhaps also some one may not 
approve this form, because he thinks that such a constitution is ill 
adapted to a legislator who has not despotic power. The truth is, that 
there are three forms of government, the best, the second and the 
third best, which we may just mention, and then leave the selection to 
the ruler of the settlement. Following this method in the present 
instance, let us speak of the states which are respectively first, 



second, and third in excellence, and then we will leave the choice 
to Cleinias now, or to any one else who may hereafter have to make a 
similar choice among constitutions, and may desire to give to his 
state some feature which is congenial to him and which he approves 
in his own country. 

The first and highest form of the state and of the government and of 
the law is that in which there prevails most widely the ancient 
saying, that "Friends have all things in common." Whether there is 
anywhere now, or will ever be, this communion of women and children 
and of property, in which the private and individual is altogether 
banished from life, and things which are by nature private, such as 
eyes and ears and hands, have become common, and in some way see and 
hear and act in common, and all men express praise and blame and 
feel joy and sorrow on the same occasions, and whatever laws there are 
unite the city to the utmost-whether all this is possible or not, I 
say that no man, acting upon any other principle, will ever constitute 
a state which will be truer or better or more exalted in virtue. 
Whether such a state is governed by Gods or sons of Gods, one, or more 
than one, happy are the men who, living after this manner, dwell 
there; and therefore to this we are to look for the pattern of the 
state, and to cling to this, and to seek with all our might for one 
which is like this. The state which we have now in hand, when created, 
will be nearest to immortality and the only one which takes the second 
place; and after that, by the grace of God, we will complete the third 
one. And we will begin by speaking of the nature and origin of the 
second. 

Let the citizens at once distribute their land and houses, and not 
till the land in common, since a community of goods goes beyond 
their proposed origin, and nurture, and education. But in making the 
distribution, let the several possessors feel that their particular 
lots also belong to the whole city; and seeing that the earth is their 
parent, let them tend her more carefully than children do their 
mother. For she is a goddess and their queen, and they are her 
mortal subjects. Such also are the feelings which they ought to 
entertain to the Gods and demi-gods of the country. And in order 
that the distribution may always remain, they ought to consider 
further that the present number of families should be always retained, 
and neither increased nor diminished. This may be secured for the 
whole city in the following manner: -Let the possessor of a lot leave 
the one of his children who is his best beloved, and one only, to be 
the heir of his dwelling, and his successor in the duty of ministering 
to the Gods, the state and the family, as well the living members of 
it as those who are departed when he comes into the inheritance; but 
of his other children, if he have more than one, he shall give the 
females in marriage according to the law to be hereafter enacted, 
and the males he shall distribute as sons to those citizens who have 
no children and are disposed to receive them; or if there should be 
none such, and particular individuals have too many children, male 
or female, or too few, as in the case of barrenness-in all these cases 
let the highest and most honourable magistracy created by us judge and 
determine what is to be done with the redundant or deficient, and 
devise a means that the number of 5040 houses shall always remain 
the same. There are many ways of regulating numbers; for they in 
whom generation is affluent may be made to refrain, and, on the 
other hand, special care may be taken to increase the number of births 
by rewards and stigmas, or we may meet the evil by the elder men 
giving advice and administering rebuke to the younger-in this way 
the object may be attained. And if after all there be very great 
difficulty about the equal preservation of the 5040 houses, and 
there be an excess of citizens, owing to the too great love of those 
who live together, and we are at our wits' end, there is still the old 
device often mentioned by us of sending out a colony, which will 
part friends with us, and be composed of suitable persons. If, on 
the other hand, there come a wave bearing a deluge of disease, or a 



plague of war, and the inhabitants become much fewer than the 
appointed number by reason of bereavement, we ought not to introduce 
citizens of spurious birth and education, if this can be avoided; 
but even God is said not to be able to fight against necessity. 

Wherefore let us suppose this "high argument" of ours to address 
us in the following terms: -Best of men, cease not to honour 
according to nature similarity and equality and sameness and 
agreement, as regards number and every good and noble quality. And, 
above all, observe the aforesaid number 5040 throughout life; in the 
second place, do not disparage the small and modest proportions of the 
inheritances which you received in the distribution, by buying and 
selling them to one another. For then neither will the God who gave 
you the lot be your friend, nor will the legislator; and indeed the 
law declares to the disobedient that these are the terms upon which he 
may or may not take the lot. In the first place, the earth as he is 
informed is sacred to the Gods; and in the next place, priests and 
priestesses will offer up prayers over a first, and second, and even a 
third sacrifice, that he who buys or sells the houses or lands which 
he has received, may suffer the punishment which he deserves; and 
these their prayers they shall write down in the temples, on tablets 
of cypress-wood, for the instruction of posterity. Moreover they 
will set a watch over all these things, that they may be observed; -the 
magistracy which has the sharpest eyes shall keep watch that any 
infringement of these commands may be discovered and punished as 
offences both against the law and the God. How great is the benefit of 
such an ordinance to all those cities, which obey and are administered 
accordingly, no bad man can ever know, as the old proverb says; but 
only a man of experience and good habits. For in such an order of 
things there will not be much opportunity for making money; no man 
either ought, or indeed will be allowed, to exercise any ignoble 
occupation, of which the vulgarity is a matter of reproach to a 
freeman, and should never want to acquire riches by any such means. 

Further, the law enjoins that no private man shall be allowed to 
possess gold and silver, but only coin for daily use, which is 
almost necessary in dealing with artisans, and for payment of 
hirelings, whether slaves or immigrants, by all those persons who 
require the use of them. Wherefore our citizens, as we say, should 
have a coin passing current among themselves, but not accepted among 
the rest of mankind; with a view, however, to expeditions and journeys 
to other lands-for embassies, or for any other occasion which may 
arise of sending out a herald, the state must also possess a common 
Hellenic currency. If a private person is ever obliged to go abroad, 
let him have the consent of the magistrates and go; and if when he 
returns he has any foreign money remaining, let him give the surplus 
back to the treasury, and receive a corresponding sum in the local 
currency. And if he is discovered to appropriate it, let it be 
confiscated, and let him who knows and does not inform be subject to 
curse and dishonour equally him who brought the money, and also to a 
fine not less in amount than the foreign money which has been 
brought back. In marrying and giving in marriage, no one shall give or 
receive any dowry at all; and no one shall deposit money with 
another whom he does not trust as a friend, nor shall he lend money 
upon interest; and the borrower should be under no obligation to repay 
either capital or interest. That these principles are best, any one 
may see who compares them with the first principle and intention of 
a state. The intention, as we affirm, of a reasonable statesman, is 
not what the many declare to be the object of a good legislator, 
namely, that the state for the true interests of which he is 
advising should be as great and as rich as possible, and should 
possess gold and silver, and have the greatest empire by sea and 
land; -this they imagine to be the real object of legislation, at the 
same time adding, inconsistently, that the true legislator desires 
to have the city the best and happiest possible. But they do not see 
that some of these things are possible, and some of them are 



impossible; and he who orders the state will desire what is 
possible, and will not indulge in vain wishes or attempts to 
accomplish that which is impossible. The citizen must indeed be 
happy and good, and the legislator will seek to make him so; but 
very rich and very good at the same time he cannot be, not, at 
least, in the sense in which the many speak of riches. For they mean 
by "the rich" the few who have the most valuable possessions, although 
the owner of them may quite well be a rogue. And if this is true, I 
can never assent to the doctrine that the rich man will be happy-he 
must be good as well as rich. And good in a high degree, and rich in a 
high degree at the same time, he cannot be. Some one will ask, why 
not? And we shall answer-Because acquisitions which come from 
sources which are just and unjust indifferently, are more than 
double those which come from just sources only; and the sums which are 
expended neither honourably nor disgracefully, are only half as 
great as those which are expended honourably and on honourable 
purposes. Thus, if the one acquires double and spends half, the 
other who is in the opposite case and is a good man cannot possibly be 
wealthier than he. The first-I am speaking of the saver and not of the 
spender-is not always bad; he may indeed in some cases be utterly bad, 
but, as I was saying, a good man he never is. For he who receives 
money unjustly as well as justly, and spends neither nor unjustly, 
will be a rich man if he be also thrifty. On the other hand, the 
utterly bad is in general profligate, and therefore very poor; while 
he who spends on noble objects, and acquires wealth by just means 
only, can hardly be remarkable for riches, any more than he can be 
very poor. Our statement, then, is true, that the very rich are not 
good, and, if they are not good, they are not happy. But the intention 
of our laws was that the citizens should be as happy as may be, and as 
friendly as possible to one another. And men who are always at law 
with one another, and amongst whom there are many wrongs done, can 
never be friends to one another, but only those among whom crimes 
and lawsuits are few and slight. Therefore we say that gold and silver 
ought not to be allowed in the city, nor much of the vulgar sort of 
trade which is carried on by lending money, or rearing the meaner 
kinds of live stock; but only the produce of agriculture, and only 
so much of this as will not compel us in pursuing it to neglect that 
for the sake of which riches exist-I mean, soul and body, which 
without gymnastics, and without education, will never be worth 
anything; and therefore, as we have said not once but many times, 
the care of riches should have the last place in our thoughts. For 
there are in all three things about which every man has an interest; 
and the interest about money, when rightly regarded, is the third 
and lowest of them: midway comes the interest of the body; and, 
first of all, that of the soul; and the state which we are 
describing will have been rightly constituted if it ordains honours 
according to this scale. But if, in any of the laws which have been 
ordained, health has been preferred to temperance, or wealth to health 
and temperate habits, that law must clearly be wrong. Wherefore, also, 
the legislator ought often to impress upon himself the 
question-"What do I want?" and "Do I attain my aim, or do I miss the 
mark?" In this way, and in this way only, he ma acquit himself and 
free others from the work of legislation. 

Let the allottee then hold his lot upon the conditions which we have 
mentioned . 

It would be well that every man should come to the colony having all 
things equal; but seeing that this is not possible, and one man will 
have greater possessions than another, for many reasons and in 
particular in order to preserve equality in special crises of the 
state, qualifications of property must be unequal, in order that 
offices and contributions and distributions may be proportioned to the 
value of each person's wealth, and not solely to the virtue of his 
ancestors or himself, nor yet to the strength and beauty of his 
person, but also to the measure of his wealth or poverty; and so by 



a law of inequality, which will be in proportion to his wealth, he 
will receive honours and offices as equally as possible, and there 
will be no quarrels and disputes. To which end there should be four 
different standards appointed according to the amount of property: 
there should be a first and a second and a third and a fourth class, 
in which the citizens will be placed, and they will be called by these 
or similar names: they may continue in the same rank, or pass into 
another in any individual case, on becoming richer from being, poorer, 
or poorer from being richer. The form of law which I should propose as 
the natural sequel would be as follows: -In a state which is desirous 
of being saved from the greatest of all plagues-not faction, but 
rather distraction; -here should exist among the citizens neither 
extreme poverty, nor, again, excess of wealth, for both are productive 
of both these evils. Now the legislator should determine what is to be 
the limit of poverty or wealth. Let the limit of poverty be the 
value of the lot; this ought to be preserved, and no ruler, nor any 
one else who aspires after a reputation for virtue, will allow the lot 
to be impaired in any case. This the legislator gives as a measure, 
and he will permit a man to acquire double or triple, or as much as 
four times the amount of this. But if a person have yet greater 
riches, whether he has found them, or they have been given to him, 
or he has made them in business, or has acquired by any stroke of 
fortune that which is in excess of the measure, if he give back the 
surplus to the state, and to the Gods who are the patrons of the 
state, he shall suffer no penalty or loss of reputation; but if he 
disobeys this our law any one who likes may inform against him and 
receive half the value of the excess, and the delinquent shall pay a 
sum equal to the excess out of his own property, and the other half of 
the excess shall belong to the Gods. And let every possession of every 
man, with the exception of the lot, be publicly registered before 
the magistrates whom the law appoints, so that all suits about money 
may be easy and quite simple. 

The next thing to be noted is, that the city should be placed as 
nearly as possible in the centre of the country; we should choose a 
place which possesses what is suitable for a city, and this may easily 
be imagined and described. Then we will divide the city into twelve 
portions, first founding temples to Hestia, to Zeus and to Athene, 
in a spot which we will call the Acropolis, and surround with a 
circular wall, making the division of the entire city and country 
radiate from this point. The twelve portions shall be equalized by the 
provision that those which are of good land shall be smaller, while 
those of inferior quality shall be larger. The number of the lots 
shall be 5040, and each of them shall be divided into two, and every 
allotment shall be composed of two such sections; one of land near the 
city, the other of land which is at a distance. This arrangement shall 
be carried out in the following manner: The section which is near 
the city shall be added to that which is on borders, and form one lot, 
and the portion which is next nearest shall be added to the portion 
which is next farthest; and so of the rest. Moreover, in the two 
sections of the lots the same principle of equalization of the soil 
ought to be maintained; the badness and goodness shall be 
compensated by more and less. And the legislator shall divide the 
citizens into twelve parts, and arrange the rest of their property, as 
far as possible, so as to form twelve equal parts; and there shall 
be a registration of all. After this they shall assign twelve lots 
to twelve Gods, and call them by their names, and dedicate to each God 
their several portions, and call the tribes after them. And they shall 
distribute the twelve divisions of the city in the same way in which 
they divided the country; and every man shall have two habitations, 
one in the centre of the country, and the other at the extremity. 
Enough of the manner of settlement. 

Now we ought by all means to consider that there can never be such a 
happy concurrence of circumstances as we have described; neither can 
all things coincide as they are wanted. Men who will not take 



offence at such a mode of living together, and will endure all their 
life long to have their property fixed at a moderate limit, and to 
beget children in accordance with our ordinances, and will allow 
themselves to be deprived of gold and other things which the 
legislator, as is evident from these enactments, will certainly forbid 
them; and will endure, further, the situation of the land with the 
city in the middle and dwellings round about; -all this is as if the 
legislator were telling his dreams, or making a city and citizens of 
wax. There is truth in these objections, and therefore every one 
should take to heart what I am going to say. Once more, then, the 
legislator shall appear and address us:-"0 my friends," he will say to 
us, "do not suppose me ignorant that there is a certain degree of 
truth in your words; but I am of opinion that, in matters which are 
not present but future, he who exhibits a pattern of that at which 
he aims, should in nothing fall short of the fairest and truest; and 
that if he finds any part of this work impossible of execution he 
should avoid and not execute it, but he should contrive to carry out 
that which is nearest and most akin to it; you must allow the 
legislator to perfect his design, and when it is perfected, you should 
join with him in considering what part of his legislation is expedient 
and what will arouse opposition; for surely the artist who is to be 
deemed worthy of any regard at all, ought always to make his work 
self-consistent. " 

Having determined that there is to be a distribution into twelve 
parts, let us now see in what way this may be accomplished. There is 
no difficulty in perceiving that the twelve parts admit of the 
greatest number of divisions of that which they include, or in 
seeing the other numbers which are consequent upon them, and are 
produced out of them up to 5040; wherefore the law ought to order 
phratries and demes and villages, and also military ranks and 
movements, as well as coins and measures, dry and liquid, and weights, 
so as to be commensurable and agreeable to one another. Nor should 
we fear the appearance of minuteness, if the law commands that all the 
vessels which a man possesses should have a common measure, when we 
consider generally that the divisions and variations of numbers have a 
use in respect of all the variations of which they are susceptible, 
both in themselves and as measures of height and depth, and in all 
sounds, and in motions, as well those which proceed in a straight 
direction, upwards or downwards, as in those which go round and round. 
The legislator is to consider all these things and to bid the 
citizens, as far as possible, not to lose sight of numerical order; 
for no single instrument of youthful education has such mighty 
power, both as regards domestic economy and politics, and in the arts, 
as the study of arithmetic. Above all, arithmetic stirs up him who 
is by nature sleepy and dull, and makes him quick to learn, retentive, 
shrewd, and aided by art divine he makes progress quite beyond his 
natural powers. All such things, if only the legislator, by other laws 
and institutions, can banish meanness and covetousness from the 
souls of men, so that they can use them properly and to their own 
good, will be excellent and suitable instruments of education. But 
if he cannot, he will unintentionally create in them, instead of 
wisdom, the habit of craft, which evil tendency may be observed in the 
Egyptians and Phoenicians, and many other races, through the general 
vulgarity of their pursuits and acquisitions, whether some unworthy 
legislator theirs has been the cause, or some impediment of chance 
or nature. For we must not fail to observe, Megillus and Cleinias, 
that there is a difference in places, and that some beget better men 
and others worse; and we must legislate accordingly. Some places are 
subject to strange and fatal influences by reason of diverse winds and 
violent heats, some by reason of waters; or, again, from the character 
of the food given by the earth, which not only affects the bodies of 
men for good or evil, but produces similar results in their souls. And 
in all such qualities those spots excel in which there is a divine 
inspiration, and in which the demi-gods have their appointed lots, and 



are propitious, not adverse, to the settlers in them. To all these 
matters the legislator, if he have any sense in him, will attend as 
far as man can, and frame his laws accordingly. And this is what 
you, Cleinias, must do, and to matters of this kind you must turn your 
mind since you are going to colonize a new country. 

Cleinias. Your words, Athenian Stranger, are excellent, and I will 
do as you say. 

BOOK VI 

Athenian Stranger. And now having made an end of the preliminaries 
we will proceed to the appointment of magistracies. 

Cleinias. Very good. 

Ath . In the ordering of a state there are two parts: first, the 
number of the magistracies, and the mode of establishing them; and, 
secondly, when they have been established, laws again will have to 
be provided for each of them, suitable in nature and number. But 
before electing the magistrates let us stop a little and say a word in 
season about the election of them. 

Cle. What have you got to say? 

Ath. This is what I have to say; every one can see, that although 
the work of legislation is a most important matter, yet if a 
well-ordered city superadd to good laws unsuitable offices, not only 
will there be no use in having the good laws-not only will they be 
ridiculous and useless, but the greatest political injury and evil 
will accrue from them. 

Cle. Of course. 

Ath. Then now, my friend, let us observe what will happen in the 
constitution of out intended state. In the first place, you will 
acknowledge that those who are duly appointed to magisterial power, 
and their families, should severally have given satisfactory proof 
of what they are, from youth upward until the time of election; in the 
next place, those who are to elect should have been trained in 
habits of law, and be well educated, that they may have a right 
judgment, and may be able to select or reject men whom they approve or 
disapprove, as they are worthy of either. But how can we imagine 
that those who are brought together for the first time, and are 
strangers to one another, and also uneducated, will avoid making 
mistakes in the choice of magistrates? 

Cle. Impossible. 

Ath. The matter is serious, and excuses will not serve the turn. I 
will tell you, then, what you and I will have to do, since you, as you 
tell me, with nine others, have offered to settle the new state on 
behalf of the people of Crete, and I am to help you by the invention 
of the present romance. I certainly should not like to leave the 
tale wandering all over the world without a head; -a headless monster 
is such a hideous thing. 

Cle. Excellent, Stranger. 

Ath. Yes; and I will be as good as my word. 

Cle. Let us by all means do as you propose. 

Ath. That we will, by the grace of God, if old age will only 
permit us . 

Cle. But God will be gracious. 

Ath. Yes; and under his guidance let us consider further point. 

Cle. What is it? 

Ath. Let us remember what a courageously mad and daring creation 
this our city is. 

Cle. What had you in your mind when you said that? 

Ath. I had in my mind the free and easy manner in which we are 
ordaining that the inexperienced colonists shall receive our laws. Now 
a man need not be very wise, Cleinias, in order to see that no one can 
easily receive laws at their first imposition. But if we could 
anyhow wait until those who have been imbued with them from childhood, 
and have been nurtured in them, and become habituated to them, take 
their part in the public elections of the state; I say, if this 



could be accomplished, and rightly accomplished by any way or 
contrivance-then, I think that there would be very little danger, at 
the end of the time, of a state thus trained not being permanent. 

Cle. A reasonable supposition. 

Ath . Then let us consider if we can find any way out of the 
difficulty; for I maintain, Cleinias, that the Cnosians, above all the 
other Cretans, should not be satisfied with barely discharging their 
duty to the colony, but they ought to take the utmost pains to 
establish the offices which are first created by them in the best 
and surest manner. Above all, this applies to the selection of the 
guardians of the law, who must be chosen first of all, and with the 
greatest care; the others are of less importance. 

Cle. What method can we devise of electing them? 

Ath. This will be the method:-Sons of the Cretans, I shall say to 
them, inasmuch as the Cnosians have precedence over the other 
states, they should, in common with those who join this settlement, 
choose a body of thirty-seven in all, nineteen of them being taken 
from the settlers, and the remainder from the citizens of Cnosus . Of 
those latter the Cnosians shall make a present to your colony, and you 
yourself shall be one of the eighteen, and shall become a citizen of 
the new state; and if you and they cannot be persuaded to go, the 
Cnosians may fairly use a little violence in order to make you. 

Cle. But why, Stranger, do not you and Megillus take a part in our 
new city? 

Ath. 0, Cleinias, Athens is proud, and Sparta too; and they are both 
a long way off. But you and likewise the other colonists are 
conveniently situated as you describe. I have been speaking of the way 
in which the new citizens may be best managed under present 
circumstances; but in after-ages, if the city continues to exist, 
let the election be on this wise. All who are horse or foot 
soldiers, or have seen military service at the proper ages when they 
were severally fitted for it, shall share in the election of 
magistrates; and the election shall be held in whatever temple the 
state deems most venerable, and every one shall carry his vote to 
the altar of the God, writing down on a tablet the name of the 
person for whom he votes, and his father's name, and his tribe, and 
ward; and at the side he shall write his own name in like manner. 
Any one who pleases may take away any tablet which he does not think 
properly filled up, and exhibit it in the Agara for a period of not 
less than thirty days. The tablets which are judged to be first, to 
the number of 300, shall be shown by the magistrates to the whole 
city, and the citizens shall in like manner select from these the 
candidates whom they prefer; and this second selection, to the 
number of 100, shall be again exhibited to the citizens; in the third, 
let any one who pleases select whom pleases out of the 100, walking 
through the parts of victims, and let them choose for magistrates 
and proclaim the seven and thirty who have the greatest number of 
votes. But who, Cleinias and Megillus, will order for us in the colony 
all this matter of the magistrates, and the scrutinies of them? If 
we reflect, we shall see that cities which are in process of 
construction like ours must have some such persons, who cannot 
possibly be elected before there are any magistrates; and yet they 
must be elected in some way, and they are not to be inferior men, 
but the best possible. For as the proverb says, "a good beginning is 
half the business"; and "to have begun well" is praised by all, and in 
my opinion is a great deal more than half the business, and has 
never been praised by any one enough. 

Cle. That is very true. 

Ath. Then let us recognize the difficulty, and make clear to our own 
minds how the beginning is to be accomplished. There is only one 
proposal which I have to offer, and that is one which, under our 
circumstances, is both necessary and expedient. 

Cle. What is it? 

Ath. I maintain that this colony of ours has a father and mother, 



who are no other than the colonizing state. Well I know that many 
colonies have been, and will be, at enmity with their parents. But 
in early days the child, as in a family, loves and is beloved; even if 
there come a time later when the tie is broken, still, while he is 
in want of education, he naturally loves his parents and is beloved by 
them, and flies to his relatives for protection, and finds in them his 
only natural allies in time of need; and this parental feeling already 
exists in the Cnosians, as is shown by their care of the new city; and 
there is a similar feeling on the part of the young city towards 
Cnosus . And I repeat what I was saying-for there is no harm in 
repeating a good thing-that the Cnosians should take a common interest 
in all these matters, and choose, as far as they can, the eldest and 
best of the colonists, to the number of not less than a hundred; and 
let there be another hundred of the Cnosians themselves. These, I say, 
on their arrival, should have a joint care that the magistrates should 
be appointed according to law, and that when they are appointed they 
should undergo a scrutiny. When this has been effected, the Cnosians 
shall return home, and the new city do the best she can for her own 
preservation and happiness. I would have the seven-and-thirty now, and 
in all future time, chosen to fulfil the following duties: -Let them, 
in the first place, be the guardians of the law; and, secondly, of the 
registers in which each one registers before the magistrate the amount 
of his property, excepting four minae which are allowed to citizens of 
the first class, three allowed to the second, two to the third, and 
a single mina to the fourth. And if any one, despising the laws for 
the sake of gain, be found to possess anything more which has not been 
registered, let all that he has in excess be confiscated, and let 
him be liable to a suit which shall be the reverse of honourable or 
fortunate. And let any one who will, indict him on the charge of 
loving base gains, and proceed against him before the guardians of the 
law. And if he be cast, let him lose his share of the public 
possessions, and when there is any public distribution, let him have 
nothing but his original lot; and let him be written down a 
condemned man as long as he lives, in some place in which any one 
who pleases can read about his onces . The guardian of the law shall 
not hold office longer than twenty years, and shall not be less than 
fifty years of age when he is elected; or if he is elected when he 
is sixty years of age, he shall hold office for ten years only; and 
upon the same principle, he must not imagine that he will be permitted 
to hold such an important office as that of guardian of the laws after 
he is seventy years of age, if he live so long. 

These are the three first ordinances about the guardians of the law; 
as the work of legislation progresses, each law in turn will assign to 
them their further duties. And now we may proceed in order to speak of 
the election of other officers; for generals have to be elected, and 
these again must have their ministers, commanders, and colonels of 
horse, and commanders of brigades of foot, who would be more rightly 
called by their popular name of brigadiers. The guardians of the law 
shall propose as generals men who are natives of the city, and a 
selection from the candidates proposed shall be made by those who 
are or have been of the age for military service. And if one who is 
not proposed is thought by somebody to be better than one who is, 
let him name whom he prefers in the place of whom, and make oath 
that he is better, and propose him; and whichever of them is 
approved by vote shall be admitted to the final selection; and the 
three who have the greatest number of votes shall be appointed 
generals, and superintendents of military affairs, after previously 
undergoing a scrutiny, like the guardians of the law. And let the 
generals thus elected propose twelve brigadiers, one for each tribe; 
and there shall be a right of counterproposal as in the case of the 
generals, and the voting and decision shall take place in the same 
way. Until the prytanes and council are elected, the guardians of 
the law shall convene the assembly in some holy spot which is suitable 
to the purpose, placing the hoplites by themselves, and the cavalry by 



themselves, and in a third division all the rest of the army. All 
are to vote for the generals [and for the colonels of horse], but 
the brigadiers are to be voted for only by those who carry shields 
[i.e. the hoplites] . Let the body of cavalry choose phylarchs for 
the generals; but captains of light troops, or archers, or any other 
division of the army, shall be appointed by the generals for 
themselves. There only remains the appointment of officers of cavalry: 
these shall be proposed by the same persons who proposed the generals, 
and the election and the counter-proposal of other candidates shall be 
arranged in the same way as in the case of the generals, and let the 
cavalry vote and the infantry look on at the election; the two who 
have the greatest number of votes shall be the leaders of all the 
horse. Disputes about the voting may be raised once or twice; but if 
the dispute be raised a third time, the officers who preside at the 
several elections shall decide. 

The council shall consist of 30 x 12 members-360 will be a 
convenient number for sub-division. If we divide the whole number into 
four parts of ninety each, we get ninety counsellors for each class. 
First, all the citizens shall select candidates from the first 
class; they shall be compelled to vote, and, if they do not, shall 
be duly fined. When the candidates have been selected, some one 
shall mark them down; this shall be the business of the first day. And 
on the following day, candidates shall be selected from the second 
class in the same manner and under the same conditions as on the 
previous day; and on the third day a selection shall be made from 
the third class, at which every one may, if he likes, vote, and the 
three first classes shall be compelled to vote; but the fourth and 
lowest class shall be under no compulsion, and any member of this 
class who does not vote shall not be punished. On the fourth day 
candidates shall be selected from the fourth and smallest class; 
they shall be selected by all, but he who is of the fourth class shall 
suffer no penalty, nor he who is of the third, if he be not willing to 
vote; but he who is of the first or second class, if he does not 
vote shall be punished; -he who is of the second class shall pay a fine 
of triple the amount which was exacted at first, and he who is of 
the first class quadruple. On the fifth day the rulers shall bring out 
the names noted down, for all the citizens to see, and every man shall 
choose out of them, under pain, if he do not, of suffering the first 
penalty; and when they have chosen out of each of the classes, they 
shall choose one-half of them by lot, who shall undergo a 
scrutiny : -These are to form the council for the year. 

The mode of election which has been described is in a mean between 
monarchy and democracy, and such a mean the state ought always to 
observe; for servants and masters never can be friends, nor good and 
bad, merely because they are declared to have equal privileges. For to 
unequals equals become unequal, if they are not harmonized by measure; 
and both by reason of equality, and by reason of inequality, cities 
are filled with seditions. The old saying, that "equality makes 
friendship," is happy and also true; but there is obscurity and 
confusion as to what sort of equality is meant. For there are two 
equalities which are called by the same name, but are in reality in 
many ways almost the opposite of one another; one of them may be 
introduced without difficulty, by any state or any legislator in the 
distribution of honours: this is the rule of measure, weight, and 
number, which regulates and apportions them. But there is another 
equality, of a better and higher kind, which is not so easily 
recognized. This is the judgment of Zeus; among men it avails but 
little; that little, however, is the source of the greatest good to 
individuals and states. For it gives to the greater more, and to the 
inferior less and in proportion to the nature of each; and, above all, 
greater honour always to the greater virtue, and to the less less; and 
to either in proportion to their respective measure of virtue and 
education. And this is justice, and is ever the true principle of 
states, at which we ought to aim, and according to this rule order the 



new city which is now being founded, and any other city which may be 
hereafter founded. To this the legislator should look-not to the 
interests of tyrants one or more, or to the power of the people, but 
to justice always; which, as I was saying, the distribution of natural 
equality among unequals in each case. But there are times at which 
every state is compelled to use the words, "just, " "equal, " in a 
secondary sense, in the hope of escaping in some degree from factions. 
For equity and indulgence are infractions of the perfect and strict 
rule of justice. And this is the reason why we are obliged to use 
the equality of the lot, in order to avoid the discontent of the 
people; and so we invoke God and fortune in our prayers, and beg 
that they themselves will direct the lot with a view to supreme 
justice. And therefore, although we are compelled to use both 
equalities, we should use that into which the element of chance enters 
as seldom as possible. 

Thus, my friends, and for the reasons given, should a state act 
which would endure and be saved. But as a ship sailing on the sea 
has to be watched night and day, in like manner a city also is sailing 
on a sea of politics, and is liable to all sorts of insidious 
assaults; and therefore from morning to night, and from night to 
morning, rulers must join hands with rulers, and watchers with 
watchers, receiving and giving up their trust in a perpetual 
succession. Now a multitude can never fulfil a duty of this sort 
with anything like energy. Moreover, the greater number of the 
senators will have to be left during the greater part of the year to 
order their concerns at their own homes. They will therefore have to 
be arranged in twelve portions, answering to the twelve months, and 
furnish guardians of the state, each portion for a single month. Their 
business is to be at hand and receive any foreigner or citizen who 
comes to them, whether to give information, or to put one of those 
questions, to which, when asked by other cities, a city should give an 
answer, and to which, if she ask them herself, she should receive an 
answer; or again, when there is a likelihood of internal commotions, 
which are always liable to happen in some form or other, they will, if 
they can, prevent their occurring; or if they have already occurred, 
will lose time in making them known to the city, and healing the evil. 
Wherefore, also, this which is the presiding body of the state ought 
always to have the control of their assemblies, and of the 
dissolutions of them, ordinary as well as extraordinary. All this is 
to be ordered by the twelfth part of the council, which is always to 
keep watch together with the other officers of the state during one 
portion of the year, and to rest during the remaining eleven portions. 

Thus will the city be fairly ordered. And now, who is to have, the 
superintendence of the country, and what shall be the arrangement? 
Seeing that the whole city and the entire country have been both of 
them divided into twelve portions, ought there not to be appointed 
superintendents of the streets of the city, and of the houses, and 
buildings, and harbours, and the agora, and fountains, and sacred 
domains, and temples, and the like? 

Cle. To be sure there ought. 

Ath . Let us assume, then, that there ought to be servants of the 
temples, and priests and priestesses. There must also be 
superintendents of roads and buddings, who will have a care of men, 
that they may do no harm, and also of beasts, both within the 
enclosure and in the suburbs. Three kinds of officers will thus have 
to be appointed, in order that the city may be suitably provided 
according to her needs. Those who have the care of the city shall be 
called wardens of the city; and those who have the care of the agora 
shall be called wardens of the agora; and those who have the care of 
the temples shall be called priests. Those who hold hereditary offices 
as priests or priestesses, shall not be disturbed; but if there be few 
or none such, as is probable at the foundation of a new city, 
priests and priestesses shall be appointed to be servants of the 
Gods who have no servants. Some of our officers shall be elected, 



and others appointed by lot, those who are of the people and those who 
are not of the people mingling in a friendly manner in every place and 
city, that the state may be as far as possible of one mind. The 
officers of the temples shall be appointed by lot; in this way their 
election will be committed to God, that he may do what is agreeable to 
him. And he who obtains a lot shall undergo a scrutiny, first, as to 
whether he is sound of body and of legitimate birth; and in the second 
place, in order to show that he is of a perfectly pure family, not 
stained with homicide or any similar impiety in his own person, and 
also that his father and mother have led a similar unstained life. Now 
the laws about all divine things should be brought from Delphi, and 
interpreters appointed, under whose direction they should be used. The 
tenure of the priesthood should always be for a year and no longer; 
and he who will duly execute the sacred office, according to the 
laws of religion, must be not less than sixty years of age-the laws 
shall be the same about priestesses. As for the interpreters, they 
shall be appointed thus: -Let the twelve tribes be distributed into 
groups of four, and let each group select four, one out of each 
tribe within the group, three times; and let the three who have the 
greatest number of votes [out of the twelve appointed by each 
group], after undergoing a scrutiny, nine in all, be sent to Delphi, 
in order that the God may return one out of each triad; their age 
shall be the same as that of the priests, and the scrutiny of them 
shall be conducted in the same manner; let them be interpreters for 
life, and when any one dies let the four tribes select another from 
the tribe of the deceased. Moreover, besides priests and interpreters, 
there must be treasurers, who will take charge of the property of 
the several temples, and of the sacred domains, and shall have 
authority over the produce and the letting of them; and three of 
them shall be chosen from the highest classes for the greater temples, 
and two for the lesser, and one for the least of all; the manner of 
their election and the scrutiny of them shall be the same as that of 
the generals. This shall be the order of the temples. 

Let everything have a guard as far as possible. Let the defence of 
the city be commited to the generals, and taxiarchs, and hipparchs, 
and phylarchs, and prytanes, and the wardens of the city, and of the 
agora, when the election of them has been completed. The defence of 
the country shall be provided for as follows: -The entire land has been 
already distributed into twelve as nearly as possible equal parts, and 
let the tribe allotted to a division provide annually for it five 
wardens of the country and commanders of the watch; and let each 
body of five have the power of selecting twelve others out of the 
youth of their own tribe-these shall be not less than twenty-five 
years of age, and not more than thirty. And let there be allotted to 
them severally every month the various districts, in order that they 
may all acquire knowledge and experience of the whole country. The 
term of service for commanders and for watchers shall continue 
during two years. After having had their stations allotted to them, 
they will go from place to place in regular order, making their 
round from left to right as their commanders direct them; (when I 
speak of going to the right, I mean that they are to go to the 
east) . And at the commencement of the second year, in order that as 
many as possible of the guards may not only get a knowledge of the 
country at any one season of the year, but may also have experience of 
the manner in which different places are affected at different seasons 
of the year, their then commanders shall lead them again towards the 
left, from place to place in succession, until they have completed the 
second year. In the third year other wardens of the country shall be 
chosen and commanders of the watch, five for each division, who are to 
be the superintendents of the bands of twelve. While on service at 
each station, their attention shall be directed to the following 
points: -In the first place, they shall see that the country is well 
protected against enemies; they shall trench and dig wherever this 
is required, and, as far as they can, they shall by fortifications 



keep off the evil-disposed, in order to prevent them from doing any 
harm to the country or the property; they shall use the beasts of 
burden and the labourers whom they find on the spot: these will be 
their instruments whom they will superintend, taking them, as far as 
possible, at the times when they are not engaged in their regular 
business. They shall make every part of the country inaccessible to 
enemies, and as accessible as possible to friends; there shall be ways 
for man and beasts of burden and for cattle, and they shall take 
care to have them always as smooth as they can; and shall provide 
against the rains doing harm instead of good to the land, when they 
come down from the mountains into the hollow dells; and shall keep 
in the overflow by the help of works and ditches, in order that the 
valleys, receiving and drinking up the rain from heaven, and providing 
fountains and streams in the fields and regions which lie 
underneath, may furnish even to the dry places plenty of good water. 
The fountains of water, whether of rivers or of springs, shall be 
ornamented with plantations and buildings for beauty; and let them 
bring together the streams in subterraneous channels, and make all 
things plenteous; and if there be a sacred grove or dedicated precinct 
in the neighbourhood, they shall conduct the water to the actual 
temples of the Gods, and so beautify them at all seasons of the 
year. Everywhere in such places the youth shall make gymnasia for 
themselves, and warm baths for the aged, placing by them abundance 
of dry wood, for the benefit of those labouring under disease-there 
the weary frame of the rustic, worn with toil, will receive a kindly 
welcome, far better than he would at the hands of a not over-wise 
doctor . 

The building of these and the like works will be useful and 
ornamental; they will provide a pleasing amusement, but they will be a 
serious employment too; for the sixty wardens will have to guard their 
several divisions, not only with a view to enemies, but also with an 
eye to professing friends. When a quarrel arises among neighbours or 
citizens, and any one, whether slave or freeman wrongs another, let 
the five wardens decide small matters on their own authority; but 
where the charge against another relates to greater matters, the 
seventeen composed of the fives and twelves, shall determine any 
charges which one man brings against another, not involving more 
than three minae. Every judge and magistrate shall be liable to give 
an account of his conduct in office, except those who, like kings, 
have the final decision. Moreover, as regards the aforesaid wardens of 
the country, if they do any wrong to those of whom they have the care, 
whether by imposing upon them unequal tasks, or by taking the 
produce of the soil or implements of husbandry without their 
consent; also if they receive anything in the way of a bribe, or 
decide suits unjustly, or if they yield to the influences of flattery, 
let them be publicly dishonoured; and in regard to any other wrong 
which they do to the inhabitants of the country, if the question be of 
a mina, let them submit to the decision of the villagers in the 
neighbourhood; but in suits of greater amount, or in case of lesser, 
if they refuse to submit, trusting that their monthly removal into 
another part of the country will enable them to escape-in such cases 
the injured party may bring his suit in the common court, and if he 
obtain a verdict he may exact from the defendant, who refused to 
submit, a double penalty. 

The wardens and the overseers of the country, while on their two 
years service, shall have common meals at their several stations, 
and shall all live together; and he who is absent from the common 
meal, or sleeps out, if only for one day or night, unless by order 
of his commanders, or by reason of absolute necessity, if the five 
denounce him and inscribe his name the agora as not having kept his 
guard, let him be deemed to have betrayed the city, as far as lay in 
his power, and let him be disgraced and beaten with impunity by any 
one who meets him and is willing to punish him. If any of the 
commanders is guilty of such an irregularity, the whole company of 



sixty shall see to it, and he who is cognizant of the offence, and 
does not bring the offender to trial, shall be amenable to the same 
laws as the younger offender himself, and shall pay a heavier fine, 
and be incapable of ever commanding the young. The guardians of the 
law are to be careful inspectors of these matters, and shall either 
prevent or punish offenders. Every man should remember the universal 
rule, that he who is not a good servant will not be a good master; a 
man should pride himself more upon serving well than upon commanding 
well: first upon serving the laws, which is also the service of the 
Gods; in the second place, upon having, served ancient and 
honourable men in the days of his youth. Furthermore, during the two 
years in which any one is a warden of the country, his daily food 
ought to be of a simple and humble kind. When the twelve have been 
chosen, let them and the five meet together, and determine that they 
will be their own servants, and, like servants, will not have other 
slaves and servants for their own use, neither will they use those 
of the villagers and husbandmen for their private advantage, but for 
the public service only; and in general they should make up their 
minds to live independently by themselves, servants of each other 
and of themselves. Further, at all seasons of the year, summer and 
winter alike, let them be under arms and survey minutely the whole 
country; thus they will at once keep guard, and at the same time 
acquire a perfect knowledge of every locality. There can be no more 
important kind of information than the exact knowledge of a man's 
own country; and for this as well as for more general reasons of 
pleasure and advantage, hunting with dogs and other kinds of sports 
should be pursued by the young. The service to whom this is 
committed may be called the secret police, or wardens of the 
country; the name does not much signify, but every one who has the 
safety of the state at heart will use his utmost diligence in this 
service . 

After the wardens of the country, we have to speak of the election 
of wardens of the agora and of the city. The wardens of the country 
were sixty in number, and the wardens of the city will be three, and 
will divide the twelve parts of the city into three; like the 
former, they shall have care of the ways, and of the different high 
roads which lead out of the country into the city, and of the 
buildings, that they may be all made according to law; -also of the 
waters, which the guardians of the supply preserve and convey to them, 
care being taken that they may reach the fountains pure and 
abundant, and be both an ornament and a benefit to the city. These 
also should be men of influence, and at leisure to take care of the 
public interest. Let every man propose as warden of the city any one 
whom he likes out of the highest class, and when the vote has been 
given on them, and the number is reduced to the six who have the 
greatest number of votes, let the electing officers choose by lot 
three out of the six, and when they have undergone a scrutiny let them 
hold office according to the laws laid down for them. Next, let the 
wardens of the agora be elected in like manner, out of the first and 
second class, five in number: ten are to be first elected, and out 
of the ten five are to be chosen by lot, as in the election of the 
wardens of the city: -these when they have undergone a scrutiny are 
to be declared magistrates. Every one shall vote for every one, and he 
who will not vote, if he be informed against before the magistrates, 
shall be fined fifty drachmae, and shall also be deemed a bad citizen. 
Let any one who likes go to the assembly and to the general council; 
it shall be compulsory to go on citizens of the first and second 
class, and they shall pay a fine of ten drachmae if they be found 
not answering to their names at the assembly, the third and fourth 
class shall be under no compulsion, and shall be let off without a 
fine, unless the magistrates have commanded all to be present, in 
consequence of some urgent necessity. The wardens of the agora shall 
observe the order appointed by law for the agora, and shall have the 
charge of the temples and fountains which are in the agora; and they 



shall see that no one injures anything, and punish him who does, 
with stripes and bonds, if he be a slave or stranger; but if he be a 
citizen who misbehaves in this way, they shall have the power 
themselves of inflicting a fine upon him to the amount of a hundred 
drachmae, or with the consent of the wardens of the city up to 
double that amount. And let the wardens of the city have a similar 
power of imposing punishments and fines in their own department; and 
let them impose fines by their own department; and let them impose 
fines by their own authority, up to a mina, or up to two minae with 
the consent of the wardens of the agora. 

In the next place, it will be proper to appoint directors of music 
and gymnastic, two kinds of each-of the one kind the business will 
be education, of the other, the superintendence of contests. In 
speaking of education, the law means to speak of those who have the 
care of order and instruction in gymnasia and schools, and of the 
going to school, and of school buildings for boys and girls; and in 
speaking of contests, the law refers to the judges of gymnastics and 
of music; these again are divided into two classes, the one having 
to do with music, the other with gymnastics; and the same who judge of 
the gymnastic contests of men, shall judge of horses; but in music 
there shall be one set of judges of solo singing, and of imitation-I 
mean of rhapsodists, players on the harp, the flute and the like, 
and another who shall judge of choral song. First of all, we must 
choose directors for the choruses of boys, and men, and maidens, 
whom they shall follow in the amusement of the dance, and for our 
other musical arrangements; -one director will be enough for the 
choruses, and he should be not less than forty years of age. One 
director will also be enough to introduce the solo singers, and to 
give judgment on the competitors, and he ought not to be less than 
thirty years of age. The director and manager of the choruses shall be 
elected after the following manner: -Let any persons who commonly 
take an interest in such matters go to the meeting, and be fined if 
they do not go (the guardians of the law shall judge of their 
fault), but those who have no interest shall not be compelled. The 
elector shall propose as director some one who understands music, 
and he in the scrutiny may be challenged on the one part by those 
who say he has no skill, and defended on the other hand by those who 
say that he has. Ten are to be elected by vote, and he of the ten 
who is chosen by lot shall undergo a scrutiny, and lead the choruses 
for a year according to law. And in like manner the competitor who 
wins the lot shall be leader of the solo and concert music for that 
year; and he who is thus elected shall deliver the award to the 
judges. In the next place, we have to choose judges in the contests of 
horses and of men; these shall be selected from the third and also 
from the second class of citizens, and three first classes shall be 
compelled to go to the election, but the lowest may stay away with 
impunity; and let there be three elected by lot out of the twenty 
who have been chosen previously, and they must also have the vote 
and approval of the examiners. But if any one is rejected in the 
scrutiny at any ballot or decision, others shall be chosen in the same 
manner, and undergo a similar scrutiny. 

There remains the minister of the education of youth, male and 
female; he too will rule according to law; one such minister will be 
sufficient, and he must be fifty years old, and have children lawfully 
begotten, both boys and girls by preference, at any rate, one or the 
other. He who is elected, and he who is the elector, should consider 
that of all the great offices of state, this is the greatest; for 
the first shoot of any plant, if it makes a good start towards the 
attainment of its natural excellence, has the greatest effect on its 
maturity; and this is not only true of plants, but of animals wild and 
tame, and also of men. Man, as we say, is a tame or civilized 
animal; nevertheless, he requires proper instruction and a fortunate 
nature, and then of all animals he becomes the most divine and most 
civilized; but if he be insufficiently or ill educated he is the 



most savage of earthly creatures. Wherefore the legislator ought not 
to allow the education of children to become a secondary or accidental 
matter. In the first place, he who would be rightly provident about 
them, should begin by taking care that he is elected, who of all the 
citizens is in every way best; him the legislator shall do his 
utmost to appoint guardian and superintendent. To this end all the 
magistrates, with the exception of the council and prytanes, shall 
go to the temple of Apollo, and elect by ballot him of the guardians 
of the law whom they severally think will be the best superintendent 
of education. And he who has the greatest number of votes, after he 
has undergone a scrutiny at the hands of all the magistrates who 
have been his electors, with the exception of the guardians of the 
law-shall hold office for five years; and in the sixth year let 
another be chosen in like manner to fill his office. 

If any one dies while he is holding a public office, and more than 
thirty days before his term of office expires, let those whose 
business it is elect another to the office in the same manner as 
before. And if any one who is entrusted with orphans dies, let the 
relations both on the father's and mother's side, who are residing 
at home, including cousins, appoint another guardian within ten 
days, or be fined a drachma a day for neglect to do so. 

A city which has no regular courts of law ceases to be a city; and 
again, if a judge is silent and says no more in preliminary 
proceedings than the litigants, as is the case in arbitrations, he 
will never be able to decide justly; wherefore a multitude of judges 
will not easily judge well, nor a few if they are bad. The point in 
dispute between the parties should be made clear; and time, and 
deliberation, and repeated examination, greatly tend to clear up 
doubts. For this reason, he who goes to law with another should go 
first of all to his neighbours and friends who know best the questions 
at issue. And if he be unable to obtain from them a satisfactory 
decision, let him have recourse to another court; and if the two 
courts cannot settle the matter, let a third put an end to the suit. 

Now the establishment of courts of justice may be regarded as a 
choice of magistrates, for every magistrate must also be a judge of 
some things; and the judge, though he be not a magistrate, yet in 
certain respects is a very important magistrate on the day on which he 
is determining a suit. Regarding then the judges also as 
magistrates, let us say who are fit to be judges, and of what they are 
to be judges, and how many of them are to judge in each suit. Let that 
be the supreme tribunal which the litigants appoint in common for 
themselves, choosing certain persons by agreement. And let there be 
two other tribunals: one for private causes, when a citizen accuses 
another of wronging him and wishes to get a decision; the other for 
public causes, in which some citizen is of opinion that the public has 
been wronged by an individual, and is willing to vindicate the 
common interests. And we must not forget to mention how the judges are 
to be qualified, and who they are to be. In the first place, let there 
be a tribunal open to all private persons who are trying causes one 
against another for the third time, and let this be composed as 
follows: -All the officers of state, as well annual as those holding 
office for a longer period, when the new year is about to commence, in 
the month following after the summer solstice, on the last day but one 
of the year, shall meet in some temple, and calling God to witness, 
shall dedicate one judge from every magistracy to be their 
first-fruits, choosing in each office him who seems to them to be 
the best, and whom they deem likely to decide the causes of his 
fellow-citizens during the ensuing year in the best and holiest 
manner. And when the election is completed, a scrutiny shall be held 
in the presence of the electors themselves, and if any one be rejected 
another shall be chosen in the same manner. Those who have undergone 
the scrutiny shall judge the causes of those who have declined the 
inferior courts, and shall give their vote openly. The councillors and 
other magistrates who have elected them shall be required to be 



hearers and spectators of the causes; and any one else may be 
present who pleases. If one man charges another with having 
intentionally decided wrong, let him go to the guardians of the law 
and lay his accusation before them, and he who is found guilty in such 
a case shall pay damages to the injured party equal to half the 
injury; but if he shall appear to deserve a greater penalty, the 
judges shall determine what additional punishment he shall suffer, and 
how much more he ought to pay to the public treasury, and to the party 
who brought the suit. 

In the judgment of offences against the state, the people ought to 
participate, for when any one wrongs the state all are wronged, and 
may reasonably complain if they are not allowed to share in the 
decision. Such causes ought to originate with the people, and the 
ought also to have the final decision of them, but the trial of them 
shall take place before three of the highest magistrates, upon whom 
the plaintiff and the defendant shall agree; and if they are not 
able to come to an agreement themselves, the council shall choose 
one of the two proposed. And in private suits, too, as far as is 
possible, all should have a share; for he who has no share in the 
administration of justice, is apt to imagine that he has no share in 
the state at all. And for this reason there shall be a court of law in 
every tribe, and the judges shall be chosen by lot; -they shall give 
their decisions at once, and shall be inaccessible to entreaties. 
The final judgment shall rest with that court which, as we maintain, 
has been established in the most incorruptible form of which human 
things admit: this shall be the court established for those who are 
unable to get rid of their suits either in the courts of neighbours or 
of the tribes. 

Thus much of the courts of law, which, as I was saying, cannot be 
precisely defined either as being or not being offices; a 
superficial sketch has been given of them, in which some things have 
been told and others omitted. For the right place of an exact 
statement of the laws respecting suits, under their several heads, 
will be at the end of the body of legislation; -let us then expect them 
at the end. Hitherto our legislation has been chiefly occupied with 
the appointment of offices. Perfect unity and exactness, extending 
to the whole and every particular of political administration, 
cannot be attained to the full, until the discussion shall have a 
beginning, middle, and end, and is complete in every part. At 
present we have reached the election of magistrates, and this may be 
regarded as a sufficient termination of what preceded. And now there 
need no longer be any delay or hesitation in beginning the work of 
legislation . 

Cle. I like what you have said, Stranger-and I particularly like 
your manner of tacking on the beginning of your new discourse to the 
end of the former one. 

Ath . Thus far, then, the old men's rational pastime has gone off 
well . 

Cle. You mean, I suppose, their serious and noble pursuit? 

Ath. Perhaps; but I should like to know whether you and I are agreed 
about a certain thing. 

Cle. About what thing? 

Ath. You know, the endless labour which painters expend upon their 
pictures-they are always putting in or taking out colours, or whatever 
be the term which artists employ; they seem as if they would never 
cease touching up their works, which are always being made brighter 
and more beautiful. 

Cle. I know something of these matters from report, although I 
have never had any great acquaintance with the art. 

Ath. No matter; we may make use of the illustration 
notwithstanding : -Suppose that some one had a mind to paint a figure in 
the most beautiful manner, in the hope that his work instead of losing 
would always improve as time went on-do you not see that being a 
mortal, unless he leaves some one to succeed him who will correct 



the flaws which time may introduce, and be able to add what is left 
imperfect through the defect of the artist, and who will further 
brighten up and improve the picture, all his great labour will last 
but a short time? 

Cle. True. 

Ath . And is not the aim of the legislator similar? First, he desires 
that his laws should be written down with all possible exactness; in 
the second place, as time goes on and he has made an actual trial of 
his decrees, will he not find omissions? Do you imagine that there 
ever was a legislator so foolish as not to know that many things are 
necessarily omitted, which some one coming after him must correct, 
if the constitution and the order of government is not to deteriorate, 
but to improve in the state which he has established? 

Cle. Assuredly, that is the sort of thing which every one would 
desire . 

Ath. And if any one possesses any means of accomplishing this by 
word or deed, or has any way great or small by which he can teach a 
person to understand how he can maintain and amend the laws, he should 
finish what he has to say, and not leave the work incomplete. 

Cle. By all means. 

Ath. And is not this what you and I have to do at the present 
moment? 

Cle. What have we to do? 

Ath. As we are about to legislate and have chosen our guardians of 
the law, and are ourselves in the evening of life, and they as 
compared with us are young men, we ought not only to legislate for 
them, but to endeavour to make them not only guardians of the law 
but legislators themselves, as far as this is possible. 

Cle. Certainly; if we can. 

Ath. At any rate, we must do our best. 

Cle. Of course. 

Ath. We will say to them-0 friends and saviours of our laws, in 
laying down any law, there are many particulars which we shall omit, 
and this cannot be helped; at the same time, we will do our utmost 
to describe what is important, and will give an outline which you 
shall fill up. And I will explain on what principle you are to act. 
Megillus and Cleinias and I have often spoken to one another 
touching these matters, and we are of opinion that we have spoken 
well. And we hope that you will be of the same mind with us, and 
become our disciples, and keep in view the things which in our 
united opinion the legislator and guardian of the law ought to keep in 
view. There was one main point about which we were agreed-that a man's 
whole energies throughout life should be devoted to the acquisition of 
the virtue proper to a man, whether this was to be gained by study, or 
habit, or some mode of acquisition, or desire, or opinion, or 
knowledge-and this applies equally to men and women, old and young-the 
aim of all should always be such as I have described; anything which 
may be an impediment, the good man ought to show that he utterly 
disregards. And if at last necessity plainly compels him to be an 
outlaw from his native land, rather than bow his neck to the yoke of 
slavery and be ruled by inferiors, and he has to fly, an exile he must 
be and endure all such trials, rather than accept another form of 
government, which is likely to make men worse. These are our 
original principles; and do you now, fixing your eyes upon the 
standard of what a man and a citizen ought or ought not to be, 
praise and blame the laws-blame those which have not this power of 
making the citizen better, but embrace those which have; and with 
gladness receive and live in them; bidding a long farewell to other 
institutions which aim at goods, as they are termed, of a different 
kind . 

Let us proceed to another class of laws, beginning with their 
foundation in religion. And we must first return to the number 
5040-the entire number had, and has, a great many convenient 
divisions, and the number of the tribes which was a twelfth part of 



the whole, being correctly formed by 21 X 20 [5040/(21 X 20), i.e., 
5040/420=12], also has them. And not only is the whole number 
divisible by twelve, but also the number of each tribe is divisible by 
twelve. Now every portion should be regarded by us as a sacred gift of 
Heaven, corresponding to the months and to the revolution of the 
universe. Every city has a guiding and sacred principle given by 
nature, but in some the division or distribution has been more right 
than in others, and has been more sacred and fortunate. In our 
opinion, nothing can be more right than the selection of the number 
5040, which may be divided by all numbers from one to twelve with 
the single exception of eleven, and that admits of a very easy 
correction; for if, turning to the dividend (5040), we deduct two 
families, the defect in the division is cured. And the truth of this 
may be easily proved when we have leisure. But for the present, 
trusting to the mere assertion of this principle, let us divide the 
state; and assigning to each portion some God or son of a God, let 
us give them altars and sacred rites, and at the altars let us hold 
assemblies for sacrifice twice in the month-twelve assemblies for 
the tribes, and twelve for the city, according to their divisions; the 
first in honour of the Gods and divine things, and the second to 
promote friendship and "better acquaintance," as the phrase is, and 
every sort of good fellowship with one another. For people must be 
acquainted with those into whose families and whom they marry and with 
those to whom they give in marriage; in such matters, as far as 
possible, a man should deem it all important to avoid a mistake, and 
with this serious purpose let games be instituted in which youths 
and maidens shall dance together, seeing one another and being seen 
naked, at a proper age, and on a suitable occasion, not 
transgressing the rules of modesty. 

The directors of choruses will be the superintendents and regulators 
of these games, and they, together with the guardians of the law, will 
legislate in any matters which we have omitted; for, as we said, where 
there are numerous and minute details, the legislator must leave out 
something. And the annual officers who have experience, and know 
what is wanted, must make arrangements and improvements year by 
year, until such enactments and provisions are sufficiently 
determined. A ten years experience of sacrifices and dances, if 
extending to all particulars, will be quite sufficient; and if the 
legislator be alive they shall communicate with him, but if he be dead 
then the several officers shall refer the omissions which come under 
their notice to the guardians of the law, and correct them, until 
all is perfect; and from that time there shall be no more change, 
and they shall establish and use the new laws with the others which 
the legislator originally gave them, and of which they are never, if 
they can help, to change aught; or, if some necessity overtakes 
them, the magistrates must be called into counsel, and the whole 
people, and they must go to all the oracles of the Gods; and if they 
are all agreed, in that case they may make the change, but if they are 
not agreed, by no manner of means, and any one who dissents shall 
prevail, as the law ordains. 

Whenever any one over twenty-five years of age, having seen and been 
seen by others, believes himself to have found a marriage connection 
which is to his mind, and suitable for the procreation of children, 
let him marry if he be still under the age of f ive-and-thirty years; 
but let him first hear how he ought to seek after what is suitable and 
appropriate. For, as Cleinias says, every law should have a suitable 
prelude . 

Cle. You recollect at the right moment, Stranger, and do not miss 
the opportunity which the argument affords of saying a word in season. 

Ath . I thank you. We will say to him who is born of good parents-0 
my son, you ought to make such a marriage as wise men would approve. 
Now they would advise you neither to avoid a poor marriage, nor 
specially to desire a rich one; but if other things are equal, 
always to honour inferiors, and with them to form connections ; -this 



will be for the benefit of the city and of the families which are 
united; for the equable and symmetrical tends infinitely more to 
virtue than the unmixed. And he who is conscious of being too 
headstrong, and carried away more than is fitting in all his 
actions, ought to desire to become the relation of orderly parents; 
and he who is of the opposite temper ought to seek the opposite 
alliance. Let there be one word concerning all marriages : -Every man 
shall follow, not after the marriage which is most pleasing to 
himself, but after that which is most beneficial to the state. For 
somehow every one is by nature prone to that which is likest to 
himself, and in this way the whole city becomes unequal in property 
and in disposition; and hence there arise in most states the very 
results which we least desire to happen. Now, to add to the law an 
express provision, not only that the rich man shall not marry into the 
rich family, nor the powerful into the family of the powerful, but 
that the slower natures shall be compelled to enter into marriage with 
the quicker, and the quicker with the slower, may awaken anger as well 
as laughter in the minds of many; for there is a difficulty in 
perceiving that the city ought to be well mingled like a cup, in which 
the maddening wine is hot and fiery, but when chastened by a soberer 
God, receives a fair associate and becomes an excellent and 
temperate drink. Yet in marriage no one is able to see that the same 
result occurs. Wherefore also the law must let alone such matters, but 
we should try to charm the spirits of men into believing the 
equability of their children's disposition to be of more importance 
than equality in excessive fortune when they marry; and him who is too 
desirous of making a rich marriage we should endeavour to turn aside 
by reproaches, not, however, by any compulsion of written law. 

Let this then be our exhortation concerning marriage, and let us 
remember what was said before-that a man should cling to 
immortality, and leave behind him children's children to be the 
servants of God in his place for ever. All this and much more may be 
truly said by way of prelude about the duty of marriage. But if a 
man will not listen and remains unsocial and alien among his 
fellow-citizens, and is still unmarried at thirty-five years of age, 
let him pay a yearly fine; -he who of the highest class shall pay a 
fine of a hundred drachmae, and he who is of the second dass a fine of 
seventy drachmae; the third class shall pay sixty drachmae, and the 
fourth thirty drachmae, and let the money be sacred to Here; he who 
does not pay the fine annually shall owe ten times the sum, which 
the treasurer of the goddess shall exact; and if he fails in doing so, 
let him be answerable and give an account of the. money at his 
audit. He who refuses to marry shall be thus punished in money, and 
also be deprived of all honour which the younger show to the elder; 
let no young man voluntarily obey him, and if he attempt to punish any 
one, let every one come to the rescue and defend the injured person, 
and he who is present and does not come to the rescue, shall be 
pronounced by the law to be a coward and a bad citizen. Of the 
marriage portion I have already spoken; and again I say for the 
instruction of poor men that he who neither gives nor receives a dowry 
on account of poverty, has a compensation; for the citizens of our 
state are provided with the necessaries of life, and wives will be 
less likely to be insolent, and husbands to be mean and subservient to 
them on account of property. And he who obeys this law will do a noble 
action; but he who will not obey, and gives or receives more than 
fifty drachmae as the price of the marriage garments if he be of the 
lowest, or more than a mina, or a mina and-a-half, if he be of the 
third or second classes, or two minae if he be of the highest class, 
shall owe to the public treasury a similar sum, and that which is 
given or received shall be sacred to Here and Zeus; and let the 
treasurers of these Gods exact the money, as was said before about the 
unmarried-that the treasurers of Here were to exact the money, or 
pay the fine themselves . 

The betrothal by a father shall be valid in the first degree, that 



by a grandfather in the second degree, and in the third degree, 
betrothal by brothers who have the same father; but if there are 
none of these alive, the betrothal by a mother shall be valid in 
like manner; in cases of unexampled fatality, the next of kin and 
the guardians shall have authority. What are to be the rites before 
marriages, or any other sacred acts, relating either to future, 
present, or past marriages, shall be referred to the interpreters; and 
he who follows their advice may be satisfied. Touching the marriage 
festival, they shall assemble not more than five male and five 
female friends of both families; and a like number of members of the 
family of either sex, and no man shall spend more than his means 
will allow; he who is of the richest class may spend a mina-he who 
is of the second, half a mina, and in the same proportion as the 
census of each decreases: all men shall praise him who is obedient 
to the law; but he who is disobedient shall be punished by the 
guardians of the law as a man wanting in true taste, and 
uninstructed in the laws of bridal song. Drunkenness is always 
improper, except at the festivals of the God who gave wine; and 
peculiarly dangerous, when a man is engaged in the business of 
marriage; at such a crisis of their lives a bride and bridegroom ought 
to have all their wits about them-they ought to take care that their 
offspring may be born of reasonable beings; for on what day or night 
Heaven will give them increase, who can say? Moreover, they ought 
not to begetting children when their bodies are dissipated by 
intoxication, but their offspring should be compact and solid, quiet 
and compounded properly; whereas the drunkard is all abroad in all his 
actions, and beside himself both in body and soul. Wherefore, also, 
the drunken man is bad and unsteady in sowing the seed of increase, 
and is likely to beget offspring who will be unstable and 
untrustworthy, and cannot be expected to walk straight either in 
body or mind. Hence during the whole year and all his life long, and 
especially while he is begetting children, ought to take care and 
not intentionally do what is injurious to health, or what involves 
insolence and wrong; for he cannot help leaving the impression of 
himself on the souls and bodies of his offspring, and he begets 
children in every way inferior. And especially on the day and night of 
marriage should a man abstain from such things. For the beginning, 
which is also a God dwelling in man, preserves all things, if it 
meet with proper respect from each individual. He who marries is 
further to consider that one of the two houses in the lot is the 
nest and nursery of his young, and there he is to marry and make a 
home for himself and bring up his children, going away from his father 
and mother. For in friendships there must be some degree of desire, in 
order to cement and bind together diversities of character; but 
excessive intercourse not having the desire which is created by 
time, insensibly dissolves friendships from a feeling of satiety; 
wherefore a man and his wife shall leave to his and her father and 
mother their own dwelling-places, and themselves go as to a colony and 
dwell there, and visit and be visited by their parents; and they shall 
beget and bring up children, handing on the torch of life from one 
generation to another, and worshipping the Gods according to law for 
ever . 

In the next place, we have to consider what sort of property will be 
most convenient. There is no difficulty either in understanding or 
acquiring most kinds of property, but there is great difficulty in 
what relates to slaves. And the reason is that we speak about them 
in a way which is right and which is not right; for what we say 
about our slaves is consistent and also inconsistent with our practice 
about them. 

Megillus. I do not understand, Stranger, what you mean. 

Ath . I am not surprised, Megillus, for the state of the Helots among 
the Lacedaemonians is of all Hellenic forms of slavery the most 
controverted and disputed about, some approving and some condemning 
it; there is less dispute about the slavery which exists among the 



Heracleots, who have subjugated the Mariandynians, and about the 
Thessalian Penestae. Looking at these and the like examples, what 
ought we to do concerning property in slaves? I made a remark, in 
passing, which naturally elicited a question about my meaning from 
you. It was this: -We know that all would agree that we should have the 
best and most attached slaves whom we can get. For many a man has 
found his slaves better in every way than brethren or sons, and many 
times they have saved the lives and property of their masters and 
their whole house-such tales are well known. 

Meg. To be sure. 

Ath . But may we not also say that the soul of the slave is utterly 
corrupt, and that no man of sense ought to trust them? And the 
wisest of our poets, speaking of Zeus, says: 

Far-seeing Zeus takes away half the understanding of men whom the 
day of slavery subdues. 

Different persons have got these two different notions of slaves in 
their minds-some of them utterly distrust their servants, and, as if 
they were wild beasts, chastise them with goads and whips, and make 
their souls three times, or rather many times, as slavish as they were 
before; -and others do just the opposite. 

Meg. True. 

Cle. Then what are we to do in our own country, Stranger, seeing 
that there are, such differences in the treatment of slaves by their 
owners? 

Ath. Well, Cleinias, there can be no doubt that man is a troublesome 
animal, and therefore he is not very manageable, nor likely to 
become so, when you attempt to introduce the necessary division, 
slave, and freeman, and master. 

Cle. That is obvious. 

Ath. He is a troublesome piece of goods, as has been often shown 
by the frequent revolts of the Messenians, and the great mischiefs 
which happen in states having many slaves who speak the same language, 
and the numerous robberies and lawless life of the Italian banditti, 
as they are called. A man who considers all this is fairly at a 
loss. Two remedies alone remain to us-not to have the slaves of the 
same country, nor if possible, speaking the same language; in this way 
they will more easily be held in subjection: secondly, we should 
tend them carefully, not only out of regard to them, but yet more 
out of respect to ourselves. And the right treatment of slaves is to 
behave properly to them, and to do to them, if possible, even more 
justice than to those who are our equals; for he who naturally and 
genuinely reverences justice, and hates injustice, is discovered in 
his dealings with any class of men to whom he can easily be unjust. 
And he who in regard to the natures and actions of his slaves is 
undefiled by impiety and injustice, will best sow the seeds of 
virtue in them; and this may be truly said of every master, and 
tyrant, and of every other having authority in relation to his 
inferiors. Slaves ought to be punished as they deserve, and not 
admonished as if they were freemen, which will only make them 
conceited. The language used to a servant ought always to be that of a 
command, and we ought not to jest with them, whether they are males or 
females-this is a foolish way which many people have of setting up 
their slaves, and making the life of servitude more disagreeable 
both for them and for their masters. 

Cle. True. 

Ath. Now that each of the citizens is provided, as far as 
possible, with a sufficient number of suitable slaves who can help him 
in what he has to do, we may next proceed to describe their dwellings. 

Cle. Very good. 

Ath. The city being new and hitherto uninhabited, care ought to be 
taken of all the buildings, and the manner of building each of them, 
and also of the temples and walls. These, Cleinias, were matters which 



properly came before the marriages; but, as we are only talking, there 
is no objection to changing the order. If, however, our plan of 
legislation is ever to take effect, then the house shall precede the 
marriage if God so will, and afterwards we will come to the 
regulations about marriage; but at present we are only describing 
these matters in a general outline. 

Cle. Quite true. 

Ath . The temples are to be placed all round the agora, and the whole 
city built on the heights in a circle, for the sake of defence and for 
the sake of purity. Near the temples are to be placed buildings for 
the magistrates and the courts of law; in these plaintiff and 
defendant will receive their due, and the places will be regarded as 
most holy, partly because they have to do with the holy things : and 
partly because they are the dwelling-places of holy Gods: and in 
them will be held the courts in which cases of homicide and other 
trials of capital offenses may fitly take place. As to the walls, 
Megillus, I agree with Sparta in thinking that they should be 
allowed to sleep in the earth, and that we should not attempt to 
disinter them; there is a poetical saying, which is finely 
expressed, that "walls ought to be of steel and iron, and not of 
earth; besides, how ridiculous of us to be sending out our young men 
annually into the country to dig and to trench, and to keep off the 
enemy by fortifications, under the idea that they are not to be 
allowed to set foot in our territory, and then, that we should 
surround ourselves with a wall, which, in the first place, is by no 
means conducive to the health of cities, and is also apt to produce 
a certain effeminacy in the minds of the inhabitants, inviting men 
to run thither instead of repelling their enemies, and leading them to 
imagine that their safety is due not to their keeping guard day and 
night, but that when they are protected by walls and gates, then 
they may sleep in safety; as if they were not meant to labour, and did 
not know that true repose comes from labour, and that disgraceful 
indolence and a careless temper of mind is only the renewal of 
trouble. But if men must have walls, the private houses ought to be so 
arranged from the first that the whole city may be one wall, having 
all the houses capable of defence by reason of their uniformity and 
equality towards the streets. The form of the city being that of a 
single dwelling will have an agreeable aspect, and being easily 
guarded will be infinitely better for security. Until the original 
building is completed, these should be the principal objects of the 
inhabitants; and the wardens of the city should superintend the 
work, and should impose a fine on him who is negligent; and in all 
that relates to the city they should have a care of cleanliness, and 
not allow a private person to encroach upon any public property either 
by buildings or excavations. Further, they ought to take care that the 
rains from heaven flow off easily, and of any other matters which 
may have to be administered either within or without the city. The 
guardians of the law shall pass any further enactments which their 
experience may show to be necessary, and supply any other points in 
which the law may be deficient. And now that these matters, and the 
buildings about the agora, and the gymnasia, and places of 
instruction, and theatres, are all ready and waiting for scholars 
and spectators, let us proceed to the subjects which follow marriage 
in the order of legislation. 

Cle. By all means. 

Ath. Assuming that marriages exist already, Cleinias, the mode of 
life during the year after marriage, before children are born, will 
follow next in order. In what way bride and bridegroom ought to live 
in a city which is to be superior to other cities, is a matter not 
at all easy for us to determine. There have been many difficulties 
already, but this will be the greatest of them, and the most 
disagreeable to the many. Still I cannot but say what appears to me to 
be right and true, Cleinias. 

Cle. Certainly. 



Ath . He who imagines that he can give laws for the public conduct of 
states, while he leaves the private life of citizens wholly to take 
care of itself; who thinks that individuals may pass the day as they 
please, and that there is no necessity of order in all things; he, I 
say, who gives up the control of their private lives, and supposes 
that they will conform to law in their common and public life, is 
making a great mistake. Why have I made this remark? Why, because I am 
going to enact that the bridegrooms should live at the common 
tables, just as they did before marriage. This was a singularity 
when first enacted by the legislator in your parts of the world, 
Megillus and Cleinias, as I should suppose, on the occasion of some 
war or other similar danger, which caused the passing of the law, 
and which would be likely to occur in thinly-peopled places, and in 
times of pressure. But when men had once tried and been accustomed 
to a common table, experience showed that the institution greatly 
conduced to security; and in some such manner the custom of having 
common tables arose among you. 

Cle. Likely enough. 

Ath. I said that there may have been singularity and danger in 
imposing such a custom at first, but that now there is not the same 
difficulty. There is, however, another institution which is the 
natural sequel to this, and would be excellent, if it existed 
anywhere, but at present it does not. The institution of which I am 
about to speak is not easily described or executed; and would be 
like the legislator "combing wool into the fire," as people say, or 
performing any other impossible and useless feat. 

Cle. What is the cause, Stranger, of this extreme hesitation? 

Ath. You shall hear without any fruitless loss of time. That which 
has law and order in a state is the cause of every good, but that 
which is disordered or ill-ordered is often the ruin of that which 
is well-ordered; and at this point the argument is now waiting. For 
with you, Cleinias and Megillus, the common tables of men are, as I 
said, a heaven-born and admirable institution, but you are mistaken in 
leaving the women unregulated by law. They have no similar institution 
of public tables in the light of day, and just that part of the 
human race which is by nature prone to secrecy and stealth on 
account of their weakness-I mean the female sex-has been left 
without regulation by the legislator, which is a great mistake. And, 
in consequence of this neglect, many things have grown lax among 
you, which might have been far better, if they had been only regulated 
by law; for the neglect of regulations about women may not only be 
regarded as a neglect of half the entire matter, but in proportion 
as woman's nature is inferior to that of men in capacity for virtue, 
in that degree the consequence of such neglect is more than twice as 
important. The careful consideration of this matter, and the arranging 
and ordering on a common principle of all our institutions relating 
both to men and women, greatly conduces to the happiness of the state. 
But at present, such is the unfortunate condition of mankind, that 
no man of sense will even venture to speak of common tables in 
places and cities in which they have never been established at all; 
and how can any one avoid being utterly ridiculous, who attempts to 
compel women to show in public how much they eat and drink? There is 
nothing at which the sex is more likely to take offence. For women are 
accustomed to creep into dark places, and when dragged out into the 
light they will exert their utmost powers of resistance, and be far 
too much for the legislator. And therefore, as I said before, in 
most places they will not endure to have the truth spoken without 
raising a tremendous outcry, but in this state perhaps they may. And 
if we may assume that our whole discussion about the state has not 
been mere idle talk, I should like to prove to you, if you will 
consent to listen, that this institution is good and proper; but if 
you had rather not, I will refrain. 

Cle. There is nothing which we should both of us like better, 
Stranger, than to hear what you have to say. 



Ath. Very good; and you must not be surprised if I go back a little, 
for we have plenty of leisure, and there is nothing to prevent us from 
considering in every point of view the subject of law. 

Cle. True. 

Ath. Then let us return once more to what we were saying at first. 
Every man should understand that the human race either had no 
beginning at all, and will never have an end, but always will be and 
has been; or that it began an immense while ago. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. Well, and have there not been constitutions and destructions of 
states, and all sorts of pursuits both orderly and disorderly, and 
diverse desires of meats and drinks always, and in all the world, 
and all sorts of changes of the seasons in which animals may be 
expected to have undergone innumerable transformations of themselves? 

Cle. No doubt. 

Ath. And may we not suppose that vines appeared, which had 
previously no existence, and also olives, and the gifts of Demeter and 
her daughter, of which one Triptolemus was the minister, and that, 
before these existed, animals took to devouring each other as they 
do still? 

Cle. True. 

Ath. Again, the practice of men sacrificing one another still exists 
among many nations; while, on the other hand, we hear of other human 
beings who did not even venture to taste the flesh of a cow and had no 
animal sacrifices, but only cakes and fruits dipped in honey, and 
similar pure offerings, but no flesh of animals; from these they 
abstained under the idea that they ought not to eat them, and might 
not stain the altars of the Gods with blood. For in those days men are 
said to have lived a sort of Orphic life, having the use of all 
lifeless things, but abstaining from all living things. 

Cle. Such has been the constant tradition, and is very likely true. 

Ath. Some one might say to us, What is the drift of all this? 

Cle. A very pertinent question, Stranger. 

Ath. And therefore I will endeavour, Cleinias, if I can, to draw the 
natural inference. 

Cle. Proceed. 

Ath. I see that among men all things depend upon three wants and 
desires, of which the end is virtue, if they are rightly led by 
them, or the opposite if wrongly. Now these are eating and drinking, 
which begin at birth-every animal has a natural desire for them, and 
is violently excited, and rebels against him who says that he must not 
satisfy all his pleasures and appetites, and get rid of all the 
corresponding pains-and the third and greatest and sharpest want and 
desire breaks out last, and is the fire of sexual lust, which 
kindles in men every species of wantonness and madness. And these 
three disorders we must endeavour to master by the three great 
principles of fear and law and right reason; turning them away from 
that which is called pleasantest to the best, using the Muses and 
the Gods who preside over contests to extinguish their increase and 
influx . 

But to return : -After marriage let us speak of the birth of children, 
and after their birth of their nurture and education. In the course of 
discussion the several laws will be perfected, and we shall at last 
arrive at the common tables. Whether such associations are to be 
confined to men, or extended to women also, we shall see better when 
we approach and take a nearer view of them; and we may then 
determine what previous institutions are required and will have to 
precede them. As I said before we shall see them more in detail, and 
shall be better able to lay down the laws which are proper or suited 
to them. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. Let us keep in mind the words which have now been spoken; for 
hereafter there may be need of them. 

Cle. What do you bid us keep in mind? 



Ath . That which we comprehended under the three words-first, eating, 
secondly, drinking, thirdly, the excitement of love. 

Cle. We shall be sure to remember, Stranger. 

Ath. Very good. Then let us now proceed to marriage, and teach 
persons in what way they shall beget children, threatening them, if 
they disobey, with the terrors of the law. 

Cle. What do you mean? 

Ath. The bride and bridegroom should consider that they are to 
produce for the state the best and fairest specimens of children which 
they can. Now all men who are associated any action always succeed 
when they attend and give their mind to what they are doing, but 
when they do not give their mind or have no mind, they fail; wherefore 
let the bridegroom give his mind to the bride and to the begetting 
of children, and the bride in like manner give her mind to the 
bridegroom, and particularly at the time when their children are not 
yet born. And let the women whom we have chosen be the overseers of 
such matters, and let them in whatever number, large or small, and 
at whatever time the magistrates may command, assemble every day in 
the temple of Eileithyia during a third part of the day, and being 
there assembled, let them inform one another of any one whom they see, 
whether man or woman, of those who are begetting children, 
disregarding the ordinances given at the time when the nuptial 
sacrifices and ceremonies were performed. Let the begetting of 
children and the supervision of those who are begetting them 
continue ten years and no longer, during the time when marriage is 
fruitful. But if any continue without children up to this time, let 
them take counsel with their kindred and with the women holding the 
office of overseer and be divorced for their mutual benefit. If, 
however, any dispute arises about what is proper and for the 
interest of either party, they shall choose ten of the guardians of 
the law and abide by their permission and appointment. The women who 
preside over these matters shall enter into the houses of the young, 
and partly by admonitions and partly by threats make them give over 
their folly and error: if they persist, let the women go and tell 
the guardians of the law, and the guardians shall prevent them. But if 
they too cannot prevent them, they shall bring the matter before the 
people; and let them write up their names and make oath that they 
cannot reform such and such an one; and let him who is thus written 
up, if he cannot in a court of law convict those who have inscribed 
his name, be deprived of the privileges of a citizen in the 
following respects : -let him not go to weddings nor to the 
thanksgivings after the birth of children; and if he go, let any one 
who pleases strike him with impunity; and let the same regulations 
hold about women: let not a woman be allowed to appear abroad, or 
receive honour, or go to nuptial and birthday festivals, if she in 
like manner be written up as acting disorderly and cannot obtain a 
verdict. And if, when they themselves have done begetting children 
according to the law, a man or woman have connection with another 
man or woman who are still begetting children, let the same 
penalties be inflicted upon them as upon those who are still having 
a family; and when the time for procreation has passed let the man 
or woman who refrains in such matters be held in esteem, and let those 
who do not refrain be held in the contrary of esteem-that is to say, 
disesteem. Now, if the greater part of mankind behave modestly, the 
enactments of law may be left to slumber; but, if they are disorderly, 
the enactments having been passed, let them be carried into execution. 
To every man the first year is the beginning of life, and the time 
of birth ought to be written down in the temples of their fathers as 
the beginning of existence to every child, whether boy or girl. Let 
every phratria have inscribed on a whited wall the names of the 
successive archons by whom the years are reckoned. And near to them 
let the living members of the phratria be inscribed, and when they 
depart life let them be erased. The limit of marriageable ages for a 
woman shall be from sixteen to twenty years at the longest-for a 



man, from thirty to thirty-five years; and let a woman hold office 
at forty, and a man at thirty years. Let a man go out to war from 
twenty to sixty years, and for a woman, if there appear any need to 
make use of her in military service, let the time of service be 
after she shall have brought forth children up to fifty years of 
age; and let regard be had to what is possible and suitable to each. 
BOOK VII 

And now, assuming children of both sexes to have been born, it 
will be proper for us to consider, in the next place, their nurture 
and education; this cannot be left altogether unnoticed, and yet may 
be thought a subject fitted rather for precept and admonition than for 
law. In private life there are many little things, not always 
apparent, arising out of the pleasures and pains and desires of 
individuals, which run counter to the intention of the legislator, and 
make the characters of the citizens various and dissimilar : -this is an 
evil in states; for by reason of their smallness and frequent 
occurrence, there would be an unseemliness and want of propriety in 
making them penal by law; and if made penal, they are the 
destruction of the written law because mankind get the habit of 
frequently transgressing the law in small matters. The result is 
that you cannot legislate about them, and still less can you be 
silent. I speak somewhat darkly, but I shall endeavour also to bring 
my wares into the light of day, for I acknowledge that at present 
there is a want of clearness in what I am saying. 

Cleinias . Very true. 

Athenian. Stranger. Am I not right in maintaining that a good 
education is that which tends most, to the improvement of mind and 
body? 

Cle. Undoubtedly. 

Ath . And nothing can be plainer than that the fairest bodies are 
those which grow up from infancy in the best and straightest manner? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. And do we not further observe that the first shoot of every 
living thing is by far the greatest and fullest? Many will even 
contend that a man at twenty-five does not reach twice the height 
which he attained at five. 

Cle. True. 

Ath. Well, and is not rapid growth without proper and abundant 
exercise the source endless evils in the body? 

Cle. Yes. 

Ath. And the body should have the most exercise when it receives 
most nourishment? 

Cle. But, Stranger, are we to impose this great amount of exercise 
upon newly-born infants? 

Ath. Nay, rather on the bodies of infants still unborn. 

Cle. What do you mean, my good sir? In the process of gestation? 

Ath. Exactly. I am not at all surprised that you have never heard of 
this very peculiar sort of gymnastic applied to such little creatures, 
which, although strange, I will endeavour to explain to you. 

Cle. By all means. 

Ath. The practice is more easy for us to understand than for you, by 
reason of certain amusements which are carried to excess by us at 
Athens. Not only boys, but often older persons, are in the habit of 
keeping quails and cocks, which they train to fight one another. And 
they are far from thinking that the contests in which they stir them 
up to fight with one another are sufficient exercise; for, in addition 
to this, they carry them about tucked beneath their armpits, holding 
the smaller birds in their hands, the larger under their arms, and 
go for a walk of a great many miles for the sake of health, that is to 
say, not their own, health, but the health of the birds; whereby 
they prove to any intelligent person, that all bodies are benefited by 
shakings and movements, when they are moved without weariness, whether 
motion proceeds from themselves, or is caused by a swing, or at sea, 



or on horseback, or by other bodies in whatever way moving, and that 
thus gaining the mastery over food and drink, they are able to 
impart beauty and health and strength. But admitting all this, what 
follows? Shall we make a ridiculous law that the pregnant woman 
shall walk about and fashion the embryo within as we fashion wax 
before it hardens, and after birth swathe the infant for two years? 
Suppose that we compel nurses, under penalty of a legal fine, to be 
always carrying the children somewhere or other, either to the 
temples, or into the country, or to their relations, houses, until 
they are well able to stand, and to take care that their limbs are not 
distorted by leaning on them when they are too young-they should 
continue to carry them until the infant has completed its third 
year; the nurses should be strong, and there should be more than one 
of them. Shall these be our rules, and shall we impose a penalty for 
the neglect of them? No, no; the penalty of which we were speaking 
will fall upon our own heads more than enough. 

Cle. What penalty? 

Ath. Ridicule, and the difficulty of getting the feminine and 
servant-like dispositions of the nurses to comply. 

Cle. Then why was there any need to speak of the matter at all? 

Ath. The reason is that masters and freemen in states, when they 
hear of it, are very likely to arrive at a true conviction that 
without due regulation of private life in cities, stability in the 
laying down of laws is hardly to be expected; and he who makes this 
reflection may himself adopt the laws just now mentioned, and, 
adopting them, may order his house and state well and be happy. 

Cle. Likely enough. 

Ath. And therefore let us proceed with our legislation until we have 
determined the exercises which are suited to the souls of young 
children, in the same manner in which we have begun to go through 
the rules relating to their bodies. 

Cle. By all means. 

Ath. Let us assume, then, as a first principle in relation both to 
the body and soul of very young creatures, that nursing and moving 
about by day and night is good for them all, and that the younger they 
are, the more they will need it; infants should live, if that were 
possible, as if they were always rocking at sea. This is the lesson 
which we may gather from the experience of nurses, and likewise from 
the use of the remedy of motion in the rites of the Corybantes; for 
when mothers want their restless children to go to sleep they do not 
employ rest, but, on the contrary, motion-rocking them in their 
arms; nor do they give them silence, but they sing to them and lap 
them in sweet strains; and the Bacchic women are cured of their frenzy 
in the same manner by the use of the dance and of music. 

Cle. Well, Stranger, and what is the reason of this? 

Ath. The reason is obvious. 

Cle. What? 

Ath. The affection both of the Bacchantes and of the children is 
an emotion of fear, which springs out of an evil habit of the soul. 
And when some one applies external agitation to affections of this 
sort, the motion coming from without gets the better of the terrible 
and violent internal one, and produces a peace and calm in the soul, 
and quiets the restless palpitation of the heart, which is a thing 
much to be desired, sending the children to sleep, and making the 
Bacchantes, although they remain awake, to dance to the pipe with 
the help of the Gods to whom they offer acceptable sacrifices, and 
producing in them a sound mind, which takes the place of their frenzy. 
And, to express what I mean in a word, there is a good deal to be said 
in favour of this treatment. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. But if fear has such a power we ought to infer from these 
facts, that every soul which from youth upward has been familiar 
with fears, will be made more liable to fear, and every one will allow 
that this is the way to form a habit of cowardice and not of courage. 



Cle. No doubt. 

Ath . And, on the other hand, the habit of overcoming, from our youth 
upwards, the fears and terrors which beset us, may be said to be an 
exercise of courage. 

Cle. True. 

Ath. And we may say that the use of exercise and motion in the 
earliest years of life greatly contributes to create a part of 
virtue in the soul. 

Cle. Quite true. 

Ath. Further, a cheerful temper, or the reverse, may be regarded 
as having much to do with high spirit on the one hand, or with 
cowardice on the other. 

Cle. To be sure. 

Ath. Then now we must endeavour to show how and to what extent we 
may, if we please, without difficulty implant either character in 
the young. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. There is a common opinion, that luxury makes the disposition of 
youth discontented and irascible and vehemently excited by trifles; 
that on the other hand excessive and savage servitude makes men mean 
and abject, and haters of their kind, and therefore makes them 
undesirable associates. 

Cle. But how must the state educate those who do not as yet 
understand the language of the country, and are therefore incapable of 
appreciating any sort of instruction? 

Ath. I will tell you how:-Every animal that is born is wont to utter 
some cry, and this is especially the case with man, and he is also 
affected with the inclination to weep more than any other animal. 

Cle. Quite true. 

Ath. Do not nurses, when they want to know what an infant desires, 
judge by these signs?-when anything is brought to the infant and he is 
silent, then he is supposed to be pleased, but, when he weeps and 
cries out, then he is not pleased. For tears and cries are the 
inauspicious signs by which children show what they love and hate. Now 
the time which is thus spent is no less than three years, and is a 
very considerable portion of life to be passed ill or well. 

Cle. True. 

Ath. Does not the discontented and ungracious nature appear to you 
to be full of lamentations and sorrows more than a good man ought to 
be? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. Well, but if during these three years every possible care 
were taken that our nursling should have as little of sorrow and fear, 
and in general of pain as was possible, might we not expect in early 
childhood to make his soul more gentle and cheerful? 

Cle. To be sure, Stranger-more especially if we could procure him 
a variety of pleasures. 

Ath. There I can no longer agree, Cleinias : you amaze me. To bring 
him up in such a way would be his utter ruin; for the beginning is 
always the most critical part of education. Let us see whether I am 
right . 

Cle. Proceed. 

Ath. The point about which you and I differ is of great 
importance, and I hope that you, Megillus, will help to decide between 
us. For I maintain that the true life should neither seek for 
pleasures, nor, on the other hand, entirely avoid pains, but should 
embrace the middle state, which I just spoke of as gentle and 
benign, and is a state which we by some divine presage and inspiration 
rightly ascribe to God. Now, I say, he among men, too, who would be 
divine ought to pursue after this mean habit-he should not rush 
headlong into pleasures, for he will not be free from pains; nor 
should we allow any one, young or old, male or female, to be thus 
given any more than ourselves, and least of all the newly-born infant, 
for in infancy more than at any other time the character is 



engrained by habit. Nay, more, if I were not afraid of appearing to be 
ridiculous, I would say that a woman during her year of pregnancy 
should of all women be most carefully tended, and kept from violent or 
excessive pleasures and pains, and should at that time cultivate 
gentleness and benevolence and kindness. 

Cle. You need not, ask Megillus, Stranger, which of us has most 
truly spoken; for I myself agree that all men ought to avoid the 
life of unmingled pain or pleasure, and pursue always a middle course. 
And having spoken well, may I add that you have been well answered? 

Ath . Very good, Cleinias; and now let us all three consider a 
further point. 

Cle. What is it? 

Ath. That all the matters which we are now describing are commonly 
called by the general name of unwritten customs, and what are termed 
the laws of our ancestors are all of similar nature. And the 
reflection which lately arose in our minds, that we can neither call 
these things laws, nor yet leave them unmentioned, is justified; for 
they are the bonds of the whole state, and come in between the written 
laws which are or are hereafter to be laid down; they are just 
ancestral customs of great antiquity, which, if they are rightly 
ordered and made habitual, shield and preserve the previously existing 
written law; but if they depart from right and fall into disorder, 
then they are like the props of builders which slip away out of 
their Place and cause a universal ruin-one part drags another down, 
and the fair super-structure falls because the old foundations are 
undermined. Reflecting upon this, Cleinias, you ought to bind together 
the new state in every possible way, omitting nothing, whether great 
or small, of what are called laws or manners or pursuits, for by these 
means a city is bound together, and all these things are only 
lasting when they depend upon one another; and, therefore, we must not 
wonder if we find that many apparently trifling customs or usages come 
pouring in and lengthening out our laws . 

Cle. Very true: we are disposed to agree with you. 

Ath. Up to the age of three years, whether of boy or girl, if a 
person strictly carries out our previous regulations and makes them 
a principal aim, he will do much for the advantage of the young 
creatures. But at three, four, five, and even six years the childish 
nature will require sports; now is the time to get rid of self-will in 
him, punishing him, but not so as to disgrace him. We were saying 
about slaves, that we ought neither to add insult to punishment so 
as to anger them, nor yet to leave them unpunished lest they become 
self-willed; and a like rule is to be observed in the case of the 
free-born. Children at that age have certain natural modes of 
amusement which they find out for themselves when they meet. And all 
the children who are between the ages of three and six ought to meet 
at the temples the villages, the several families of a village uniting 
on one spot. The nurses are to see that the children behave properly 
and orderly-they themselves and all their companies are to be under 
the control of twelve matrons, one for each company, who are 
annually selected to inspect them from the women previously mentioned, 
[i.e., the women who have authority over marriage], whom the guardians 
of the law appoint. These matrons shall be chosen by the women who 
have authority over marriage, one out of each tribe; all are to be 
of the same age; and let each of them, as soon as she is appointed, 
hold office and go to the temples every day, punishing all 
offenders, male or female, who are slaves or strangers, by the help of 
some of the public slaves; but if any citizen disputes the punishment, 
let her bring him before the wardens of the city; or, if there be no 
dispute, let her punish him herself. After the age of six years the 
time has arrived for the separation of the sexes-let boys live with 
boys, and girls in like manner with girls. Now they must begin to 
learn-the boys going to teachers of horsemanship and the use of the 
bow, the javelin, and sling, and the girls too, if they do not object, 
at any rate until they know how to manage these weapons, and 



especially how to handle heavy arms; for I may note, that the practice 
which now prevails is almost universally misunderstood. 

Cle. In what respect? 

Ath . In that the right and left hand are supposed to be by nature 
differently suited for our various uses of them; whereas no difference 
is found in the use of the feet and the lower limbs; but in the use of 
the hands we are, as it were, maimed by the folly of nurses and 
mothers; for although our several limbs are by nature balanced, we 
create a difference in them by bad habit. In some cases this is of 
no consequence, as, for example, when we hold the lyre in the left 
hand, and the plectrum in the right, but it is downright folly to make 
the same distinction in other cases. The custom of the Scythians 
proves our error; for they not only hold the bow from them with the 
left hand and draw the arrow to them with their right, but use 
either hand for both purposes. And there are many similar examples 
in charioteering and other things, from which we may learn that 
those who make the left side weaker than the right act contrary to 
nature. In the case of the plectrum, which is of horn only, and 
similar instruments, as I was saying, it is of no consequence, but 
makes a great difference, and may be of very great importance to the 
warrior who has to use iron weapons, bows and javelins, and the 
like; above all, when in heavy armour, he has to fight against heavy 
armour. And there is a very great difference between one who has 
learnt and one who has not, and between one who has been trained in 
gymnastic exercises and one who has not been. For as he who is 
perfectly skilled in the Pancratium or boxing or wrestling, is not 
unable to fight from his left side, and does not limp and draggle in 
confusion when his opponent makes him change his position, so in 
heavy-armed fighting, and in all other things if I am not mistaken, 
the like holds-he who has these double powers of attack and defence 
ought not in any case to leave them either unused or untrained, if 
he can help; and if a person had the nature of Geryon or Briareus he 
ought to be able with his hundred hands to throw a hundred darts. Now, 
the magistrates, male and female, should see to all these things, 
the women superintending the nursing and amusements of the children, 
and the men superintending their education, that all of them, boys and 
girls alike, may be sound hand and foot, and may not, if they can 
help, spoil the gifts of nature by bad habits. 

Education has two branches-one of gymnastic, which is concerned with 
the body, and the other of music, which is designed for the 
improvement of the soul. And gymnastic has also two branches-dancing 
and wrestling; and one sort of dancing imitates musical recitation, 
and aims at preserving dignity and freedom, the other aims at 
producing health, agility, and beauty in the limbs and parts of the 
body, giving the proper flexion and extension to each of them, a 
harmonious motion being diffused everywhere, and forming a suitable 
accompaniment to the dance. As regards wrestling, the tricks which 
Antaeus and Cercyon devised in their systems out of a vain spirit of 
competition, or the tricks of boxing which Epeius or Amycus 
invented, are useless and unsuitable for war, and do not deserve to 
have much said about them; but the art of wrestling erect and 
keeping free the neck and hands and sides, working with energy and 
constancy, with a composed strength, and for the sake of 
health-these are always useful, and are not to be neglected, but to be 
enjoined alike on masters and scholars, when we reach that part of 
legislation; and we will desire the one to give their instructions 
freely, and the others to receive them thankfully. Nor, again, must we 
omit suitable imitations of war in our choruses; here in Crete you 
have the armed dances if the Curetes, and the Lacedaemonians have 
those of the Dioscuri. And our virgin lady, delighting in the 
amusement of the dance, thought it not fit to amuse herself with empty 
hands; she must be clothed in a complete suit of armour, and in this 
attire go through the dance; and youths and maidens should in every 
respect imitate her, esteeming highly the favour of the Goddess, 



both with a view to the necessities of war, and to festive 
occasions: it will be right also for the boys, until such time as they 
go out to war, to make processions and supplications to all the Gods 
in goodly array, armed and on horseback, in dances, and marches, 
fast or slow, offering up prayers to the Gods and to the sons of Gods; 
and also engaging in contests and preludes of contests, if at all, 
with these objects: For these sorts of exercises, and no others, are 
useful both in peace and war, and are beneficial alike to states and 
to private houses. But other labours and sports and exercises of the 
body are unworthy of freemen, Megillus and Cleinias . 

I have now completely described the kind of gymnastic which I said 
at first ought to be described; if you know of any better, will you 
communicate your thoughts? 

Cle. It is not easy, Stranger, to put aside these principles of 
gymnastic and wrestling and to enunciate better ones. 

Ath . Now we must say what has yet to be said about the gifts of 
the Muses and of Apollo: before, we fancied that we had said all, 
and that gymnastic alone remained; but now we see clearly what 
points have been omitted, and should be first proclaimed; of these, 
then, let us proceed to speak. 

Cle. By all means. 

Ath. Let me tell you once more-although you have heard me say the 
same before that caution must be always exercised, both by the speaker 
and by the hearer, about anything that is very singular and unusual. 
For my tale is one, which many a man would be afraid to tell, and 
yet I have a confidence which makes me go on. 

Cle. What have you to say, Stranger? 

Ath. I say that in states generally no one has observed that the 
plays of childhood have a great deal to do with the permanence or want 
of permanence in legislation. For when plays are ordered with a view 
to children having the same plays, and amusing themselves after the 
same manner, and finding delight in the same playthings, the more 
solemn institutions of the state are allowed to remain undisturbed. 
Whereas if sports are disturbed, and innovations are made in them, and 
they constantly change, and the young never speak of their having 
the same likings, or the same established notions of good and bad 
taste, either in the bearing of their bodies or in their dress, but he 
who devises something new and out of the way in figures and colours 
and the like is held in special honour, we may truly say that no 
greater evil can happen in a state; for he who changes the sports is 
secretly changing the manners of the young, and making the old to be 
dishonoured among them and the new to be honoured. And I affirm that 
there is nothing which is a greater injury to all states than saying 
or thinking thus. Will you hear me tell how great I deem the evil to 
be? 

Cle. You mean the evil of blaming antiquity in states? 

Ath. Exactly. 

Cle. If you are speaking of that, you will find in us hearers who 
are disposed to receive what you say not unfavourably but most 
favourably . 

Ath. I should expect so. 

Cle. Proceed. 

Ath. Well, then, let us give all the greater heed to one another's 
words. The argument affirms that any change whatever except from 
evil is the most dangerous of all things; this is true in the case 
of the seasons and of the winds, in the management of our bodies and 
the habits of our minds-true of all things except, as I said before, 
of the bad. He who looks at the constitution of individuals accustomed 
to eat any sort of meat, or drink any drink, or to do any work which 
they can get, may see that they are at first disordered by them, but 
afterwards, as time goes on, their bodies grow adapted to them, and 
they learn to know and like variety, and have good health and 
enjoyment of life; and if ever afterwards they are confined again to a 
superior diet, at first they are troubled with disorders, and with 



difficulty become habituated to their new food. A similar principle we 
may imagine to hold good about the minds of men and the natures of 
their souls. For when they have been brought up in certain laws, which 
by some Divine Providence have remained unchanged during long ages, so 
that no one has any memory or tradition of their ever having been 
otherwise than they are, then every one is afraid and ashamed to 
change that which is established. The legislator must somehow find a 
way of implanting this reverence for antiquity, and I would propose 
the following way: -People are apt to fancy, as I was saying before, 
that when the plays of children are altered they are merely plays, not 
seeing that the most serious and detrimental consequences arise out of 
the change; and they readily comply with the child's wishes instead of 
deterring him, not considering that these children who make 
innovations in their games, when they grow up to be men, will be 
different from the last generation of children, and, being 
different, will desire a different sort of life, and under the 
influence of this desire will want other institutions and laws; and no 
one of them reflects that there will follow what I just now called the 
greatest of evils to states. Changes in bodily fashions are no such 
serious evils, but frequent changes in the praise and censure of 
manners are the greatest of evils, and require the utmost prevision. 

Cle. To be sure. 

Ath . And now do we still hold to our former assertion, that 
rhythms and music in general are imitations of good and evil 
characters in men? What say you? 

Cle. That is the only doctrine which we can admit. 

Ath. Must we not, then, try in every possible way to prevent our 
youth from even desiring to imitate new modes either in dance or song? 
nor must any one be allowed to offer them varieties of pleasures. 

Cle. Most true. 

Ath. Can any of us imagine a better mode of effecting this object 
than that of the Egyptians? 

Cle. What is their method? 

Ath. To consecrate every sort of dance or melody. First we should 
ordain festivals-calculating for the year what they ought to be, and 
at what time, and in honour of what Gods, sons of Gods, and heroes 
they ought to be celebrated; and, in the next place, what hymns 
ought to be sung at the several sacrifices, and with what dances the 
particular festival is to be honoured. This has to be arranged at 
first by certain persons, and, when arranged, the whole assembly of 
the citizens are to offer sacrifices and libations to the Fates and 
all the other Gods, and to consecrate the several odes to gods and 
heroes: and if any one offers any other hymns or dances to any one 
of the Gods, the priests and priestesses, acting in concert with the 
guardians of the law, shall, with the sanction of religion and the 
law, exclude him, and he who is excluded, if he do not submit, shall 
be liable all his life long to have a suit of impiety brought 
against him by any one who likes. 

Cle. Very good. 

Ath. In the consideration of this subject, let us remember what is 
due to ourselves . 

Cle. To what are you referring? 

Ath. I mean that any young man, and much more any old one, when he 
sees or hears anything strange or unaccustomed, does not at once run 
to embrace the paradox, but he stands considering, like a person who 
is at a place where three paths meet, and does not very well know 
his way-he may be alone or he may be walking with others, and he 
will say to himself and them, "Which is the way?" and will not move 
forward until he is satisfied that he is going right. And this is what 
we must do in the present instance: -A strange discussion on the 
subject of law has arisen, which requires the utmost consideration, 
and we should not at our age be too ready to speak about such great 
matters, or be confident that we can say anything certain all in a 
moment . 



Cle. Most true. 

Ath . Then we will allow time for reflection, and decide when we have 
given the subject sufficient consideration. But that we may not be 
hindered from completing the natural arrangement of our laws, let us 
proceed to the conclusion of them in due order; for very possibly, 
if God will, the exposition of them, when completed, may throw light 
on our present perplexity. 

Cle. Excellent, Stranger; let us do as you propose. 

Ath. Let us then affirm the paradox that strains of music are our 
laws (nomoi), and this latter being the name which the ancients gave 
to lyric songs, they probably would not have very much objected to our 
proposed application of the word. Some one, either asleep or awake, 
must have had a dreamy suspicion of their nature. And let our decree 
be as follows: -No one in singing or dancing shall offend against 
public and consecrated models, and the general fashion among the 
youth, any more than he would offend against any other law. And he who 
observes this law shall be blameless; but he who is disobedient, as 
I was saying, shall be punished by the guardians of the laws, and by 
the priests and priestesses. Suppose that we imagine this to be our 
law . 

Cle. Very good. 

Ath. Can any one who makes such laws escape ridicule? Let us see. 
I think that our only safety will be in first framing certain models 
for composers. One of these models shall be as follows: -If when a 
sacrifice is going on, and the victims are being burnt according to 
law-if, I say, any one who may be a son or brother, standing by 
another at the altar and over the victims, horribly blasphemes, will 
not his words inspire despondency and evil omens and forebodings in 
the mind of his father and of his other kinsmen? 

Cle. Of course. 

Ath. And this is just what takes place in almost all our cities. A 
magistrate offers a public sacrifice, and there come in not one but 
many choruses, who take up a position a little way from the altar, and 
from time to time pour forth all sorts of horrible blasphemies on 
the sacred rites, exciting the souls of the audience with words and 
rhythms and melodies most sorrowful to hear; and he who at the 
moment when the city is offering sacrifice makes the citizens weep 
most, carries away the palm of victory. Now, ought we not to forbid 
such strains as these? And if ever our citizens must hear such 
lamentations, then on some unblest and inauspicious day let there be 
choruses of foreign and hired minstrels, like those hirelings who 
accompany the departed at funerals with barbarous Carian chants. 
That is the sort of thing which will be appropriate if we have such 
strains at all; and let the apparel of the singers be, not circlets 
and ornaments of gold, but the reverse. Enough of all this. I will 
simply ask once more whether we shall lay down as one of our 
principles of song- 

Cle. What? 

Ath. That we should avoid every word of evil omen; let that kind 
of song which is of good omen be heard everywhere and always in our 
state. I need hardly ask again, but shall assume that you agree with 
me . 

Cle. By all means; that law is approved by the suffrages of us all. 

Ath. But what shall be our next musical law or type? Ought not 
prayers to be offered up to the Gods when we sacrifice? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. And our third law, if I am not mistaken, will be to the 
effect that our poets, understanding prayers to be requests which we 
make to the Gods, will take especial heed that they do not by 
mistake ask for evil instead of good. To make such a prayer would 
surely be too ridiculous. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. Were we not a little while ago quite convinced that no silver 
or golden Plutus should dwell in our state? 



Cle. To be sure. 

Ath . And what has it been the object of our argument to show? Did we 
not imply that the poets are not always quite capable of knowing 
what is good or evil? And if one of them utters a mistaken prayer in 
song or words, he will make our citizens pray for the opposite of what 
is good in matters of the highest import; than which, as I was saying, 
there can be few greater mistakes. Shall we then propose as one of our 
laws and models relating to the Muses- 

Cle. What?-will you explain the law more precisely? 

Ath. Shall we make a law that the poet shall compose nothing 
contrary to the ideas of the lawful, or just, or beautiful, or good, 
which are allowed in the state? nor shall he be permitted to 
communicate his compositions to any private individuals, until he 
shall have shown them to the appointed judges and the guardians of the 
law, and they are satisfied with them. As to the persons whom we 
appoint to be our legislators about music and as to the director of 
education, these have been already indicated. Once more then, as I 
have asked more than once, shall this be our third law, and type, 
and model-What do you say? 

Cle. Let it be so, by all means. 

Ath. Then it will be proper to have hymns and praises of the Gods, 
intermingled with prayers; and after the Gods prayers and praises 
should be offered in like manner to demigods and heroes, suitable to 
their several characters. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. In the next place there will be no objection to a law, that 
citizens who are departed and have done good and energetic deeds, 
either with their souls or with their bodies, and have been obedient 
to the laws, should receive eulogies; this will be very fitting. 

Cle. Quite true. 

Ath. But to honour with hymns and panegyrics those who are still 
alive is not safe; a man should run his course, and make a fair 
ending, and then we will praise him; and let praise be given equally 
to women as well as men who have been distinguished in virtue. The 
order of songs and dances shall be as follows : -There are many 
ancient musical compositions and dances which are excellent, and 
from these the newly-founded city may freely select what is proper and 
suitable; and they shall choose judges of not less than fifty years of 
age, who shall make the selection, and any of the old poems which they 
deem sufficient they shall include; any that are deficient or 
altogether unsuitable, they shall either utterly throw aside, or 
examine and amend, taking into their counsel poets and musicians, 
and making use of their poetical genius; but explaining to them the 
wishes of the legislator in order that they may regulate dancing, 
music, and all choral strains, according to the mind of the judges; 
and not allowing them to indulge, except in some few matters, their 
individual pleasures and fancies. Now the irregular strain of music is 
always made ten thousand times better by attaining to law and order, 
and rejecting the honeyed Muse-not however that we mean wholly to 
exclude pleasure, which is the characteristic of all music. And if a 
man be brought up from childhood to the age of discretion and maturity 
in the use of the orderly and severe music, when he hears the opposite 
he detests it, and calls it illiberal; but if trained in the sweet and 
vulgar music, he deems the severer kind cold and displeasing. So that, 
as I was saying before, while he who hears them gains no more pleasure 
from the one than from the other, the one has the advantage of 
making those who are trained in it better men, whereas the other makes 
them worse. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. Again, we must distinguish and determine on some general 
principle what songs are suitable to women, and what to men, and 
must assign to them their proper melodies and rhythms. It is 
shocking for a whole harmony to be inharmonical, or for a rhythm to be 
unrhythmical, and this will happen when the melody is inappropriate to 



them. And therefore the legislator must assign to these also their 
forms. Now both sexes have melodies and rhythms which of necessity 
belong to them; and those of women are clearly enough indicated by 
their natural difference. The grand, and that which tends to 
courage, may be fairly called manly; but that which inclines to 
moderation and temperance, may be declared both in law and in ordinary 
speech to be the more womanly quality. This, then, will be the general 
order of them. 

Let us now speak of the manner of teaching and imparting them, and 
the persons to whom, and the time when, they are severally to be 
imparted. As the shipwright first lays down the lines of the keel, and 
thus, as it were, draws the ship in outline, so do I seek to 
distinguish the patterns of life, and lay down their keels according 
to the nature of different men's souls; seeking truly to consider by 
what means, and in what ways, we may go through the voyage of life 
best. Now human affairs are hardly worth considering in earnest, and 
yet we must be in earnest about them-a sad necessity constrains us. 
And having got thus far, there will be a fitness in our completing the 
matter, if we can only find some suitable method of doing so. But what 
do I mean? Some one may ask this very question, and quite rightly, 
too . 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath . I say that about serious matters a man should be serious, and 
about a matter which is not serious he should not be, serious; and 
that God is the natural and worthy object of our most serious and 
blessed endeavours, for man, as I said before, is made to be the 
plaything of God, and this, truly considered, is the best of him; 
wherefore also every man and woman should walk seriously, and pass 
life in the noblest of pastimes, and be of another mind from what they 
are at present. 

Cle. In what respect? 

Ath. At present they think that their serious suits should be for 
the sake of their sports, for they deem war a serious, pursuit, 
which must be managed well for the sake of peace; but the truth is, 
that there neither is, nor has been, nor ever will be, either 
amusement or instruction in any degree worth, speaking of in war, 
which is nevertheless deemed by us to be the most serious of our 
pursuits. And therefore, as we say, every one of us should live the 
life of peace as long and as well as he can. And what is the right way 
of living? Are we to live in sports always? If so, in what kind of 
sports? We ought to live sacrificing, and singing, and dancing, and 
then a man will be able to propitiate the Gods, and to defend 
himself against his enemies and conquer them in battle. The type of 
song or dance by which he will propitiate them has been described, and 
the paths along which he is to proceed have been cut for him. He 
will go forward in the spirit of the poet: 

Telemachus, some things thou wilt thyself find in thy heart, but 
other things God will suggest; for I deem that thou wast not brought 
up without the will of the Gods. 

And this ought to be the view of our alumni; they ought to think 
that what has been said is enough for them, and that any other 
things their Genius and God will suggest to them-he will tell them 
to whom, and when, and to what Gods severally they are to sacrifice 
and perform dances, and how they may propitiate the deities, and 
live according to the appointment of nature; being for the most part 
puppets, but having some little share of reality. 

Megillus. You have a low opinion of mankind, Stranger. 

Ath. Nay, Megillus, be not amazed, but forgive me: -I was comparing 
them with the Gods; and under that feeling I spoke. Let us grant, if 
you wish, that the human race is not to be despised, but is worthy 
of some consideration. 

Next follow the buildings for gymnasia and schools open to all; 



these are to be in three places in the midst of the city; and 
outside the city and in the surrounding country, also in three places, 
there shall be schools for horse exercise, and large grounds 
arranged with a view to archery and the throwing of missiles, at which 
young men may learn and practise. Of these mention has already been 
made, and if the mention be not sufficiently explicit, let us speak, 
further of them and embody them in laws. In these several schools 
let there be dwellings for teachers, who shall be brought from foreign 
parts by pay, and let them teach those who attend the schools the 
art of war and the art of music, and the children shall come not 
only if their parents please, but if they do not please; there shall 
be compulsory education, as the saying is, of all and sundry, as far 
this is possible; and the pupils shall be regarded as belonging to the 
state rather than to their parents. My law would apply to females as 
well as males; they shall both go through the same exercises. I assert 
without fear of contradiction that gymnastic and horsemanship are as 
suitable to women as to men. Of the truth of this I am persuaded 
from ancient tradition, and at the present day there are said to be 
countless myriads of women in the neighbourhood of the Black Sea, 
called Sauromatides, who not only ride on horseback like men, but have 
enjoined upon them the use of bows and other weapons equally with 
the men. And I further affirm, that if these things are possible, 
nothing can be more absurd than the practice which prevails in our own 
country, of men and women not following the same pursuits with all 
their strength and with one mind, for thus the state, instead of being 
a whole, is reduced to a half, but has the same imposts to pay and the 
same toils to undergo; and what can be a greater mistake for any 
legislator to make than this? 

Cle. Very true; yet much of what has been asserted by us, Stranger 
is contrary to the custom of states; still, in saying that the 
discourse should be allowed to proceed, and that when the discussion 
is completed, we should choose what seems best, you spoke very 
properly, and I now feel compunction for what I have said. Tell me, 
then, what you would next wish to say. 

Ath . I should wish to say, Cleinias, as I said before, that if the 
possibility of these things were not sufficiently proven in fact, then 
there might be an objection to the argument, but the fact being as I 
have said, he who rejects the law must find some other ground of 
objection; and, failing this, our exhortation will still hold good, 
nor will any one deny that women ought to share as far as possible 
in education and in other ways with men. For consider; -if women do not 
share in their whole life with men, then they must have some other 
order of life. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. And what arrangement of life to be found anywhere is preferable 
to this community which we are now assigning to them? Shall we 
prefer that which is adopted by the Thracians and many other races who 
use their women to till the ground and to be shepherds of their 
herds and flocks, and to minister to them like slaves?-Or shall we 
do as we and people in our part of the world do-getting together, as 
the phrase is, all our goods and chattels into one dwelling, we 
entrust them to our women, who are the stewards of them, and who 
also preside over the shuttles and the whole art of spinning? Or shall 
we take a middle course, in Lacedaemon, Megillus-letting the girls 
share in gymnastic and music, while the grown-up women, no longer 
employed in spinning wool, are hard at work weaving the web of life, 
which will be no cheap or mean employment, and in the duty of 
serving and taking care of the household and bringing up children, 
in which they will observe a sort of mean, not participating in the 
toils of war; and if there were any necessity that they should fight 
for their city and families, unlike the Amazons, they would be 
unable to take part in archery or any other skilled use of missiles, 
nor could they, after the example of the Goddess, carry shield or 
spear, or stand up nobly for their country when it was being 



destroyed, and strike terror into their enemies, if only because 
they were seen in regular order? Living as they do, they would never 
dare at all to imitate the Sauromatides, who, when compared with 
ordinary women, would appear to be like men. Let him who will, 
praise your legislators, but I must say what I think. The legislator 
ought to be whole and perfect, and not half a man only; he ought not 
to let the female sex live softly and waste money and have no order of 
life, while he takes the utmost care of the male sex, and leaves 
half of life only blest with happiness, when he might have made the 
whole state happy. 

Meg. What shall we do, Cleinias? Shall we allow a stranger to run 
down Sparta in this fashion? 

Cle. Yes; for as we have given him liberty of speech we must let him 
go on until we have perfected the work of legislation. 

Meg. Very true. 

Ath . Then now I may proceed? 

Cle. By all means. 

Ath. What will be the manner of life among men who may be supposed 
to have their food and clothing provided for them in moderation, and 
who have entrusted the practice of the arts to others, and whose 
husbandry, committed to slaves paying a part of the produce, brings 
them a return sufficient for men living temperately; who, moreover, 
have common tables in which the men are placed apart, and near them 
are the common tables of their families, of their daughters and 
mothers, which day by day, the officers, male and female, are to 
inspect-they shall see to the behaviour of the company, and so dismiss 
them; after which the presiding magistrate and his attendants shall 
honour with libations those Gods to whom that day and night are 
dedicated, and then go home? To men whose lives are thus ordered, is 
there no work remaining to be done which is necessary and fitting, but 
shall each one of them live fattening like a beast? Such a life is 
neither just nor honourable, nor can he who lives it fail of meeting 
his due; and the due reward of the idle fatted beast is that he should 
be torn in pieces by some other valiant beast whose fatness is worn 
down by brave deeds and toil. These regulations, if we duly consider 
them, will never be exactly carried into execution under present 
circumstances, nor as long as women and children and houses and all 
other things are the private property of individuals; but if we can 
attain the second-best form of polity, we shall be very well off. 
And to men living under this second polity there remains a work to 
be accomplished which is far from being small or insignificant, but is 
the greatest of all works, and ordained by the appointment of 
righteous law. For the life which may be truly said to be concerned 
with the virtue of body and soul is twice, or more than twice, as full 
of toil and trouble as the pursuit after Pythian and Olympic 
victories, which debars a man from every employment of life. For there 
ought to be no bye-work interfering with the greater work of providing 
the necessary exercise and nourishment for the body, and instruction 
and education for the soul . Night and day are not long enough for 
the accomplishment of their perfection and consummation; and therefore 
to this end all freemen ought to arrange the way in which they will 
spend their time during the whole course of the day, from morning till 
evening and from evening till the morning of the next sunrise. There 
may seem to be some impropriety in the legislator determining minutely 
the numberless details of the management of the house, including 
such particulars as the duty of wakefulness in those who are to be 
perpetual watchmen of the whole city; for that any citizen should 
continue during the whole of any night in sleep, instead of being seen 
by all his servants, always the first to awake and get up-this, 
whether the regulation is to be called a law or only a practice, 
should be deemed base and unworthy of a freeman; also that the 
mistress of the house should be awakened by her handmaidens instead of 
herself first awakening them, is what the slaves, male and female, and 
the serving-boys, and, if that were possible, everybody and everything 



in the house should regard as base. If they rise early, they may all 
of them do much of their public and of their household business, as 
magistrates in the city, and masters and mistresses in their private 
houses, before the sun is up. Much sleep is not required by nature, 
either for our souls or bodies, or for the actions which they perform. 
For no one who is asleep is good for anything, any more than if he 
were dead; but he of us who has the most regard for life and reason 
keeps awake as long he can, reserving only so much time for sleep as 
is expedient for health; and much sleep is not required, if the 
habit of moderation be once rightly formed. Magistrates in states 
who keep awake at night are terrible to the bad, whether enemies or 
citizens, and are honoured and reverenced by the just and temperate, 
and are useful to themselves and to the whole state. 

A night which is passed in such a manner, in addition to all the 
above-mentioned advantages, infuses a sort of courage into the minds 
of the citizens. When the day breaks, the time has arrived for youth 
to go to their schoolmasters. Now neither sheep nor any other 
animals can live without a shepherd, nor can children be left 
without tutors, or slaves without masters. And of all animals the 
boy is the most unmanageable, inasmuch as he has the fountain of 
reason in him not yet regulated; he is the most insidious, 
sharp-witted, and insubordinate of animals. Wherefore he must be bound 
with many bridles; in the first place, when he gets away from 
mothers and nurses, he must be under the management of tutors on 
account of his childishness and foolishness; then, again, being a 
freeman, he must be controlled by teachers, no matter what they teach, 
and by studies; but he is also a slave, and in that regard any freeman 
who comes in his way may punish him and his tutor and his 
instructor, if any of them does anything wrong; and he who comes 
across him and does not inflict upon him the punishment which he 
deserves, shall incur the greatest disgrace; and let the guardian of 
the law, who is the director of education, see to him who coming in 
the way of the offences which we have mentioned, does not chastise 
them when he ought, or chastises them in a way which he ought not; let 
him keep a sharp look-out, and take especial care of the training of 
our children, directing their natures, and always turning them to good 
according to the law. 

But how can our law sufficiently train the director of education, 
himself; for as yet all has been imperfect, and nothing has been 
said either clear or satisfactory? Now, as far as possible, the law 
ought to leave nothing to him, but to explain everything, that he 
may be an interpreter and tutor to others. About dances and music 
and choral strains, I have already spoken both to the character of the 
selection of them, and the manner in which they are to be amended 
and consecrated. But we have not as yet spoken, illustrious guardian 
of education, of the manner in which your pupils are to use those 
strains which are written in prose, although you have been informed 
what martial strains they are to learn and practise; what relates in 
the first place to the learning of letters, and secondly, to the lyre, 
and also to calculation, which, as we were saying, is needful for them 
all to learn, and any other things which are required with a view to 
war and the management of house and city, and, looking to the same 
object, what is useful in the revolutions of the heavenly bodies-the 
stars and sun and moon, and the various regulations about these 
matters which are necessary for the whole state-I am speaking of the 
arrangements of; days in periods of months, and of months in years, 
which are to be observed, in order that seasons and sacrifices and 
festivals may have their regular and natural order, and keep the 
city alive and awake, the Gods receiving the honours due to them, 
and men having a better understanding about them: all these things, 
my friend, have not yet been sufficiently declared to you by the 
legislator. Attend, then, to what I am now going to say: -We were 
telling you, in the first place, that you were not sufficiently 
informed about letters, and the objection was to this effect-that 



you were never told whether he who was meant to be a respectable 
citizen should apply himself in detail to that sort of learning, or 
not apply himself at all; and the same remark holds good of the 
study of the lyre. But now we say that he ought to attend to them. A 
fair time for a boy of ten years old to spend in letters is three 
years; the age of thirteen is the proper time for him to begin to 
handle the lyre, and he may continue at this for another three 
years, neither more nor less, and whether his father or himself like 
or dislike the study, he is not to be allowed to spend more or less 
time in learning music than the law allows. And let him who disobeys 
the law be deprived of those youthful honours of which we shall 
hereafter speak. Hear, however, first of all, what the young ought 
to learn in the early years of life, and what their instructors 
ought to teach them. They ought to be occupied with their letters 
until they are to read and write; but the acquisition of perfect 
beauty or quickness in writinig, if nature has not stimulated them 
to acquire these accomplishments in the given number of years, they 
should let alone. And as to the learning of compositions committed 
to writing which are not set to the lyre, whether metrical or 
without rhythmical divisions, compositions in prose, as they are 
termed, having no rhythm or harmony-seeing how dangerous are the 
writings handed down to us by many writers of this class-what will you 
do with them, most excellent guardians of the law? or how can the 
lawgiver rightly direct you about them? I believe that he will be in 
great difficulty. 

Cle. What troubles you, Stranger? and why are you so perplexed in 
your mind? 

Ath . You naturally ask, Cleinias, and to you and Megillus, who are 
my partners in the work of legislation, I must state the more 
difficult as well as the easier parts of the task. 

Cle. To what do you refer in this instance? 

Ath. I will tell you. There is a difficulty in opposing many myriads 
of mouths . 

Cle. Well, and have we not already opposed the popular voice in many 
important enactments? 

Ath. That is quite true; and you mean to imply, that the road 
which we are taking may be disagreeable to some but is agreeable to as 
many others, or if not to as many, at any rate to persons not inferior 
to the others, and in company with them you bid me, at whatever 
risk, to proceed along the path of legislation which has opened out of 
our present discourse, and to be of good cheer, and not to faint. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. And I do not faint; I say, indeed, that we have a great many 
poets writing in hexameter, trimeter, and all sorts of measures-some 
who are serious, others who aim only at raising a laugh-and all 
mankind declare that the youth who are rightly educated should be 
brought up in them and saturated with them; some insist that they 
should be constantly hearing them read aloud, and always learning 
them, so as to get by heart entire poets; while others select choice 
passages and long speeches, and make compendiums of them, saying 
that these ought to be committed to memory, if a man is to be made 
good and wise by experience and learning of many things. And you 
want me now to tell them plainly in what they are right and in what 
they are wrong. 

Cle. Yes, I do. 
Ath. But how can I in one word rightly comprehend all of them? I am 
of opinion, and, if I am not mistaken, there is a general agreement, 
that every one of these poets has said many things well and many 
things the reverse of well; and if this be true, then I do affirm that 
much learning is dangerous to youth. 

Cle. How would you advise the guardian of the law to act? 

Ath. In what respect? 

Cle. I mean to what pattern should he look as his guide in 
permitting the young to learn some things and forbidding them to learn 



others. Do not shrink from answering. 

Ath . My good Cleinias, I rather think that I am fortunate. 

Cle. How so? 

Ath. I think that I am not wholly in want of a pattern, for when I 
consider the words which we have spoken from early dawn until now, and 
which, as I believe, have been inspired by Heaven, they appear to me 
to be quite like a poem. When I reflected upon all these words of 
ours. I naturally felt pleasure, for of all the discourses which I 
have ever learnt or heard, either in poetry or prose, this seemed to 
me to be the justest, and most suitable for young men to hear; I 
cannot imagine any better pattern than this which the guardian of 
the law who is also the director of education can have. He cannot do 
better than advise the teachers to teach the young these words and any 
which are of a like nature, if he should happen to find them, either 
in poetry or prose, or if he come across unwritten discourses akin 
to ours, he should certainly preserve them, and commit them to 
writing. And, first of all, he shall constrain the teachers themselves 
to learn and approve them, and any of them who will not, shall not 
be employed by him, but those whom he finds agreeing in his 
judgment, he shall make use of and shall commit to them the 
instruction and education of youth. And here and on this wise let my 
fanciful tale about letters and teachers of letters come to an end. 

Cle. I do not think, Stranger, that we have wandered out of the 
proposed limits of the argument; but whether we are right or not in 
our whole conception, I cannot be very certain. 

Ath. The truth, Cleinias, may be expected to become clearer when, as 
we have often said, we arrive at the end of the whole discussion about 
laws . 

Cle. Yes. 

Ath. And now that we have done with the teacher of letters, the 
teacher of the lyre has to receive orders from us. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. I think that we have only to recollect our previous 
discussions, and we shall be able to give suitable regulations 
touching all this part of instruction and education to the teachers of 
the lyre. 

Cle. To what do you refer? 

Ath. We were saying, if I remember rightly, that the 
sixty-year-old choristers of Dionysus were to be specially quick in 
their perceptions of rhythm and musical composition, that they might 
be able to distinguish good and bad imitation, that is to say, the 
imitation of the good or bad soul when under the influence of passion, 
rejecting the one and displaying the other in hymns and songs, 
charming the souls of youth, and inviting them to follow and attain 
virtue by the way of imitation. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. And with this view, the teacher and the learner ought to use 
the sounds of the lyre, because its notes are pure, the player who 
teaches and his pupil rendering note for note in unison; but 
complexity, and variation of notes, when the strings give one sound 
and the poet or composer of the melody gives another-also when they 
make concords and harmonies in which lesser and greater intervals, 
slow and quick, or high and low notes, are combined-or, again, when 
they make complex variations of rhythms, which they adapt to the notes 
of the lyre-all that sort of thing is not suited to those who have 
to acquire a speedy and useful knowledge of music in three years; 
for opposite principles are confusing, and create a difficulty in 
learning, and our young men should learn quickly, and their mere 
necessary acquirements are not few or trifling, as will be shown in 
due course. Let the director of education attend to the principles 
concerning music which we are laying down. As to the songs and words 
themselves which the masters of choruses are to teach and the 
character of them, they have been already described by us, and are the 
same which, when consecrated and adapted to the different festivals, 



we said were to benefit cities by affording them an innocent 
amusement . 

Cle. That, again, is true. 

Ath . Then let him who has been elected a director of music receive 
these rules from us as containing the very truth; and may he prosper 
in his office! Let us now proceed to lay down other rules in 
addition to the preceding about dancing and gymnastic exercise in 
general. Having said what remained to be said about the teaching of 
music, let us speak in like manner about gymnastic. For boys and girls 
ought to learn to dance and practise gymnastic exercises-ought they 
not? 

Cle. Yes. 

Ath. Then the boys ought to have dancing masters, and the girls 
dancing mistresses to exercise them. 

Cle. Very good. 

Ath. Then once more let us summon him who has the chief concern in 
the business, the superintendent of youth [i.e., the director of 
education]; he will have plenty to do, if he is to have the charge 
of music and gymnastic. 

Cle. But how will old man be able to attend to such great charges? 

Ath. my friend, there will be no difficulty, for the law has 
already given and will give him permission to select as his assistants 
in this charge any citizens, male or female, whom he desires; and he 
will know whom he ought to choose, and will be anxious not to make a 
mistake, from a due sense of responsibility, and from a 
consciousness of the importance of his office, and also because he 
will consider that if young men have been and are well brought up, 
then all things go swimmingly, but if not, it is not meet to say, 
nor do we say, what will follow, lest the regarders of omens should 
take alarm about our infant state. Many things have been said by us 
about dancing and about gymnastic movements in general; for we include 
under gymnastics all military exercises, such as archery, and all 
hurling of weapons, and the use of the light shield, and all 
fighting with heavy arms, and military evolutions, and movements of 
armies, and encampings, and all that relates to horsemanship. Of all 
these things there ought to be public teachers, receiving pay from the 
state, and their pupils should be the men and boys in the state, and 
also the girls and women, who are to know all these things. While they 
are yet girls they should have practised dancing in arms and the whole 
art of f ighting-when grown-up women, they should apply themselves to 
evolutions and tactics, and the mode of grounding and taking up 
arms; if for no other reason, yet in case the whole military force 
should have to leave the city and carry on operations of war 
outside, that those who will have to guard the young and the rest of 
the city may be equal to the task; and, on the other hand, when 
enemies, whether barbarian or Hellenic, come from without with 
mighty force and make a violent assault upon them, and thus compel 
them to fight for the possession of the city, which is far from 
being an impossibility, great would be the disgrace to the state, if 
the women had been so miserably trained that they could not fight 
for their young, as birds will, against any creature however strong, 
and die or undergo any danger, but must instantly rush to the 
temples and crowd at the altars and shrines, and bring upon human 
nature the reproach, that of all animals man is the most cowardly! 

Cle. Such a want of education, Stranger, is certainly an unseemly 
thing to happen in a state, as well as a great misfortune. 

Ath. Suppose that we carry our law to the extent of saying that 
women ought not to neglect military matters, but that all citizens, 
male and female alike, shall attend to them? 

Cle. I quite agree. 

Ath. Of wrestling we have spoken in part, but of what I should 
call the most important part we have not spoken, and cannot easily 
speak without showing at the same time by gesture as well as in word 
what we mean; when word and action combine, and not till then, we 



shall explain clearly what has been said, pointing out that of all 
movements wrestling is most akin to the military art, and is to be 
pursued for the sake of this, and not this for the sake of wrestling. 

Cle. Excellent. 

Ath . Enough of wrestling; we will now proceed to speak of other 
movements of the body. Such motion may be in general called dancing, 
and is of two kinds: one of nobler figures, imitating the 
honourable, the other of the more ignoble figures, imitating the mean; 
and of both these there are two further subdivisions. Of the 
serious, one kind is of those engaged in war and vehement action, 
and is the exercise of a noble person and a manly heart; the other 
exhibits a temperate soul in the enjoyment of prosperity and modest 
pleasures, and may be truly called and is the dance of peace. The 
warrior dance is different from the peaceful one, and may be rightly 
termed Pyrrhic; this imitates the modes of avoiding blows and missiles 
by dropping or giving way, or springing aside, or rising up or falling 
down; also the opposite postures which are those of action, as, for 
example, the imitation of archery and the hurling of javelins, and 
of all sorts of blows. And when the imitation is of brave bodies and 
souls, and the action is direct and muscular, giving for the most part 
a straight movement to the limbs of the body-that, I say, is the 
true sort; but the opposite is not right. In the dance of peace what 
we have to consider is whether a man bears himself naturally and 
gracefully, and after the manner of men who duly conform to the law. 
But before proceeding I must distinguish the dancing about which there 
is any doubt, from that about which there is no doubt. Which is the 
doubtful kind, and how are the two to be distinguished? There are 
dances of the Bacchic sort, both those in which, as they say, they 
imitate drunken men, and which are named after the Nymphs, and Pan, 
and Silenuses, and Satyrs; and also those in which purifications are 
made or mysteries celebrated-all this sort of dancing cannot be 
rightly defined as having either a peaceful or a warlike character, or 
indeed as having any meaning whatever and may, I think, be most 
truly described as distinct from the warlike dance, and distinct 
from the peaceful, and not suited for a city at all. There let it lie; 
and so leaving it to lie, we will proceed to the dances of war and 
peace, for with these we are undoubtedly concerned. Now the 
unwarlike muse, which honours in dance the Gods and the sons of the 
Gods, is entirely associated with the consciousness of prosperity; 
this class may be subdivided into two lesser classes, of which one 
is expressive of an escape from some labour or danger into good, and 
has greater pleasures, the other expressive of preservation and 
increase of former good, in which the pleasure is less exciting; -in 
all these cases, every man when the pleasure is greater, moves his 
body more, and less when the pleasure is less; and, again, if he be 
more orderly and has learned courage from discipline he waves less, 
but if he be a coward, and has no training or self-control, he makes 
greater and more violent movements, and in general when he is speaking 
or singing he is not altogether able to keep his body still; and so 
out of the imitation of words in gestures the whole art of dancing has 
arisen. And in these various kinds of imitation one man moves in an 
orderly, another in a disorderly manner; and as the ancients may be 
observed to have given many names which are according to nature and 
deserving of praise, so there is an excellent one which they have 
given to the dances of men who in their times of prosperity are 
moderate in their pleasures-the giver of names, whoever he was, 
assigned to them a very true, and poetical, and rational name, when he 
called them Emmeleiai, or dances of order, thus establishing two kinds 
of dances of the nobler sort, the dance of war which he called the 
Pyrrhic, and the dance of peace which he called Emmeleia, or the dance 
of order; giving to each their appropriate and becoming name. These 
things the legislator should indicate in general outline, and the 
guardian of the law should enquire into them and search them out, 
combining dancing with music, and assigning to the several sacrificial 



feasts that which is suitable to them; and when he has consecrated all 
of them in due order, he shall for the future change nothing, 
whether of dance or song. Thenceforward the city and the citizens 
shall continue to have the same pleasures, themselves being as far 
as possible alike, and shall live well and happily. 

I have described the dances which are appropriate to noble bodies 
and generous souls. But it is necessary also to consider and know 
uncomely persons and thoughts, and those which are intended to produce 
laughter in comedy, and have a comic character in respect of style, 
song, and dance, and of the imitations which these afford. For serious 
things cannot be understood without laughable things, nor opposites at 
all without opposites, if a man is really to have intelligence of 
either; but he can not carry out both in action, if he is to have 
any degree of virtue. And for this very reason he should learn them 
both, in order that he may not in ignorance do or say anything which 
is ridiculous and out of place-he should command slaves and hired 
strangers to imitate such things, but he should never take any serious 
interest in them himself, nor should any freeman or freewoman be 
discovered taking pains to learn them; and there should always be some 
element of novelty in the imitation. Let these then be laid down, both 
in law and in our discourse, as the regulations of laughable 
amusements which are generally called comedy. And, if any of the 
serious poets, as they are termed, who write tragedy, come to us and 
say-"0 strangers, may we go to your city and country or may we not, 
and shall we bring with us our poetry-what is your will about these 
matters? "-how shall we answer the divine men? I think that our 
answer should be as follows : -Best of strangers, we will say to them, 
we also according to our ability are tragic poets, and our tragedy 
is the best and noblest; for our whole state is an imitation of the 
best and noblest life, which we affirm to be indeed the very truth 
of tragedy. You are poets and we are poets, both makers of the same 
strains, rivals and antagonists in the noblest of dramas, which true 
law can alone perfect, as our hope is. Do not then suppose that we 
shall all in a moment allow you to erect your stage in the agora, or 
introduce the fair voices of your actors, speaking above our own, 
and permit you to harangue our women and children, and the common 
people, about our institutions, in language other than our own, and 
very often the opposite of our own. For a state would be mad which 
gave you this licence, until the magistrates had determined whether 
your poetry might be recited, and was fit for publication or not. 
Wherefore, ye sons and scions of the softer Muses, first of all show 
your songs to the magistrates, and let them compare them with our own, 
and if they are the same or better we will give you a chorus; but if 
not, then, my friends, we cannot. Let these, then, be the customs 
ordained by law about all dances and the teaching of them, and let 
matters relating to slaves be separated from those relating to 
masters, if you do not object. 

Cle. We can have no hesitation in assenting when you put the 
matter thus . 

Ath . There still remain three studies suitable for freemen. 
Arithmetic is one of them; the measurement of length, surface, and 
depth is the second; and the third has to do with the revolutions of 
the stars in relation to one another. Not every one has need to toil 
through all these things in a strictly scientific manner, but only a 
few, and who they are to be we will hereafter indicate at the end, 
which will be the proper place; not to know what is necessary for 
mankind in general, and what is the truth, is disgraceful to every 
one: and yet to enter into these matters minutely is neither easy, nor 
at all possible for every one; but there is something in them which is 
necessary and cannot be set aside, and probably he who made the 
proverb about God originally had this in view when he said, that 
"not even God himself can fight against necessity" ; -he meant, if I 
am not mistaken, divine necessity; for as to the human necessities 
of which the many speak, when they talk in this manner, nothing can be 



more ridiculous than such an application of the words. 

Cle. And what necessities of knowledge are there, Stranger, which 
are divine and not human? 

Ath . I conceive them to be those of which he who has no use nor 
any knowledge at all cannot be a God, or demi-god, or hero to mankind, 
or able to take any serious thought or charge of them. And very unlike 
a divine man would he be, who is unable to count one, two, three, or 
to distinguish odd and even numbers, or is unable to count at all, 
or reckon night and day, and who is totally unacquainted with the 
revolution of the sun and moon, and the other stars. There would be 
great folly in supposing that all these are not necessary parts of 
knowledge to him who intends to know anything about the highest 
kinds of knowledge; but which these are, and how many there are of 
them, and when they are to be learned, and what is to be learned 
together and what apart, and the whole correlation of them, must be 
rightly apprehended first; and these leading the way we may proceed to 
the other parts of knowledge. For so necessity grounded in nature 
constrains us, against which we say that no God contends, or ever will 
contend. 

Cle. I think, Stranger, that what you have now said is very true and 
agreeable to nature. 

Ath. Yes, Cleinias, that is so. But it is difficult for the 
legislator to begin with these studies; at a more convenient time we 
will make regulations for them. 

Cle. You seem, Stranger, to be afraid of our habitual ignorance of 
the subject: there is no reason why that should prevent you from 
speaking out . 

Ath. I certainly am afraid of the difficulties to which you 
allude, but I am still more afraid of those who apply themselves to 
this sort of knowledge, and apply themselves badly. For entire 
ignorance is not so terrible or extreme an evil, and is far from being 
the greatest of all; too much cleverness and too much learning, 
accompanied with an ill bringing up, are far more fatal. 

Cle. True. 

Ath. All freemen, I conceive, should learn as much of these branches 
of knowledge as every child in Egypt is taught when he learns the 
alphabet. In that country arithmetical games have been invented for 
the use of mere children, which they learn as a pleasure and 
amusement. They have to distribute apples and garlands, using the same 
number sometimes for a larger and sometimes for a lesser number of 
persons; and they arrange pugilists, and wrestlers as they pair 
together by lot or remain over, and show how their turns come in 
natural order. Another mode of amusing them is to distribute 
vessels, sometimes of gold, brass, silver, and the like, intermixed 
with one another, sometimes of one metal only; as I was saying they 
adapt to their amusement the numbers in common use, and in this way 
make more intelligible to their pupils the arrangements and 
movements of armies and expeditions, in the management of a 
household they make people more useful to themselves, and more wide 
awake; and again in measurements of things which have length, and 
breadth, and depth, they free us from that natural ignorance of all 
these things which is so ludicrous and disgraceful. 

Cle. What kind of ignorance do you mean? 

Ath. my dear Cleinias, I, like yourself, have late in life heard 
with amazement of our ignorance in these matters; to me we appear to 
be more like pigs than men, and I am quite ashamed, not only of 
myself, but of all Hellenes. 

Cle. About what? Say, Stranger, what you mean. 

Ath. I will; or rather I will show you my meaning by a question, and 
do you please to answer me: You know, I suppose, what length is? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. And what breadth is? 

Cle. To be sure. 

Ath. And you know that these are two distinct things, and that there 



is a third thing called depth? 

Cle. Of course. 

Ath . And do not all these seem to you to be commensurable with 
themselves? 

Cle. Yes. 

Ath. That is to say, length is naturally commensurable with 
length, and breadth with breadth, and depth in like manner with depth? 

Cle. Undoubtedly. 

Ath. But if some things are commensurable and others wholly 
incommensurable, and you think that all things are commensurable, what 
is your position in regard to them? 

Cle. Clearly, far from good. 

Ath. Concerning length and breadth when compared with depth, or 
breadth when and length when compared with one another, are not all 
the Hellenes agreed that these are commensurable with one in some way? 

Cle. Quite true. 

Ath. But if they are absolutely incommensurable, and yet all of us 
regard them as commensurable, have we not reason to be ashamed of 
our compatriots; and might we not say to them:-0 ye best of 
Hellenes, is not this one of the things of which we were saying that 
not to know them is disgraceful, and of which to have a bare knowledge 
only is no great distinction? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. And there are other things akin to these, in which there spring 
up other errors of the same family. 

Cle. What are they? 

Ath. The natures of commensurable and incommensurable quantities 
in their relation to one another. A man who is good for a thing 
ought to be able, when he thinks, to distinguish them; and different 
persons should compete with one another in asking questions, which 
will be a fair, better and more graceful way of passing their time 
than the old man's game of draughts. 

Cle. I dare say; and these pastimes are not so very unlike a game of 
draughts . 

Ath. And these, as I maintain, Cleinias, are the studies which our 
youth ought to learn, for they are innocent and not difficult; the 
learning of them will be an amusement, and they will benefit the 
state. If anyone is of another mind, let him say what he has to say. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. Then if these studies are such as we maintain we will include 
them; if not, they shall be excluded. 

Cle. Assuredly: but may we not now, Stranger, prescribe these 
studies as necessary, and so fill up the lacunae of our laws? 

Ath. They shall be regarded as pledges which may be hereafter 
redeemed and removed from our state, if they do not please either us 
who give them, or you who accept them. 

Cle. A fair condition. 

Ath. Next let us see whether we are or are not willing that the 
study of astronomy shall be proposed for our youth. 

Cle. Proceed. 

Ath. Here occurs a strange phenomenon, which certainly cannot in any 
point of view be tolerated. 

Cle. To what are you referring? 

Ath. Men say that we ought not to enquire into the supreme God and 
the nature of the universe, nor busy ourselves in searching out the 
causes of things, and that such enquiries are impious; whereas the 
very opposite is the truth. 

Cle. What do you mean? 

Ath. Perhaps what I am saying may seem paradoxical, and at 
variance with the usual language of age. But when any one has any good 
and true notion which is for the advantage of the state and in every 
way acceptable to God, he cannot abstain from expressing it. 

Cle. Your words are reasonable enough; but shall we find any good or 
true notion about the stars? 



Ath . My good friends, at this hour all of us Hellenes tell lies, 
if I may use such an expression, about those great Gods, the Sun and 
the Moon . 

Cle. Lies of what nature? 

Ath. We say that they and divers other stars do not keep the same 
path, and we call them planets or wanderers. 

Cle. Very true, Stranger; and in the course of my life I have 
often myself seen the morning star and the evening star and divers 
others not moving in their accustomed course, but wandering out of 
their path in all manner of ways, and I have seen the sun and moon 
doing what we all know that they do. 

Ath. Just so, Megillus and Cleinias; and I maintain that our 
citizens and our youth ought to learn about the nature of the Gods 
in heaven, so far as to be able to offer sacrifices and pray to them 
in pious language, and not to blaspheme about them. 

Cle. There you are right if such a knowledge be only attainable; and 
if we are wrong in our mode of speaking now, and can be better 
instructed and learn to use better language, then I quite agree with 
you that such a degree of knowledge as will enable us to speak rightly 
should be acquired by us. And now do you try to explain to us your 
whole meaning, and we, on our part, will endeavour to understand you. 

Ath. There is some difficulty in understanding my meaning, but not a 
very great one, nor will any great length of time be required. And 
of this I am myself a proof; for I did not know these things long ago, 
nor in the days of my youth, and yet I can explain them to you in a 
brief space of time; whereas if they had been difficult I could 
certainly never have explained them all, old as I am, to old men 
like yourselves . 

Cle. True; but what is this study which you describe as wonderful 
and fitting for youth to learn, but of which we are ignorant? Try 
and explain the nature of it to us as clearly as you can. 

Ath. I will. For, my good friends, that other doctrine about the 
wandering of the sun and the moon and the other stars is not the 
truth, but the very reverse of the truth. Each of them moves in the 
same path-not in many paths, but in one only, which is circular, and 
the varieties are only apparent. Nor are we right in supposing that 
the swiftest of them is the slowest, nor conversely, that the 
slowest is the quickest. And if what I say is true, only just 
imagine that we had a similar notion about horses running at 
Olympia, or about men who ran in the long course, and that we 
addressed the swiftest as the slowest and the slowest as the swiftest, 
and sang the praises of the vanquished as though he were the 
victor, -in that case our praises would not be true, nor very agreeable 
to the runners, though they be but men; and now, to commit the same 
error about the Gods which would have been ludicrous and erroneous 
in the case of men-is not that ludicrous and erroneous? 

Cle. Worse than ludicrous, I should say. 

Ath. At all events, the Gods cannot like us to be spreading a 
false report of them. 

Cle. Most true, if such is the fact. 

Ath. And if we can show that such is really the fact, then all these 
matters ought to be learned so far as is necessary for the avoidance 
of impiety; but if we cannot, they may be let alone, and let this be 
our decision. 

Cle. Very good. 

Ath. Enough of laws relating to education and learning. But 
hunting and similar pursuits in like manner claim our attention. For 
the legislator appears to have a duty imposed upon him which goes 
beyond mere legislation. There is something over and above law which 
lies in a region between admonition and law, and has several times 
occurred to us in the course of discussion; for example, in the 
education of very young children there were things, as we maintain, 
which are not to be defined, and to regard them as matters of positive 
law is a great absurdity. Now, our laws and the whole constitution 



of our state having been thus delineated, the praise of the virtuous 
citizen is not complete when he is described as the person who 
serves the laws best and obeys them most, but the higher form of 
praise is that which describes him as the good citizen who passes 
through life undefiled and is obedient to the words of the legislator, 
both when he is giving laws and when he assigns praise and blame. This 
is the truest word that can be spoken in praise of a citizen; and 
the true legislator ought not only to write his laws, but also to 
interweave with them all such things as seem to him honourable and 
dishonourable. And the perfect citizen ought to seek to strengthen 
these no less than the principles of law which are sanctioned by 
punishments. I will adduce an example which will clear up my 
meaning, and will be a sort of witness to my words. Hunting is of wide 
extent, and has a name under which many things are included, for there 
is a hunting of creatures in the water, and of creatures in the air, 
and there is a great deal of hunting of land animals of all kinds, and 
not of wild beasts only. The hunting after man is also worthy of 
consideration; there is the hunting after him in war, and there is 
often a hunting after him in the way of friendship, which is praised 
and also blamed; and there is thieving, and the hunting which is 
practised by robbers, and that of armies against armies. Now the 
legislator, in laying down laws about hunting, can neither abstain 
from noting these things, nor can he make threatening ordinances which 
will assign rules and penalties about all of them. What is he to do? 
He will have to praise and blame hunting with a view to the exercise 
and pursuits of youth. And, on the other hand, the young man must 
listen obediently; neither pleasure nor pain should hinder him, and he 
should regard as his standard of action the praises and injunctions of 
the legislator rather than the punishments which he imposes by law. 
This being premised, there will follow next in order moderate praise 
and censure of hunting; the praise being assigned to that kind which 
will make the souls of young men better, and the censure to that which 
has the opposite effect. 

And now let us address young men in the form of a prayer for their 
welfare: friends, we will say to them, may no desire or love of 
hunting in the sea, or of angling or of catching the creatures in 
the waters, ever take possession of you, either when you are awake 
or when you are asleep, by hook or with weels, which latter is a 
very lazy contrivance; and let not any desire of catching men and of 
piracy by sea enter into your souls and make you cruel and lawless 
hunters. And as to the desire of thieving in town or country, may it 
never enter into your most passing thoughts; nor let the insidious 
fancy of catching birds, which is hardly worthy of freemen, come 
into the head of any youth. There remains therefore for our athletes 
only the hunting and catching of land animals, of which the one sort 
is called hunting by night, in which the hunters sleep in turn and are 
lazy; this is not to be commended any more than that which has 
intervals of rest, in which the will strength of beasts is subdued 
by nets and snares, and not by the victory of a laborious spirit. 
Thus, only the best kind of hunting is allowed at ail-that of 
quadrupeds, which is carried on with horses and dogs and men's own 
persons, and they get the victory over the animals by running them 
down and striking them and hurling at them, those who have a care of 
godlike manhood taking them with their own hands. The praise and blame 
which is assigned to all these things has now been declared; and let 
the law be as follows: -Let no one hinder these who verily are sacred 
hunters from following the chase wherever and whither soever they 
will; but the hunter by night, who trusts to his nets and gins, 
shall not be allowed to hunt anywhere. The fowler in the mountains and 
waste places shall be permitted, but on cultivated ground and on 
consecrated wilds he shall not be permitted; and any one who meets him 
may stop him. As to the hunter in waters, he may hunt anywhere 
except in harbours or sacred streams or marshes or pools, provided 
only that he do not pollute the water with poisonous juices. And now 



we may say that all our enactments about education are complete. 
Cle. Very good. 
BOOK Villi 

Athenian Stranger. Next, with the help of the Delphian oracle, we 
have to institute festivals and make laws about them, and to determine 
what sacrifices will be for the good of the city, and to what Gods 
they shall be offered; but when they shall be offered, and how 
often, may be partly regulated by us. 

Cleinias . The number-yes . 

Ath . Then we will first determine the number; and let the whole 
number be 365-one for every day-so that one magistrate at least will 
sacrifice daily to some God or demi-god on behalf of the city, and the 
citizens, and their possessions. And the interpreters, and priests, 
and priestesses, and prophets shall meet, and, in company with the 
guardians of the law, ordain those things which the legislator of 
necessity omits; and I may remark that they are the very persons who 
ought to take note of what is omitted. The law will say that there are 
twelve feasts dedicated to the twelve Gods, after whom the several 
tribes are named; and that to each of them they shall sacrifice 
every month, and appoint choruses, and musical and gymnastic contests, 
assigning them so as to suit the Gods and seasons of the year. And 
they shall have festivals for women, distinguishing those which 
ought to be separated from the men's festivals, and those which 
ought not. Further, they shall not confuse the infernal deities and 
their rites with the Gods who are termed heavenly and their rites, but 
shall separate them, giving to Pluto his own in the twelfth month, 
which is sacred to him, according to the law. To such a deity 
warlike men should entertain no aversion, but they should honour him 
as being always the best friend of man. For the connection of soul and 
body is no way better than the dissolution of them, as I am ready to 
maintain quite seriously. Moreover, those who would regulate these 
matters rightly should consider, that our city among existing cities 
has fellow, either in respect of leisure or comin and of the 
necessaries of life, and that like an individual she ought to live 
happily. And those who would live happily should in the first place do 
no wrong to one another, and ought not themselves to be wronged by 
others; to attain the first is not difficult, but there is great 
difficulty, in acquiring the power of not being wronged. No man can be 
perfectly secure against wrong, unless he has become perfectly good; 
and cities are like individuals in this, for a city if good has a life 
of peace, but if evil, a life of war within and without. Wherefore the 
citizens ought to practise war-not in time of war, but rather while 
they are at peace. And every city which has any sense, should take the 
field at least for one day in every month; and for more if the 
magistrates think fit, having no regard to winter cold or summer heat; 
and they should go out en masse, including their wives and their 
children, when the magistrates determine to lead forth the whole 
people, or in separate portions when summoned by them; and they should 
always provide that there should be games and sacrificial feasts, 
and they should have tournaments, imitating in as lively a manner as 
they can real battles. And they should distribute prizes of victory 
and valour to the competitors, passing censures and encomiums on one 
another according to the characters which they bear in the contests 
and their whole life, honouring him who seems to be the best, and 
blaming him who is the opposite. And let poets celebrate the 
victors-not however every poet, but only one who in the first place is 
not less than fifty years of age; nor should he be one who, although 
he may have musical and poetical gifts, has never in his life done any 
noble or illustrious action; but those who are themselves good and 
also honourable in the state, creators of noble actions-let their 
poems be sung, even though they be not very musical. And let the 
judgment of them rest with the instructor of youth and the other 
guardians of the laws, who shall give them this privilege, and they 



alone shall be free to sing; but the rest of the world shall not 
have this liberty. Nor shall any one dare to sing a song which has not 
been approved by the judgment of the guardians of the laws, not even 
if his strain be sweeter than the songs of Thamyras and Orpheus; but 
only and Orpheus; but only such poems as have been judged sacred and 
dedicated to the Gods, and such as are the works of good men, which 
praise of blame has been awarded and which have been deemed to 
fulfil their design fairly. 

The regulations about and about liberty of speech in poitry, ought 
to apply equally to men and women. The legislator may be supposed to 
argue the question in his own mind: -Who are my citizens for whom I 
have set in order the city? Are they not competitors in the greatest 
of all contests, and have they not innumerable rivals? To be sure, 
will be the natural, reply. Well, but if we were training boxers, or 
pancratiasts, or any other sort of athletes, would they never meet 
until the hour of contest arrived; and should we do nothing to prepare 
ourselves previously by daily practice? Surely, if we were boxers we 
should have been learning to fight for many days before, and 
exercising ourselves in imitating all those blows and wards which we 
were intending to use in the hour of conflict; and in order that we 
might come as near to reality as possible, instead of cestuses we 
should put on boxing gloves, that the blows and the wards might be 
practised by us to the utmost of our power. And if there were a lack 
of competitors, the ridicule of fools would ryot deter us from hanging 
up a lifeless image and practising at that. Or if we had no 
adversary at all, animate or inanimate, should we not venture in the 
dearth of antagonists to spar by ourselves? In what other manner could 
we ever study the art of self-defence? 

Cle. The way which you mention Stranger, would be the only way. 

Ath . And shall the warriors of our city, who are destined when 
occasion calli to enter the greatest of all contests, and to fight for 
their lives, and their children, and their property, and the whole 
city, be worse prepared than boxers? And will the legislator, 
because he is afraid that their practising with one another may appear 
to some ridiculous, abstain from commanding them to go out and 
fight; will he not ordain that soldiers shall perform lesser exercises 
without arms every day, making dancing and all gymnastic tend to 
this end; and also will he not require that they shall practise some 
gymnastic exercises, greater as well as lesser, as often as every 
month; and that they shall have contests one with another in every 
part of the country, seizing upon posts and lying in ambush, and 
imitating in every respect the reality of war; fighting with 
boxing-gloves and hurling javelins, and using weapons somewhat 
dangerous, and as nearly as possible like the true ones, in order that 
the sport may not be altogether without fear, but may have terrors and 
to a certain degree show the man who has and who has not courage; 
and that the honour and dishonour which are assigned to them 
respectively, may prepare the whole city for the true conflict of 
life? If any one dies in these mimic contests, the homicide is 
involuntary, and we will make the slayer, when he has been purified 
according to law, to be pure of blood, considering that if a few men 
should die, others as good as they will be born; but that if fear is 
dead then the citizens will never find a test of superior and inferior 
natures, which is a far greater evil to the state than the loss of a 
few . 

Cle. We are quite agreed, Stranger, that we should legislate about 
such things, and that the whole state should practise them supposed 

Ath. And what is the reason that dances and contests of this sort 
hardly ever exist in states, at least not to any extent worth speaking 
of? Is this due to the ignorance of mankind and their legislators? 

Cle. Perhaps. 

Ath. Certainly not, sweet Cleinias; there are two causes, which 
are quite enough to account for the deficiency. 

Cle. What are they? 



Ath . One cause is the love of wealth, which wholly absorbs men, 
and never for a moment allows them to think of anything but their 
own private possessions; on this the soul of every citizen hangs 
suspended, and can attend to nothing but his daily gain; mankind are 
ready to learn any branch of knowledge, and to follow any pursuit 
which tends to this end, and they laugh at every other: -that is one 
reason why a city will not be in earnest about such contests or any 
other good and honourable pursuit. But from an insatiable love of gold 
and silver, every man will stoop to any art or contrivance, seemly 
or unseemly, in the hope of becoming rich; and will make no 
objection to performing any action, holy, or unholy and utterly 
base, if only like a beast he have the power of eating and drinking 
all kinds of things, and procuring for himself in every sort of way 
the gratification of his lusts. 

Cle. True. 

Ath. Let this, then, be deemed one of the causes which prevent 
states from pursuing in an efficient manner the art of war, or any 
other noble aim, but makes the orderly and temperate part of mankind 
into merchants, and captains of ships, and servants, and converts 
the valiant sort into thieves and burglars and robbers of temples, and 
violent, tyrannical persons; many of whom are not without ability, but 
they are unfortunate. 

Cle. What do you mean? 

Ath. Must not they be truly unfortunate whose souls are compelled to 
pass through life always hungering? 

Cle. Then that is one cause, Stranger; but you spoke of another. 

Ath. Thank you for reminding me. 

Cle. The insatiable life long love of wealth, as you were saying 
is one clause which absorbs mankind, and prevents them from rightly 
practising the arts of war : -Granted; and now tell me, what is the 
other? 

Ath. Do you imagine that I delay because I am in a perplexity? 

Cle. No; but we think that you are too severe upon the 
money-loving temper, of which you seem in the present discussion to 
have a peculiar dislike. 

Ath. That is a very fair rebuke, Cleinias; and I will now proceed 
to the second cause. 

Cle. Proceed. 

Ath. I say that governments are a cause-democracy, oligarchy, 
tyranny, concerning which I have often spoken in the previous 
discourse; or rather governments they are not, for none of them 
exercises a voluntary rule over voluntary subjects; but they may be 
truly called states of discord, in which while the government is 
voluntary, the subjects always obey against their will, and have to be 
coerced; and the ruler fears the subject, and will not, if he can 
help, allow him to become either noble, or rich, or strong, or 
valiant, or warlike at all. These two are the chief causes of almost 
all evils, and of the evils of which I have been speaking they are 
notably the causes. But our state has escaped both of them; for her 
citizens have the greatest leisure, and they are not subject to one 
another, and will, I think, be made by these laws the reverse of 
lovers of money. Such a constitution may be reasonably supposed to 
be the only one existing which will accept the education which we have 
described, and the martial pastimes which have been perfected 
according to our idea. 

Cle. True. 

Ath. Then next we must remember, about all gymnastic contests, 
that only the warlike sort of them are to be practised and to have 
prizes of victory; and those which are not military are to be given 
up. The military sort had better be completely described and 
established by law; and first, let us speak of running and swiftness. 

Cle. Very good. 

Ath. Certainly the most military of all qualities is general 
activity of body, whether of foot or hand. For escaping or for 



capturing an enemy, quickness of foot is required; but hand-to-hand 
conflict and combat need vigour and strength. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath . Neither of them can attain their greatest efficiency without 
arms . 

Cle. How can they? 
Ath. Then our herald, in accordance with the prevailing practice, 
will first summon the runner; -he will appear armed, for to an 
unarmed competitor we will not give a prize. And he shall enter 
first who is to run the single course bearing arms; next, he who is to 
run the double course; third, he who is to run the horse-course; and 
fourthly, he who is to run the long course; the fifth whom we start, 
shall be the first sent forth in heavy armour, and shall run a 
course of sixty stadia to some temple of Ares-and we will send forth 
another, whom we will style the more heavily armed, to run over 
smoother ground. There remains the archer; and he shall run in the 
full equipments of an archer a distance of 100 stadia over 
mountains, and across every sort of country, to a temple of Apollo and 
Artemis; this shall be the order of the contest, and we will wait 
for them until they return, and will give a prize to the conqueror 
in each. 

Cle. Very good. 

Ath. Let us suppose that there are three kinds of contests-one of 
boys, another of beardless youths, and a third of men. For the 
youths we will fix the length of the contest at two-thirds, and for 
the boys at half of the entire course, whether they contend as archers 
or as heavy armed. Touching the women, let the girls who are not grown 
up compete naked in the stadium and the double course, and the 
horse-course and the long course, and let them run on the 
race-ground itself; those who are thirteen years of age and upwards 
until their marriage shall continue to share in contests if they are 
not more than twenty, and shall be compelled to run up to eighteen; 
and they shall descend into the arena in suitable dresses. Let these 
be the regulations about contests in running both for men and women. 

Respecting contests of strength, instead of wrestling and similar 
contests of the heavier sort, we will institute conflicts in armour of 
one against one, and two against two, and so on up to ten against ten. 
As to what a man ought not to suffer or do, and to what extent, in 
order to gain the victory-as in wrestling, the masters of the art have 
laid down what is fair and what is not fair, so in fighting in 
armour-we ought to call in skilful persons, who shall judge for us and 
be our assessors in the work of legislation; they shall say who 
deserves to be victor in combats of this sort, and what he is not to 
do or have done to him, and in like manner what rule determines who is 
defeated; and let these ordinances apply to women until they married 
as well as to men. The pancration shall have a counterpart in a combat 
of the light armed; they shall contend with bows and with light 
shields and with javelins and in the throwing of stones by slings 
and by hand: and laws shall be made about it, and rewards and prizes 
given to him who best fulfils the ordinances of the law. 

Next in order we shall have to legislate about the horse contests. 
Now we do not need many horses, for they cannot be of much use in a 
country like Crete, and hence we naturally do not take great pains 
about the rearing of them or about horse races. There is no one who 
keeps a chariot among us, and any rivalry in such matters would be 
altogether out of place; there would be no sense nor any shadow of 
sense in instituting contests which are not after the manner of our 
country. And therefore we give our prizes for single horses-for 
colts who have not yet cast their teeth, and for those who are 
intermediate, and for the full-grown horses themselves; and thus our 
equestrian games will accord with the nature of the country. Let 
them have conflict and rivalry in these matters in accordance with the 
law, and let the colonels and generals of horse decide together 
about all courses and about the armed competitors in them. But we have 



nothing to say to the unarmed either in gymnastic exercises or in 
these contests. On the other hand, the Cretan bowman or javelin-man 
who fights in armour on horseback is useful, and therefore we may as 
well place a competition of this sort among amusements. Women are 
not to be forced to compete by laws and ordinances; but if from 
previous training they have acquired the habit and are strong enough 
and like to take part, let them do so, girls as well as boys, and no 
blame to them. 

Thus the competition in gymnastic and the mode of learning it have 
been described; and we have spoken also of the toils of the contest, 
and of daily exercises under the superintendence of masters. Likewise, 
what relates to music has been, for the most part, completed. But as 
to rhapsodes and the like, and the contests of choruses which are to 
perform at feasts, all this shall be arranged when the months and days 
and years have been appointed for Gods and demi-gods, whether every 
third year, or again every fifth year, or in whatever way or manner 
the Gods may put into men's minds the distribution and order of 
them. At the same time, we may expect that the musical contests will 
be celebrated in their turn by the command of the judges and the 
director of education and the guardians of the law meeting together 
for this purpose, and themselves becoming legislators of the times and 
nature and conditions of the choral contests and of dancing in 
general. What they ought severally to be in language and song, and 
in the admixture of harmony with rhythm and the dance, has been 
often declared by the original legislator; and his successors ought to 
follow him, making the games and sacrifices duly to correspond at 
fitting times, and appointing public festivals. It is not difficult to 
determine how these and the like matters may have a regular order; 
nor, again, will the alteration of them do any great good or harm to 
the state. There is, however, another matter of great importance and 
difficulty, concerning which God should legislate, if there were any 
possibility of obtaining from him an ordinance about it. But seeing 
that divine aid is not to be had, there appears to be a need of some 
bold man who specially honours plainness of speech, and will say 
outright what he thinks best for the city and citizens-ordaining 
what is good and convenient for the whole state amid the corruptions 
of human souls, opposing the mightiest lusts, and having no man his 
helper but himself standing alone and following reason only. 

Cle. What is this, Stranger, that you are saying? For we do not as 
yet understand your meaning. 

Ath . Very likely; I will endeavour to explain myself more clearly. 
When I came to the subject of education, I beheld young men and 
maidens holding friendly intercourse with one another. And there 
naturally arose in my mind a sort of apprehension-I could not help 
thinking how one is to deal with a city in which youths and maidens 
are well nurtured, and have nothing to do, and are not undergoing 
the excessive and servile toils which extinguish wantonness, and whose 
only cares during their whole life are sacrifices and festivals and 
dances. How, in such a state as this, will they abstain from desires 
which thrust many a man and woman into perdition; and from which 
reason, assuming the functions of law, commands them to abstain? The 
ordinances already made may possibly get the better of most of these 
desires; the prohibition of excessive wealth is a very considerable 
gain in the direction of temperance, and the whole education of our 
youth imposes a law of moderation on them; moreover, the eye of the 
rulers is required always to watch over the young, and never to lose 
sight of them; and these provisions do, as far as human means can 
effect anything, exercise a regulating influence upon the desires in 
general . But how can we take precautions against the unnatural loves 
of either sex, from which innumerable evils have come upon individuals 
and cities? How shall we devise a remedy and way of escape out of so 
great a danger? Truly, Cleinias, here is a difficulty. In many ways 
Crete and Lacedaemon furnish a great help to those who make peculiar 
laws; but in the matter of love, as we are alone, I must confess 



that they are quite against us. For if any one following nature should 
lay down the law which existed before the days of Laius, and 
denounce these lusts as contrary to nature, adducing the animals as 
a proof that such unions were monstrous, he might prove his point, but 
he would be wholly at variance with the custom of your states. 
Further, they are repugnant to a principle which we say that a 
legislator should always observe; for we are always enquiring which of 
our enactments tends to virtue and which not. And suppose we grant 
that these loves are accounted by law to be honourable, or at least 
not disgraceful, in what degree will they contribute to virtue? Will 
such passions implant in the soul of him who is seduced the habit of 
courage, or in the soul of the seducer the principle of temperance? 
Who will ever believe this?-or rather, who will not blame the 
effeminacy of him who yields to pleasures and is unable to hold out 
against them? Will not all men censure as womanly him who imitates the 
woman? And who would ever think of establishing such a practice by 
law? Certainly no one who had in his mind the image of true law. How 
can we prove, that what I am saying is true? He who would rightly 
consider these matters must see the nature of friendship and desire, 
and of these so-called loves, for they are of two kinds, and out of 
the two arises a third kind, having the same name; and this similarity 
of name causes all the difficulty and obscurity. 

Cle. How is that? 

Ath . Dear is the like in virtue to the like, and the equal to the 
equal; dear also, though unlike, is he who has abundance to him who is 
in want. And when either of these friendships becomes excessive, we 
term the excess love. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. The friendship which arises from contraries is horrible and 
coarse, and has often no tie of communion; but that which, arises from 
likeness is gentle, and has a tie of communion which lasts through 
life. As to the mixed sort which is made up of them both, there is, 
first of all, a in determining what he who is possessed by this 
third love desires; moreover, he is drawn different ways, and is in 
doubt between the two principles; the one exhorting him to enjoy the 
beauty of youth, and the other forbidding him. For the one is a 
lover of the body, and hungers after beauty, like ripe fruit, and 
would fain satisfy himself without any regard to the character of 
the beloved; the other holds the desire of the body to be a 
secondary matter, and looking rather than loving and with his soul 
desiring the soul of the other in a becoming manner, regards the 
satisfaction of the bodily love as wantonness; he reverences and 
respects temperance and courage and magnanimity and wisdom, and wishes 
to live chastely with the chaste object of his affection. Now the sort 
of love which is made up of the other two is that which we have 
described as the third. Seeing then that there are these three sorts 
of love, ought the law to prohibit and forbid them all to exist 
among us? Is it not rather clear that we should wish to have in the 
state the love which is of virtue and which desires the beloved 
youth to be the best possible; and the other two, if possible, we 
should hinder? What do you say, friend Megillus? 

Megillus. I think, Stranger, that you are perfectly right in what 
you have been now saying. 

Ath. I knew well, my friend, that I should obtain your assent, which 
I accept, and therefore have no need to analyse your custom any 
further. Cleinias shall be prevailed upon to give me his assent at 
some other time. Enough of this; and now let us proceed to the laws. 

Meg. Very good. 

Ath. Upon reflection I see a way of imposing the law, which, in 
one respect, is easy, but, in another, is of the utmost difficulty. 

Meg. What do you mean? 
Ath. We are all aware that most men, in spite of their lawless 
natures, are very strictly and precisely restrained from intercourse 
with the fair, and this is not at all against their will, but entirely 



with their will. 

Meg. When do you mean? 

Ath . When any one has a brother or sister who is fair; and about a 
son or daughter the same unwritten law holds, and is a most perfect 
safeguard, so that no open or secret connection ever takes place 
between them. Nor does the thought of such a thing ever enter at all 
into the minds of most of them. 

Meg. Very true. 

Ath. Does not a little word extinguish all pleasures of that sort? 

Meg. What word? 

Ath. The declaration that they are unholy, hated of God, and most 
infamous; and is not the reason of this that no one has ever said 
the opposite, but every one from his earliest childhood has heard 
men speaking in the same manner about them always and everywhere, 
whether in comedy or in the graver language of tragedy? When the 
poet introduces on the stage a Thyestes or an Oedipus, or a Macareus 
having secret intercourse with his sister, he represents him, when 
found out, ready to kill himself as the penalty of his sin. 

Meg. You are very right in saying that tradition, if no breath of 
opposition ever assails it, has a marvellous power. 

Ath. Am I not also right in saying that the legislator who wants 
to master any of the passions which master man may easily know how 
to subdue them? He will consecrate the tradition of their evil 
character among all, slaves and freemen, women and children, 
throughout the city: -that will be the surest foundation of the law 
which he can make. 

Meg. Yes; but will he ever succeed in making all mankind use the 
same language about them? 

Ath. A good objection; but was I not just now saying that I had a 
way to make men use natural love and abstain from unnatural, not 
intentionally destroying the seeds of human increase, or sowing them 
in stony places, in which they will take no root; and that I would 
command them to abstain too from any female field of increase in which 
that which is sown is not likely to grow? Now if a law to this 
effect could only be made perpetual, and gain an authority such as 
already prevents intercourse of parents and children-such a law, 
extending to other sensual desires, and conquering them, would be 
the source of ten thousand blessings. For, in the first place, 
moderation is the appointment of nature, and deters men from all 
frenzy and madness of love, and from all adulteries and immoderate use 
of meats and drinks, and makes them good friends to their own wives. 
And innumerable other benefits would result if such a could only be 
enforced. I can imagine some lusty youth who is standing by, and 
who, on hearing this enactment, declares in scurrilous terms that we 
are making foolish and impossible laws, and fills the world with his 
outcry. And therefore I said that I knew a way of enacting and 
perpetuating such a law, which was very easy in one respect, but in 
another most difficult. There is no difficulty in seeing that such a 
law is possible, and in what way; for, as I was saying, the 
ordinance once consecrated would master the soul of, every man, and 
terrify him into obedience. But matters have now come to such a pass 
that even then the desired result seems as if it could not be 
attained, just as the continuance of an entire state in the practice 
of common meals is also deemed impossible. And although this latter is 
partly disproven by the fact of their existence among you, still 
even in your cities the common meals of women would be regarded as 
unnatural and impossible. I was thinking of the rebelliousness of 
the human heart when I said that the permanent establishment of 
these things is very difficult. 

Meg. Very true. 

Ath. Shall I try and find some sort of persuasive argument which 
will prove to you that such enactments are possible, and not beyond 
human nature? 

Cle. By all means. 



Ath . Is a man more likely to abstain from the pleasures of love 
and to do what he is bidden about them, when his body is in a good 
condition, or when he is in an ill condition, and out of training? 

Cle. He will be far more temperate when he is in training. 

Ath. And have we not heard of Iccus of Tarentum, who, with a view to 
the Olympic and other contests, in his zeal for his art, ind also 
because he was of a manly and temperate disposition, never had any 
connection with a woman or a youth during the whole time of his 
training? And the same is said of Crison and Astylus and Diopompus and 
many others; and yet, Cleinias, they were far worse educated in 
their minds than your and my citizens, and in their bodies far more 
lusty . 

Cle. No doubt this fact has been often affirmed positively by the 
ancients of these athletes. 

Ath. And had they; courage to abstain from what is ordinarilly 
deemed a pleasure for the sake of a victory in wrestling, running, and 
the like; and shall our young men be incapable of a similar 
endurance for the sake of a much nobler victory, which is the 
noblest of all, as from their youth upwards we will tell them, 
charming them, as we hope, into the belief of this by tales and 
sayings and songs? 

Cle. Of what victory are you speaking? 

Ath. Of the victory over pleasure, which if they win, they will live 
happily; or if they are conquered, the reverse of happily. And, 
further, may we not suppose that the fear of impiety will enable 
them to master that which other inferior people have mastered? 

Cle. I dare say. 

Ath. And since we have reached this point in our legislation, and 
have fallen into a difficulty by reason of the vices of mankind, I 
affirm that our ordinance should simply run in the following terms: 
Our citizens ought not to fall below the nature of birds and beasts in 
general, who are born in great multitudes, and yet remain until the 
age for procreation virgin and unmarried, but when they have reached 
the proper time of life are coupled, male and female, and lovingly 
pair together, and live the rest of their lives in holiness and 
innocence, abiding firmly in their original compact : -surely, we will 
say to them, you should be better than the animals. But if they are 
corrupted by the other Hellenes and the common practice of barbarians, 
and they see with their eyes and hear with their ears of the so-called 
free love everywhere prevailing among them, and they themselves are 
not able to get the better of the temptation, the guardians of the 
law, exercising the functions of lawgivers, shall devise a second 
law against them. 

Cle. And what law would you advise them to pass if this one failed? 

Ath. Clearly, Cleinias, the one which would naturally follow. 

Cle. What is that? 

Ath. Our citizens should not allow pleasures to strengthen with 
indulgence, but should by toil divert the aliment and exuberance of 
them into other parts of the body; and this will happen if no 
immodesty be allowed in the practice of love. Then they will be 
ashamed of frequent intercourse, and they will find pleasure, if 
seldom enjoyed, to be a less imperious mistress. They should not be 
found out doing anything of the sort. Concealment shall be honourable, 
and sanctioned by custom and made law by unwritten prescription; on 
the other hand, to be detected shall be esteemed dishonourable, but 
not, to abstain wholly. In this way there will be a second legal 
standard of honourable and dishonourable, involving a second notion of 
right. Three principles will comprehend all those corrupt natures whom 
we call inferior to themselves, and who form but one dass, and will 
compel them not to transgress. 

Cle. What are they? 

Ath. The principle of piety, the love of honour, and the desire of 
beauty, not in the body but in the soul. These are, perhaps, 
romantic aspirations; but they are the noblest of aspirations, if they 



could only be realized in all states, and, God willing, in the 
matter of love we may be able to enforce one of two things-either that 
no one shall venture to touch any person of the freeborn or noble 
class except his wedded wife, or sow the unconsecrated and bastard 
seed among harlots, or in barren and unnatural lusts; or at least we 
may abolish altogether the connection of men with men; and as to 
women, if any man has to do with any but those who come into his house 
duly married by sacred rites, whether they be bought or acquired in 
any other way, and he offends publicly in the face of all mankind, 
we shall be right in enacting that he be deprived of civic honours and 
privileges, and be deemed to be, as he truly is, a stranger. Let 
this law, then, whether it is one, or ought rather to be called two, 
be laid down respecting love in general, and the intercourse of the 
sexes which arises out of the desires, whether rightly or wrongly 
indulged. 

Meg. I, for my part, Stranger, would gladly receive this law. 
Cleinias shall speak for himself, and tell you what is his opinion. 

Cle. I will, Megillus, when an opportunity offers; at present, I 
think that we had better allow the Stranger to proceed with his laws. 

Meg. Very good. 

Ath . We had got about as far as the establishment of the common 
tables, which in most places would be difficult, but in Crete no one 
would think of introducing any other custom. There might arise a 
question about the manner of them-whether they shall be such as they 
are here in Crete, or such as they are in Lacedaemon, -or is there a 
third kind which may be better than either of them? The answer to this 
question might be easily discovered, but the discovery would do no 
great good, for at present they are very well ordered. 

Leaving the common tables, we may therefore proceed to the means 
of providing food. Now, in cities the means of life are gained in many 
ways and from divers sources, and in general from two sources, whereas 
our city has only one. For most of the Hellenes obtain their food from 
sea and land, but our citizens from land only. And this makes the task 
of the legislator less difficult-half as many laws will be enough, and 
much less than half; and they will be of a kind better suited to 
free men. For he has nothing to do with laws about shipowners and 
merchants and retailers and innkeepers and tax collectors and mines 
and moneylending and compound interest and innumerable other 
things-bidding good-bye to these, he gives laws to husbandmen and 
shepherds and bee-keepers, and to the guardians and superintendents of 
their implements; and he has already legislated for greater matters, 
as for example, respecting marriage and the procreation and nurture of 
children, and for education, and the establishment of offices-and 
now he must direct his laws to those who provide food and labour in 
preparing it. 

Let us first of all, then, have a class of laws which shall be 
called the laws of husbandmen. And let the first of them be the law of 
Zeus, the god of boundaries. Let no one shift the boundary line either 
of a fellow-citizen who is a neighbour, or, if he dwells at the 
extremity of the land, of any stranger who is conterminous with him, 
considering that this is truly "to move the immovable, " and every 
one should be more willing to move the largest rock which is not a 
landmark, than the least stone which is the sworn mark of friendship 
and hatred between neighbours; for Zeus, the god of kindred, is the 
witness of the citizen, and Zeus, the god of strangers, of the 
stranger, and when aroused, terrible are the wars which they stir 
up. He who obeys the law will never know the fatal consequences of 
disobedience, but he who despises the law shall be liable to a 
double penalty, the first coming from the Gods, and the second from 
the law. For let no one wilfully remove the boundaries of his 
neighbour's land, and if any one does, let him who will inform the 
landowners, and let them bring him into court, and if he be 
convicted of re-dividing the land by stealth or by force, let the 
court determine what he ought to suffer or pay. In the next place, 



many small injuries done by neighbours to one another, through their 
multiplication, may cause a weight of enmity, and make neighbourhood a 
very disagreeable and bitter thing. Wherefore a man ought to be very 
careful of committing any offence against his neighbour, and 
especially of encroaching on his neighbour's land; for any man may 
easily do harm, but not every man can do good to another. He who 
encroaches on his neighbour's land, and transgresses his boundaries, 
shall make good the damage, and, to cure him of his impudence and also 
of his meanness, he shall pay a double penalty to the injured party. 
Of these and the like matters the wardens of the country shall take 
cognizance, and be the judges of them and assessors of the damage; 
in the more important cases, as has been already said, the whole 
number of them belonging to any one of the twelve divisions shall 
decide, and in the lesser cases the commanders: or, again, if any 
one pastures his cattle on his neighbour's land, they shall see the 
injury, and adjudge the penalty. And if any one, by decoying the bees, 
gets possession of another's swarms, and draws them to himself by 
making noises, he shall pay the damage; or if anyone sets fire to 
his own wood and takes no care of his neighbour's property, he shall 
be fined at the discretion of the magistrates. And if in planting he 
does not leave a fair distance between his own and his neighbour's 
land, he shall be punished, in accordance with the enactments of 
many law givers, which we may use, not deeming it necessary that the 
great legislator of our state should determine all the trifles which 
might be decided by any body; for example, husbandmen have had of 
old excellent laws about waters, and there is no reason why we 
should propose to divert their course: who likes may draw water from 
the fountain-head of the common stream on to his own land, if he do 
not cut off the spring which clearly belongs to some other owner; 
and he may take the water in any direction which he pleases, except 
through a house or temple or sepulchre, but he must be careful to do 
no harm beyond the channel. And if there be in any place a natural 
dryness of the earth, which keeps in the rain from heaven, and 
causes a deficiency in the supply of water, let him dig down on his 
own land as far as the clay, and if at this depth he finds no water, 
let him obtain water from his neighbours, as much, as is required 
for his servants' drinking, and if his neighbours, too, are limited in 
their supply, let him have a fixed measure, which shall be 
determined by the wardens of the country. This he shall receive each 
day, and on these terms have a share of his neighbours' water. If 
there be heavy rain, and one of those on the lower ground injures some 
tiller of the upper ground, or some one who has a common wall, by 
refusing to give the man outlet for water; or, again, if some one 
living on the higher ground recklessly lets off the water on his lower 
neighbour, and they cannot come to terms with one another, let him who 
will call in a warden of the city, if he be in the city, or if he be 
in the country, warden of the country, and let him obtain a decision 
determining what each of them is to do. And he who will not abide by 
the decision shall suffer for his malignant and morose temper, and pay 
a fine to the injured party, equivalent to double the value of the 
injury, because he was unwilling to submit to the magistrates. 

Now the participation of fruits shall be ordered on this wise. The 
goddess of Autumn has two gracious gifts: one, the joy of Dionysus 
which is not treasured up; the other, which nature intends to be 
stored. Let this be the law, then, concerning the fruits of autumn: He 
who tastes the common or storing fruits of autumn, whether grapes or 
figs, before the season of vintage which coincides with Arcturus, 
either on his own land or on that of others-let him pay fifty 
drachmae, which shall be sacred to Dionysus, if he pluck them from his 
own land; and if from his neighbour's land, a mina, and if from any 
others', two-thirds of a mina. And he who would gather the "choice" 
grapes or the "choice" figs, as they are now termed, if he take them 
off his own land, let him pluck them how and when he likes; but if 
he take them from the ground of others without their leave, let him in 



that case be always punished in accordance with the law which 
ordains that he should not move what he has not laid down. And if a 
slave touches any fruit of this sort, without the consent of the owner 
of the land, he shall be beaten with as many blows as there are grapes 
on the bunch, or figs on the fig-tree. Let a metic purchase the 
"choice" autumnal fruit, and then, if he pleases, he may gather it; 
but if a stranger is passing along the road, and desires to eat, let 
him take of the "choice" grapes for himself and a single follower 
without payment, as a tribute of hospitality. The law however 
forbids strangers from sharing in the sort which is not used for 
eating; and if any one, whether he be master or slave, takes of them 
in ignorance, let the slave be beaten, and the freeman dismissed 
with admonitions, and instructed to take of the other autumnal 
fruits which are unfit for making raisins and wine, or for laying by 
as dried figs. As to pears, and apples, and pomegranates, and 
similar fruits, there shall be no disgrace in taking them secretly; 
but he who is caught, if he be of less than thirty years of age, shall 
be struck and beaten off, but not wounded; and no freeman shall have 
any right of satisfaction for such blows. Of these fruits the stranger 
may partake, just as he may of the fruits of autumn. And if an 
elder, who is more than thirty years of age, eat of them on the 
spot, let him, like the stranger, be allowed to partake of all such 
fruits, but he must carry away nothing. If, however, he will not 
obey the law, let him run risk of failing in the competition of 
virtue, in case any one takes notice of his actions before the 
judges at the time. 

Water is the greatest element of nutrition in gardens, but is easily 
polluted. You cannot poison the soil, or the soil, or the sun, or 
the air, which are other elements of nutrition in plants, or divert 
them, or steal them; but all these things may very likely happen in 
regard to water, which must therefore be protected by law. And let 
this be the law: -If any one intentionally pollutes the water of 
another, whether the water of a spring, or collected in reservoirs, 
either by poisonous substances, or by digging or by theft, let the 
injured party bring the cause before the wardens of the city, and 
claim in writing the value of the loss; if the accused be found guilty 
of injuring the water by deleterious substances, let him not only 
pay damages, but purify the stream or the cistern which contains the 
water, in such manner as the laws of the interpreters order the 
purification to be made by the offender in each case. 

With respect to the gathering in of the fruits of the soil, let a 
man, if he pleases, carry his own fruits through any place in which he 
either does no harm to any one, or himself gains three times as much 
as his neighbour loses. Now of these things the magistrates should 
be cognisant, as of all other things in which a man intentionally does 
injury to another or to the property of another, by fraud or force, in 
the use which he makes of his own property. All these matters a man 
should lay before the magistrates, and receive damages, supposing 
the injury to be not more than three minae; or if he have a charge 
against another which involves a larger amount, let him bring his suit 
into the public courts and have the evil-doer punished. But if any 
of the magistrates appear to adjudge the penalties which he imposes in 
an unjust spirit, let him be liable to pay double to the injured 
party. Any one may bring the offences of magistrates, in any 
particular case, before the public courts. There are innumerable 
little matters relating to the modes of punishment, and applications 
for suits, and summonses and the witnesses to summonses-f or example, 
whether two witnesses should be required for a summons, or how 
many-and all such details, which cannot be omitted in legislation, but 
are beneath the wisdom of an aged legislator. These lesser matters, as 
they indeed are in comparison with the greater ones, let a younger 
generation regulate by law, after the patterns which have preceded, 
and according to their own experience of the usefulness and 
necessity of such laws; and when they are duly regulated let there 



be no alteration, but let the citizens live in the observance of them. 

Now of artisans, let the regulations be as follows:-In the first 
place, let no citizen or servant of a citizen be occupied in 
handicraft arts; for he who is to secure and preserve the public order 
of the state, has an art which requires much study and many kinds of 
knowledge, and does not admit of being made a secondary occupation; 
and hardly any human being is capable of pursuing two professions or 
two arts rightly, or of practising one art himself, and superintending 
some one else who is practising another. Let this, then, be our 
first principle in the state: -No one who is a smith shall also be a 
carpenter, and if he be a carpenter, he shall not superintend the 
smith's art rather than his own, under the pretext that in 
superintending many servants who are working for him, he is likely 
to superintend them better, because more revenue will accrue to him 
from them than from his own art; but let every man in the state have 
one art, and get his living by that. Let the wardens of the city 
labour to maintain this law, and if any citizen incline to any other 
art than the study of virtue, let them punish him with disgrace and 
infamy, until they bring him back into his own right course; and if 
any stranger profess two arts, let them chastise him with bonds and 
money penalties, and expulsion from the state, until they compel him 
to be one only and not many. 

But as touching payments for hire, and contracts of work, or in case 
any one does wrong to any of the citizens or they do wrong to any 
other, up to fifty drachmae, let the wardens of the city decide the 
case; but if greater amount be involved, then let the public courts 
decide according to law. Let no one pay any duty either on the 
importation or exportation of goods; and as to frankincense and 
similar perfumes, used in the service of the Gods, which come from 
abroad, and purple and other dyes which are not produced in the 
country, or the materials of any art which have to be imported, and 
which are not necessary-no one should import them; nor again, should 
any one export anything which is wanted in the country. Of all these 
things let there be inspectors and superintendents, taken from the 
guardians of the law; and they shall be the twelve next in order to 
the five seniors. Concerning arms, and all implements which are for 
military purposes, if there be need of introducing any art, or 
plant, or metal, or chains of any kind, or animals for use in war, let 
the commanders of the horse and the generals have authority over their 
importation and exportation; the city shall send them out and also 
receive them, and the guardians of the law shall make fit and proper 
laws about them. But let there be no retail trade for the sake of 
money-making, either in these or any other articles, in the city or 
country at all. 

With respect to food and the distribution of the produce of the 
country, the right and proper way seems to be nearly that which is the 
custom of Crete; for all should be required to distribute the fruits 
of the soil into twelve parts, and in this way consume them. Let the 
twelfth portion of each (as for instance of wheat and barley, to which 
the rest of the fruits of the earth shall be added, as well as the 
animals which are for sale in each of the twelve divisions) be divided 
in due proportion into three parts; one part for freemen, another 
for their servants, and a third for craftsmen and in general for 
strangers, whether sojourners who may be dwelling in the city, and 
like other men must live, or those who come on some business which 
they have with the state, or with some individual. Let only this third 
part of all necessaries be required to be sold; out of the other 
two-thirds no one shall be compelled to sell. And how will they be 
best distributed? In the first place, we see clearly that the 
distribution will be of equals in one point of view, and in another 
point of view of unequals . 

Cle. What do you mean? 

Ath . I mean that the earth of necessity produces and nourishes the 
various articles of food, sometimes better and sometimes worse. 



Cle. Of course. 

Ath. Such being the case, let no one of the three portions be 
greater than either of the other two-neither that which is assigned to 
masters or to slaves, nor again that of the stranger; but let the 
distribution to all be equal and alike, and let every citizen take his 
two portions and distribute them among slaves and freemen, he having 
power to determine the quantity and quality. And what remains he shall 
distribute by measure and numb among the animals who have to be 
sustained from the earth, taking the whole number of them. 

In the second place, our citizens should have separate houses duly 
ordered, and this will be the order proper for men like them. There 
shall be twelve hamlets, one in the middle of each twelfth portion, 
and in each hamlet they shall first set apart a market-place, and 
the temples of the Gods, and of their attendant demigods; and if there 
be any local deities of the Magnetes, or holy seats of other ancient 
deities, whose memory has been preserved, to these let them pay 
their ancient honours. But Hestia, and Zeus, and Athene will have 
temples everywhere together with the God who presides in each of the 
twelve districts. And the first erection of houses shall be around 
these temples, where the ground is highest, in order to provide the 
safest and most defensible place of retreat for the guards. All the 
rest of the country they shall settle in the following manner: -They 
shall make thirteen divisions of the craftsmen; one of them they shall 
establish in the city, and this, again, they shall subdivide into 
twelve lesser divisions, among the twelve districts of the city, and 
the remainder shall be distributed in the country round about; and 
in each village they shall settle various classes of craftsmen, with a 
view to the convenience of the husbandmen. And the chief officers of 
the wardens of the country shall superintend all these matters, and 
see how many of them, and which class of them, each place requires; 
and fix them where they are likely to be least troublesome, and most 
useful to the husbandman. And the wardens of the city shall see to 
similar matters in the city. 

Now the wardens of the agora ought to see to the details of the 
agora. Their first care, after the temples which are in the agora have 
been seen to, should be to prevent any one from doing any in 
dealings between man and man; in the second; place, as being 
inspectors of temperance and violence, they should chastise him who 
requires chastisement. Touching articles of gale, they should first 
see whether the articles which the citizens are under regulations to 
sell to strangers are sold to them, as the law ordains. And let the 
law be as follows: -on the first day of the month, the persons in 
charge, whoever they are, whether strangers or slaves, who have the 
charge on behalf of the citizens, shall produce to the strangers the 
portion which falls to them, in the first place, a twelfth portion 
of the corn; -the stranger shall purchase corn for the whole month, and 
other cereals, on the first market day; and on the tenth day of the 
month the one party shall sell, and the other buy, liquids 
sufficient to last during the whole month; and on the twenty-third day 
there shall be a sale of animals by those who are willing to sell to 
the people who want to buy, and of implements and other things which 
husbandmen sell (such as skins and all kinds of clothing, either woven 
or made of felt and other goods of the same sort) , and which strangers 
are compelled to buy and purchase of others. As to the retail trade in 
these things, whether of barley or wheat set apart for meal and flour, 
or any other kind of food, no one shall sell them to citizens or their 
slaves, nor shall any one buy of a citizen; but let the stranger 
sell them in the market of strangers, to artisans and their slaves, 
making an exchange of wine and food, which is commonly called retail 
trade. And butchers shall offer for sale parts of dismembered 
animals to the strangers, and artisans, and their servants. Let any 
stranger who likes buy fuel from day to day wholesale, from those 
who have the care of it in the country, and let him sell to the 
strangers as much he pleases and when he pleases . As to other goods 



and implements which are likely to be wanted, they shall sell them 
in common market, at any place which the guardians of the law and 
the wardens of the market and city, choosing according to their 
judgment, shall determine; at such places they shall exchange money 
for goods, and goods for money, neither party giving credit to the 
other; and he who gives credit must be satisfied, whether he obtain 
his money not, for in such exchanges he will not be protected by 
law. But whenever property has been bought or sold, greater in 
quantity or value than is allowed by the law, which has determined 
within what limited a man may increase and diminish his possessions, 
let the excess be registered in the books of the guardians of the law; 
in case of diminution, let there be an erasure made. And let the 
same rule be observed about the registration of the property of the 
metics. Any one who likes may come and be a metic on certain 
conditions; a foreigner, if he likes, and is able to settle, may dwell 
in the land, but he must practise an art, and not abide more than 
twenty years from the time at which he has registered himself; and 
he shall pay no sojourner's tax, however small, except good conduct, 
nor any other tax for buying and selling. But when the twenty years 
have expired, he shall take his property with him and depart. And if 
in the course of these years he should chance to distinguish himself 
by any considerable benefit which he confers on the state, and he 
thinks that he can persuade the council and assembly, either to 
grant him delay in leaving the country, or to allow him to remain 
for the whole of his life, let him go and persuade the city, and 
whatever they assent to at his instance shall take effect. For the 
children of the metics, being artisans, and of fifteen years of age, 
let the time of their sojourn commence after their fifteenth year; and 
let them remain for twenty years, and then go where they like; but any 
of them who wishes to remain, may do so, if he can persuade the 
council and assembly. And if he depart, let him erase all the 
entries which have been made by him in the register kept by the 
magistrates . 
BOOK IX 

Next to all the matters which have preceded in the natural order 
of legislation will come suits of law. Of suits those which relate 
to agriculture have been already described, but the more important 
have not been described. Having mentioned them severally under their 
usual names, we will proceed to say what punishments are to be 
inflicted for each offence, and who are to be the judges of them. 

Cleinias . Very good. 

Athenian Stranger. There is a sense of disgrace in legislating, as 
we are about to do, for all the details of crime in a state which, 
as we say, is to be well regulated and will be perfectly adapted to 
the practice of virtue. To assume that in such a state there will 
arise some one who will be guilty of crimes as heinous as any which 
are ever perpetrated in other states, and that we must legislate for 
him by anticipation, and threaten and make laws against him if he 
should arise, in order to deter him, and punish his acts, under the 
idea that he will arise-this, as I was saying, is in a manner 
disgraceful. Yet seeing that we are not like the ancient 
legislators, who gave laws to heroes and sons of gods, being, 
according to the popular belief, themselves the offspring of the gods, 
and legislating for others, who were also the children of divine 
parents, but that we are only men who are legislating for the sons 
of men, there is no uncharitableness in apprehending that some one 
of our citizens may be like a seed which has touched the ox's horn, 
having a heart so hard that it cannot be softened any more than 
those seeds can be softened by fire. Among our citizens there may be 
those who cannot be subdued by all the strength of the laws; and for 
their sake, though an ungracious task, I will proclaim my first law 
about the robbing of temples, in case any one should dare to commit 
such a crime. I do not expect or imagine that any well-brought-up 



citizen will ever take the infection, but their servants, and 
strangers, and strangers' servants may be guilty of many impieties. 
And with a view to them especially, and yet not without a provident 
eye to the weakness of human nature generally, I will proclaim the law 
about robbers of temples and similar incurable, or almost incurable, 
criminals. Having already agreed that such enactments ought always 
to have a short prelude, we may speak to the criminal, whom some 
tormenting desire by night and by day tempts to go and rob a temple, 
the fewest possible words of admonition and exhortation : -0 sir, we 
will say to him, the impulse which moves you to rob temples is not 
an ordinary human malady, nor yet a visitation of heaven, but a 
madness which is begotten in a man from ancient and unexpiated 
crimes of his race, an ever-recurring curse; -against this you must 
guard with all your might, and how you are to guard we will explain to 
you. When any such thought comes into your mind, go and perform 
expiations, go as a suppliant to the temples of the Gods who avert 
evils, go to the society of those who are called good men among you; 
hear them tell and yourself try to repeat after them, that every man 
should honour the noble and the just. Fly from the company of the 
wicked-fly and turn not back; and if your disorder is lightened by 
these remedies, well and good, but if not, then acknowledge death to 
be nobler than life, and depart hence. 

Such are the preludes which we sing to all who have thoughts of 
unholy and treasonable actions, and to him who hearkens to them the 
law has nothing to say. But to him who is disobedient when the prelude 
is over, cry with a loud voice, -He who is taken in the act of 
robbing temples, if he be a slave or stranger, shall have his evil 
deed engraven on his face and hands, and shall be beaten with as 
many stripes as may seem good to the judges, and be cast naked 
beyond the borders of the land. And if he suffers this punishment he 
will probably return to his right mind and be improved; for no penalty 
which the law inflicts is designed for evil, but always makes him 
who suffers either better or not so much worse as he would have 
been. But if any citizen be found guilty of any great or unmentionable 
wrong, either in relation to the gods, or his parents, or the state, 
let the judge deem him to be incurable, remembering that after 
receiving such an excellent education and training from youth 
upward, he has not abstained from the greatest of crimes. His 
punishment shall be death, which to him will be the least of evils; 
and his example will benefit others, if he perish ingloriously, and be 
cast beyond the borders of the land. But let his children and 
family, if they avoid the ways of their father, have glory, and let 
honourable mention be made of them, as having nobly and manfully 
escaped out of evil into good. None of them should have their goods 
confiscated to the state, for the lots of the citizens ought always to 
continue the same and equal. 

Touching the exaction of penalties, when a man appears to have 
done anything which deserves a fine, he shall pay the fine, if he have 
anything in excess of the lot which is assigned to him; but more 
than that he shall not pay. And to secure exactness, let the guardians 
of the law refer to the registers, and inform the judges of the 
precise truth, in order that none of the lots may go uncultivated 
for want of money. But if any one seems to deserve a greater 
penalty, let him undergo a long and public imprisonment and be 
dishonoured, unless some of his friends are willing to be surety for 
him, and liberate him by assisting him to pay the fine. No criminal 
shall go unpunished, not even for a single offence, nor if he have 
fled the country; but let the penalty be according to his 
deserts-death, or bonds, or blows, or degrading places of sitting or 
standing, or removal to some temple on the borders of the land; or let 
him pay fines, as we said before. In cases of death, let the judges be 
the guardians of the law, and a court selected by merit from the 
last year's magistrates. But how the causes are to be brought into 
to court, how the summonses are to be served, the like, these things 



may be left to the younger generation of legislators to determine; the 
manner of voting we must determine ourselves. 

Let the vote be given openly; but before they come to the vote let 
the judges sit in order of seniority over against plaintiff and 
defendant, and let all the citizens who can spare time hear and take a 
serious interest in listening to such causes. First of all the 
plaintiff shall make one speech, and then the defendant shall make 
another; and after the speeches have been made the eldest judge 
shall begin to examine the parties, and proceed to make an adequate 
enquiry into what has been said; and after the oldest has spoken, 
the rest shall proceed in order to examine either party as to what 
he finds defective in the evidence, whether of statement or 
omission; and he who has nothing to ask shall hand over the 
examination to another. And on so much of what has been said as is 
to the purpose all the judges shall set their seals, and place the 
writings on the altar of Hestia. On the next day they shall meet 
again, and in like manner put their questions and go through the 
cause, and again set their seals upon the evidence; and when they have 
three times done this, and have had witnesses and evidence enough, 
they shall each of them give a holy vote, after promising by Hestia 
that they will decide justly and truly to the utmost of their power; 
and so they shall put an end to the suit. 

Next, after what relates to the Gods, follows what relates to the 
dissolution of the state : -Whoever by promoting a man to power enslaves 
the laws, and subjects the city to factions, using violence and 
stirring up sedition contrary to law, him we will deem the greatest 
enemy of the whole state. But he who takes no part in such 
proceedings, and, being one of the chief magistrates of the state, has 
no knowledge of the treason, or, having knowledge of it, by reason 
of cowardice does not interfere on behalf of his country, such an 
one we must consider nearly as bad. Every man who is worth anything 
will inform the magistrates, and bring the conspirator to trial for 
making a violent and illegal attempt to change the government. The 
judges of such cases shall be the same as of the robbers of temples; 
and let the whole proceeding be carried on in the same way, and the 
vote of the majority condemn to death. But let there be a general 
rule, that the disgrace and punishment of the father is not to be 
visited on the children, except in the case of some one whose 
father, grandfather, and great-grandfather have successively undergone 
the penalty of death. Such persons the city shall send away with all 
their possessions to the city and country of their ancestors, 
retaining only and wholly their appointed lot. And out of the citizens 
who have more than one son of not less than ten years of age, they 
shall select ten whom their father or grandfather by the mother's or 
father's side shall appoint, and let them send to Delphi the names 
of those who are selected, and him whom the God chooses they shall 
establish as heir of the house which has failed; and may he have 
better fortune than his predecessors! 

Cle. Very good. 

Ath . Once more let there be a third general law respecting the 
judges who are to give judgment, and the manner of conducting suits 
against those who are tried on an accusation of treason; and as 
concerning the remaining or departure of their descendants-there shall 
be one law for all three, for the traitor, and the robber of 
temples, and the subverter by violence of the laws of the state. For a 
thief, whether he steal much or little, let there be one law, and 
one punishment for all alike: in the first place, let him pay double 
the amount of the theft if he be convicted, and if he have so much 
over and above the allotment; -if he have not, he shall be bound 
until he pay the penalty, or persuade him has obtained the sentence 
against him to forgive him. But if a person be convicted of a theft 
against the state, then if he can persuade the city, or if he will pay 
back twice the amount of the theft, he shall be set free from his 
bonds . 



Cle. What makes you say, Stranger, that a theft is all one, 
whether the thief may have taken much or little, and either from 
sacred or secular places-and these are not the only differences in 
thefts : -seeing, then, that they are of many kinds, ought not the 
legislator to adapt himself to them, and impose upon them entirely 
different penalties? 

Ath . Excellent. I was running on too fast, Cleinias, and you 
impinged upon me, and brought me to my senses, reminding me of what, 
indeed, had occurred to mind already, that legislation was never yet 
rightly worked out, as I may say in passing. -Do you remember the image 
in which I likened the men for whom laws are now made to slaves who 
are doctored by slaves? For of this you may be very sure, that if 
one of those empirical physicians, who practise medicine without 
science, were to come upon the gentleman physician talking to his 
gentleman patient, and using the language almost of philosophy, 
beginning at the beginning of the disease and discoursing about the 
whole nature of the body, he would burst into a hearty laugh-he 
would say what most of those who are called doctors always have at 
their tongue's end: -Foolish fellow, he would say, you are not 
healing the sick man, but you are educating him; and he does not 
want to be made a doctor, but to get well. 

Cle. And would he not be right? 

Ath. Perhaps he would; and he might remark upon us that he who 
discourses about laws, as we are now doing, is giving the citizens 
education and not laws; that would be rather a telling observation. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. But we are fortunate. 

Cle. In what way? 

Ath. Inasmuch as we are not compelled to give laws, but we may 
take into consideration every form of government, and ascertain what 
is best and what is most needful, and how they may both be carried 
into execution; and we may also, if we please, at this very moment 
choose what is best, or, if we prefer, what is most necessary-which 
shall we do? 

Cle. There is something ridiculous, Stranger, in our proposing such 
an alternative as if we were legislators, simply bound under some 
great necessity which cannot be deferred to the morrow. But we, as I 
may by grace of Heaven affirm, like, gatherers of stones or 
beginners of some composite work, may gather a heap of materials, 
and out of this, at our leisure, select what is suitable for our 
projected construction. Let us then suppose ourselves to be at 
leisure, not of necessity building, but rather like men who are partly 
providing materials, and partly putting them together. And we may 
truly say that some of our laws, like stones, are already fixed in 
their places, and others lie at hand. 

Ath. Certainly, in that case, Cleinias, our view of law will be more 
in accordance with nature. For there is another matter affecting 
legislators, which I must earnestly entreat you to consider. 

Cle. What is it? 

Ath. There are many writings to be found in cities, and among them 
there, are composed by legislators as well as by other persons. 

Cle. To be sure. 

Ath. Shall we give heed rather to the writings of those others-poets 
and the like, who either in metre or out of metre have recorded 
their advice about the conduct of life, and not to the writings of 
legislators? or shall we give heed to them above all? 

Cle. Yes; to them far above all others. 

Ath. And ought the legislator alone among writers to withhold his 
opinion about the beautiful, the good, and the just, and not to 
teach what they are, and how they are to be pursued by those who 
intend to be happy? 

Cle. Certainly not. 

Ath. And is it disgraceful for Homer and Tyrtaeus and other poets to 
lay down evil precepts in their writings respecting life and the 



pursuits of men, but not so disgraceful for Lycurgus and Solon and 
others who were legislators as well as writers? Is it not true that of 
all the writings to be found in cities, those which relate to laws, 
when you unfold and read them, ought to be by far the noblest and 
the best? and should not other writings either agree with them, or 
if they disagree, be deemed ridiculous? We should consider whether the 
laws of states ought not to have the character of loving and wise 
parents, rather than of tyrants and masters, who command and threaten, 
and, after writing their decrees on walls, go their ways; and whether, 
in discoursing of laws, we should not take the gentler view of them 
which may or may not be attainable-at any rate, we will show our 
readiness to entertain such a view, and be prepared to undergo 
whatever may be the result. And may the result be good, and if God 
be gracious, it will be good! 

Cle. Excellent; let us do as you say. 

Ath . Then we will now consider accurately, as we proposed, what 
relates to robbers of temples, and all kinds of thefts, and offences 
in general; and we must not be annoyed if, in the course of 
legislation, we have enacted some things, and have not made up our 
minds about some others; for as yet we are not legislators, but we may 
soon be. Let us, if you please, consider these matters. 

Cle. By all means. 

Ath. Concerning all things honourable and just, let us then 
endeavour to ascertain how far we are consistent with ourselves, and 
how far we are inconsistent, and how far the many, from whom at any 
rate we should profess a desire to differ, agree and disagree among 
themselves . 

Cle. What are the inconsistencies which you observe in us? 

Ath. I will endeavour to explain. If I am not mistaken, we are all 
agreed that justice, and just men and things and actions, are all 
fair, and, if a person were to maintain that just men, even when 
they are deformed in body, are still perfectly beautiful in respect of 
the excellent justice of their minds, no one would say that there 
was any inconsistency in this. 

Cle. They would be quite right. 

Ath. Perhaps; but let us consider further, that if all things 
which are just are fair and honourable, in the term "all" we must 
include just sufferings which are the correlatives of just actions. 

Cle. And what is the inference? 

Ath. The inference is, that a just action in partaking of the just 
partakes also in the same degree of the fair and honourable. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. And must not a suffering which partakes of the just principle 
be admitted to be in the same degree fair and honourable, if the 
argument is consistently carried out? 

Cle. True. 

Ath. But then if we admit suffering to be just and yet 
dishonourable, and the term "dishonourable" is applied to justice, 
will not the just and the honourable disagree? 

Cle. What do you mean? 

Ath. A thing not difficult to understand; the laws which have been 
already enacted would seem to announce principles directly opposed 
to what we are saying. 

Cle. To what? 

Ath. We had enacted, if I am not mistaken, that the robber of 
temples, and he who was the enemy of law and order, might justly be 
put to death, and we were proceeding to make divers other enactments 
of a similar nature. But we stopped short, because we saw that these 
sufferings are infinite in number and degree, and that they are, at 
once, the most just and also the most dishonourable of all sufferings. 
And if this be true, are not the just and the honourable at one time 
all the same, and at another time in the most diametrical opposition? 

Cle. Such appears to be the case. 

Ath. In this discordant and inconsistent fashion does the language 



of the many rend asunder the honourable and just. 

Cle. Very true, Stranger. 

Ath . Then now, Cleinias, let us see how far we ourselves are 
consistent about these matters. 

Cle. Consistent in what? 

Ath. I think that I have clearly stated in the former part of the 
discussion, but if I did not, let me now state- 

Cle. What? 

Ath. That all bad men are always involuntarily bad; and from this 
must proceed to draw a further inference. 

Cle. What is it? 

Ath. That the unjust man may be bad, but that he is bad against 
his will. Now that an action which is voluntary should be done 
involuntarily is a contradiction; wherefore he who maintains that 
injustice is involuntary will deem that the unjust does injustice 
involuntarily. I too admit that all men do injustice involuntarily, 
and if any contentious or disputatious person says that men are unjust 
against their will, and yet that many do injustice willingly, I do not 
agree with him. But, then, how can I avoid being inconsistent with 
myself, if you, Cleinias, and you, Megillus, say to me-Well, Stranger, 
if all this be as you say, how about legislating for the city of the 
Magnetes-shall we legislate or not-what do you advise? Certainly we 
will, I should reply. Then will you determine for them what are 
voluntary and what are involuntary crimes, and shall we make the 
punishments greater of voluntary errors and crimes and less for the 
involuntary? or shall we make the punishment of all to be alike, under 
the idea that there is no such thing as voluntary crime? 

Cle. Very good, Stranger; and what shall we say in answer to these 
objections? 

Ath. That is a very fair question. In the first place, let us- 

Cle. Do what? 

Ath. Let us remember what has been well said by us already, that our 
ideas of justice are in the highest degree confused and contradictory. 
Bearing this in mind, let us proceed to ask ourselves once more 
whether we have discovered a way out of the difficulty. Have we ever 
determined in what respect these two classes of actions differ from 
one another? For in all states and by all legislators whatsoever, 
two kinds of actions have been distinguished-the one, voluntary, the 
other, involuntary; and they have legislated about them accordingly. 
But shall this new word of ours, like an oracle of God, be only 
spoken, and get away without giving any explanation or verification of 
itself? How can a word not understood be the basis of legislation? 
Impossible. Before proceeding to legislate, then, we must prove that 
they are two, and what is the difference between them, that when we 
impose the penalty upon either, every one may understand our proposal, 
and be able in some way to judge whether the penalty is fitly or 
unfitly inflicted. 

Cle. I agree with you, Stranger; for one of two things is certain: 
either we must not say that all unjust acts are involuntary, or we 
must show the meaning and truth of this statement. 

Ath. Of these two alternatives, the one is quite intolerable-not 
to speak what I believe to be the truth would be to me unlawful and 
unholy. But if acts of injustice cannot be divided into voluntary 
and involuntary, I must endeavour to find some other distinction 
between them. 

Cle. Very true, Stranger; there cannot be two opinions among us upon 
that point. 

Ath. Reflect, then; there are hurts of various kinds done by the 
citizens to one another in the intercourse of life, affording 
plentiful examples both of the voluntary and involuntary. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. I would not have any one suppose that all these hurts are 
injuries, and that these injuries are of two kinds-one, voluntary, and 
the other, involuntary; for the involuntary hurts of all men are quite 



as many and as great as the voluntary? And please to consider 
whether I am right or quite wrong in what I am going to say; for I 
deny, Cleinias and Megillus, that he who harms another involuntarily 
does him an injury involuntarily, nor should I legislate about such an 
act under the idea that I am legislating for an involuntary injury. 
But I should rather say that such a hurt, whether great or small, is 
not an injury at all; and, on the other hand, if I am right, when a 
benefit is wrongly conferred, the author of the benefit may often be 
said to injure. For I maintain, my friends, that the mere giving 
or taking away of anything is not to be described either as just or 
unjust; but the legislator has to consider whether mankind do good 
or harm to one another out of a just principle and intention. On the 
distinction between injustice and hurt he must fix his eye; and when 
there is hurt, he must, as far as he can, make the hurt good by law, 
and save that which is ruined, and raise up that which is fallen, 
and make that which is dead or wounded whole. And when compensation 
has been given for injustice, the law must always seek to win over the 
doers and sufferers of the several hurts from feelings of enmity to 
those of friendship. 

Cle. Very good. 

Ath . Then as to unjust hurts (and gains also, supposing the 
injustice to bring gain), of these we may heal as many as are 
capable of being healed, regarding them as diseases of the soul; and 
the cure of injustice will take the following direction. 

Cle. What direction? 

Ath. When any one commits any injustice, small or great, the law 
will admonish and compel him either never at all to do the like again, 
or never voluntarily, or at any rate in a far less degree; and he must 
in addition pay for the hurt. Whether the end is to be attained by 
word or action, with pleasure or pain, by giving or taking away 
privileges, by means of fines or gifts, or in whatsoever way the law 
shall proceed to make a man hate injustice, and love or not hate the 
nature of the just-this is quite the noblest work of law. But if the 
legislator sees any one who is incurable, for him he will appoint a 
law and a penalty. He knows quite well that to such men themselves 
there is no profit in the continuance of their lives, and that they 
would do a double good to the rest of mankind if they would take their 
departure, inasmuch as they would be an example to other men not to 
offend, and they would relieve the city of bad citizens. In such 
cases, and in such cases only, the legislator ought to inflict death 
as the punishment of offences. 

Cle. What you have said appears to me to be very reasonable, but 
will you favour me by stating a little more clearly the difference 
between hurt and injustice, and the various complications of the 
voluntary and involuntary which enter into them? 

Ath. I will endeavour to do as you wish : -Concerning the soul, 
thus much would be generally said and allowed, that one element in her 
nature is passion, which may be described either as a state or a 
part of her, and is hard to be striven against and contended with, and 
by irrational force overturns many things. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. And pleasure is not the same with passion, but has an 
opposite power, working her will by persuasion and by the force of 
deceit in all things. 

Cle. Quite true. 

Ath. A man may truly say that ignorance is a third cause of 
crimes. Ignorance, however, may be conveniently divided by the 
legislator into two sorts: there is simple ignorance, which is the 
source of lighter offences, and double ignorance, which is accompanied 
by a conceit of wisdom; and he who is under the influence of the 
latter fancies that he knows all about matters of which he knows 
nothing. This second kind of ignorance, when possessed of power and 
strength, will be held by the legislator to be the source of great and 
monstrous times, but when attended with weakness, will only result 



in the errors of children and old men; and these he will treat as 
errors, and will make laws accordingly for those who commit them, 
which will be the mildest and most merciful of all laws. 

Cle. You are perfectly right. 

Ath . We all of us remark of one man that he is superior to 
pleasure and passion, and of another that he is inferior to them; 
and this is true. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. But no one was ever yet heard to say that one of us is superior 
and another inferior to ignorance. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. We are speaking of motives which incite men to the fulfilment 
of their will; although an individual may be often drawn by them in 
opposite directions at the same time. 

Cle. Yes, often. 

Ath. And now I can define to you clearly, and without ambiguity, 
what I mean by the just and unjust, according to my notion of 
them: -When anger and fear, and pleasure and pain, and jealousies and 
desires, tyrannize over the soul, whether they do any harm or not-I 
call all this injustice. But when the opinion of the best, in whatever 
part of human nature states or individuals may suppose that to 
dwell, has dominion in the soul and orders the life of every man, even 
if it be sometimes mistaken, yet what is done in accordance therewith, 
the principle in individuals which obeys this rule, and is best for 
the whole life of man, is to be called just; although the hurt done by 
mistake is thought by many to be involuntary injustice. Leaving the 
question of names, about which we are not going to quarrel, and having 
already delineated three sources of error, we may begin by recalling 
them somewhat more vividly to our memory: -One of them was of the 
painful sort, which we denominate anger and fear. 

Cle. Quite right. 

Ath. There was a second consisting of pleasures and desires, and a 
third of hopes, which aimed at true opinion about the best. The latter 
being subdivided into three, we now get five sources of actions; and 
for these five we will make laws of two kinds. 

Cle. What are the two kinds? 

Ath. There is one kind of actions done by violence and in the 
light of day, and another kind of actions which are done in darkness 
and with secret deceit, or sometimes both with violence and deceit; 
the laws concerning these last ought to have a character of severity. 

Cle. Naturally. 

Ath. And now let us return from this digression and complete the 
work of legislation. Laws have been already enacted by us concerning 
the robbers of the Gods, and concerning traitors, and also 
concerning those who corrupt the laws for the purpose of subverting 
the government. A man may very likely commit some of these crimes, 
either in a state of madness or when affected by disease, or under the 
influence of extreme old age, or in a fit of childish wantonness, 
himself no better than a child. And if this be made evident to the 
judges elected to try the cause, on the appeal of the criminal or 
his advocate, and he be judged to have been in this state when he 
committed the offence, he shall simply pay for the hurt which he may 
have done to another; but he shall be exempt from other penalties, 
unless he have slain some one, and have on his hands the stain of 
blood. And in that case he shall go to another land and country, and 
there dwell for a year; and if he return before the expiration of 
the time which the law appoints, or even set his foot at all on his 
native land, he shall be bound by the guardians of the law in the 
public prison for two years, and then go free. 

Having begun to speak of homicide, let us endeavour to lay down laws 
concerning every different kind of homicides, and, first of all, 
concerning violent and involuntary homicides. If any one in an 
athletic contest, and at the public games, involuntarily kills a 
friend, and he dies either at the time or afterwards of the blows 



which he has received; or if the like misfortune happens to any one in 
war, or military exercises, or mimic contests, of which the 
magistrates enjoin the practice, whether with or without arms, when he 
has been purified according to the law brought from Delphi relating to 
these matters, he shall be innocent. And so in the case of physicians: 
if their patient dies against their will, they shall be held guiltless 
by the law. And if one slay another with his own hand, but 
unintentionally, whether he be unarmed or have some instrument or dart 
in his hand; or if he kill him by administering food or drink or by 
the application of fire or cold, or by suffocating him, whether he 
do the deed by his own hand, or by the agency of others, he shall be 
deemed the agent, and shall suffer one of the following 
penalties : -If he kill the slave of another in the belief that he is 
his own, he shall bear the master of the dead man harmless from 
loss, or shall pay a penalty of twice the value of the dead man, which 
the judges shall assess; but purifications must be used greater and 
more numerous than for those who committed homicide at the games; -what 
they are to be, the interpreters whom the God appoints shall be 
authorized to declare. And if a man kills his own slave, when he has 
been purified according to laws he shall be quit of the homicide. 
And if a man kills a freeman unintentionally, he shall undergo the 
same purification as he did who killed the slave. But let him not 
forget also a tale of olden time, which is to this effect: -He who 
has suffered a violent end, when newly dead, if he has had the soul of 
a freeman in life, is angry with the author of his death; and being 
himself full of fear and panic by reason of his violent end, when he 
sees his murderer walking about in his own accustomed haunts, he is 
stricken with terror and becomes disordered, and this disorder of his, 
aided by the guilty recollection of is communicated by him with 
overwhelming force to the murderer and his deeds. Wherefore also the 
murderer must go out of the way of his victim for the entire period of 
a year, and not himself be found in any spot which was familiar to him 
throughout the country. And if the dead man be a stranger, the 
homicide shall be kept from the country of the stranger during a 
like period. If any one voluntarily obeys this law, the next of kin to 
the deceased, seeing all that has happened, shall take pity on him, 
and make peace with him, and show him all gentleness. But if any one 
is disobedient, either ventures to go to any of the temples and 
sacrifice unpurified, or will not continue in exile during the 
appointed time, the next of kin to the deceased shall proceed 
against him for murder; and if he be convicted, every part of his 
punishment shall be doubled. 

And if the next of kin do not proceed against the perpetrator of the 
crime, then the pollution shall be deemed to fall upon his own 
head; -the murdered man will fix the guilt upon his kinsman, and he who 
has a mind to proceed against him may compel him to be absent from his 
country during five years, according to law. If a stranger 
unintentionally kill a stranger who is dwelling in the city, he who 
likes shall prosecute the cause according to the same rules. If he 
be a metic, let him be absent for a year, or if he be an entire 
stranger, in addition to the purification, whether he have slain a 
stranger, or a metic, or a citizen, he shall be banished for life from 
the country which is in possession of our laws. And if he return 
contrary to law, let the guardians of the law punish him with death; 
and let them hand over his property, if he have any, to him who is 
next of kin to the sufferer. And if he be wrecked, and driven on the 
coast against his will, he shall take up his abode on the seashore, 
wetting his feet in the sea, and watching for an opportunity of 
sailing; but if he be brought by land, and is not his own master, 
let the magistrate whom he first comes across in the city, release him 
and send him unharmed over the border. 

If any one slays a freeman with his own hand and the deed be done in 
passion, in the case of such actions we must begin by making a 
distinction. For a deed is done from passion either when men suddenly, 



and without intention to kill, cause the death of another by blows and 
the like on a momentary impulse, and are sorry for the deed 
immediately afterwards; or again, when after having been insulted in 
deed or word, men pursue revenge, and kill a person intentionally, and 
are not sorry for the act. And, therefore, we must assume that these 
homicides are of two kinds, both of them arising from passion, which 
may be justly said to be in a mean between the voluntary and 
involuntary; at the same time, they are neither of them anything 
more than a likeness or shadow of either. He who treasures up his 
anger, and avenges himself, not immediately and at the moment, but 
with insidious design, and after an interval, is like the voluntary; 
but he who does not treasure up his anger, and takes vengeance on 
the instant, and without malice prepense, approaches to the 
involuntary; and yet even he is not altogether involuntary, but only 
the image or shadow of the involuntary; wherefore about homicides 
committed in hot blood, there is a difficulty in determining whether 
in legislating we shall reckon them as voluntary or as partly 
involuntary. The best and truest view is to regard them respectively 
as likenesses only of the voluntary and involuntary, and to 
distinguish them accordingly as they are done with or without 
premeditation. And we should make the penalties heavier for those 
who commit homicide with angry premeditation, and lighter for those 
who do not premeditate, but smite upon the instant; for that which 
is like a greater evil should be punished more severely, and that 
which is like a less evil should be punished less severely: this shall 
be the rule of our laws. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. Let us proceed: -If any one slays a free man with his own 
hand, and the deed be done in a moment of anger, and without 
premeditation, let the offender suffer in other respects as the 
involuntary homicide would have suffered, and also undergo an exile of 
two years, that he may learn to school his passions. But he who 
slays another from passion, yet with premeditation, shall in other 
respects suffer as the former; and to this shall be added an exile 
of three instead of two years-his punishment is to be longer because 
his passion is greater. The manner of their return shall be on this 
wise: (and here the law has difficulty in determining exactly; for 
in some cases the murderer who is judged by the law to be the worse 
may really be the less cruel, and he who is judged the less cruel 
may be really the worse, and may have executed the murder in a more 
savage manner, whereas the other may have been gentler. But in general 
the degrees of guilt will be such as we have described them. Of all 
these things the guardians of the law must take cognisance) : -When a 
homicide of either kind has completed his term of exile, the guardians 
shall send twelve judges to the borders of the land; these during 
the interval shall have informed themselves of the actions of the 
criminals, and they shall judge respecting their pardon and reception; 
and the homicides shall abide by their judgment. But if after they 
have returned home, any one of them in a moment of anger repeats the 
deed, let him be an exile, and return no more; or if he returns, let 
him suffer as the stranger was to suffer in a similar case. He who 
kills his own slave shall undergo a purification, but if he kills 
the slave of another in anger, he shall pay twice the amount of the 
loss to his owner. And if any homicide is disobedient to the law, 
and without purification pollutes the agora, or the games, or the 
temples, he who pleases may bring to trial the next of kin to the dead 
man for permitting him, and the murderer with him, and may compel 
the one to exact and the other to suffer a double amount of fines 
and purifications; and the accuser shall himself receive the fine in 
accordance with the law. If a slave in a fit of passion kills his 
master, the kindred of the deceased man may do with the murderer 
(provided only they do not spare his life) whatever they please, and 
they will be pure; or if he kills a freeman, who is not his master, 
the owner shall give up the slave to the relatives of the deceased, 



and they shall be under an obligation to put him to death, but this 
may be done in any manner which they please. 

And if (which is a rare occurrence, but does sometimes happen) a 
father or a mother in a moment of passion slays a son or daughter by 
blows, or some other violence, the slayer shall undergo the same 
purification as in other cases, and be exiled during three years; 
but when the exile returns the wife shall separate from the husband, 
and the husband from the wife, and they shall never afterwards beget 
children together, or live under the same roof, or partake of the same 
sacred rites with those whom they have deprived of a child or of a 
brother. And he who is impious and disobedient in such a case shall be 
brought to trial for impiety by any one who pleases. If in a fit of 
anger a husband kills his wedded wife, or the wife her husband, the 
slayer shall undergo the same purification, and the term of exile 
shall be three years. And when he who has committed any such crime 
returns, let him have no communication in sacred rites with his 
children, neither let him sit at the same table with them, and the 
father or son who disobeys shall be liable to be brought to trial 
for impiety by any one who pleases. If a brother or a sister in a 
fit of passion kills a brother or a sister, they shall undergo 
purification and exile, as was the case with parents who killed 
their offspring: they shall not come under the same roof, or share 
in the sacred rites of those whom they have deprived of their 
brethren, or of their children. 

And he who is disobedient shall be justly liable to the law 
concerning impiety, which relates to these matters. If any one is so 
violent in his passion against his parents, that in the madness of his 
anger he dares to kill one of them, if the murdered person before 
dying freely forgives the murderer, let him undergo the purification 
which is assigned to those who have been guilty of involuntary 
homicide, and do as they do, and he shall be pure. But if he be not 
acquitted, the perpetrator of such a deed shall be amenable to many 
laws; -he shall be amenable to the extreme punishments for assault, and 
impiety, and robbing of temples, for he has robbed his parent of life; 
and if a man could be slain more than once, most justly would he who 
in a fit of passion has slain father or mother, undergo many deaths. 
How can he, whom, alone of all men, even in defence of his life, and 
when about to suffer death at the hands of his parents, no law will 
allow to kill his father or his mother who are the authors of his 
being, and whom the legislator will command to endure any extremity 
rather than do this-how can he, I say, lawfully receive any other 
punishment? Let death then be the appointed punishment of him who in a 
fit of passion slays his father or his mother. But if brother kills 
brother in a civil broil, or under other like circumstances, if the 
other has begun, and he only defends himself, let him be free from 
guilt, as he would be if he had slain an enemy; and the same rule will 
apply if a citizen kill a citizen, or a stranger a stranger. Or if a 
stranger kill a citizen or a citizen a stranger in self-defence, let 
him be free from guilt in like manner; and so in the case of a slave 
who has killed a slave; but if a slave have killed a freeman in 
self-defence, let him be subject to the same law as he who has 
killed a father; and let the law about the remission of penalties in 
the case of parricide apply equally to every other remission. Whenever 
any sufferer of his own accord remits the guilt of homicide to 
another, under the idea that his act was involuntary, let the 
perpetrator of the deed undergo a purification and remain in exile for 
a year, according to law. 

Enough has been said of murders violent and involuntary and 
committed in passion: we have now to speak of voluntary crimes done 
with injustice of every kind and with premeditation, through the 
influence of pleasures, and desires, and jealousies. 

Cle. Very good. 

Ath . Let us first speak, as far as we are able, of their various 
kinds. The greatest cause of them is lust, which gets the mastery of 



the soul maddened by desire; and this is most commonly found to 
exist where the passion reigns which is strongest and most prevalent 
among mass of mankind: I mean where the power of wealth breeds endless 
desires of never-to-be-satisfied acquisition, originating in natural 
disposition, and a miserable want of education. Of this want of 
education, the false praise of wealth which is bruited about both 
among Hellenes and barbarians is the cause; they deem that to be the 
first of goods which in reality is only the third. And in this way 
they wrong both posterity and themselves, for nothing can be nobler 
and better than that the truth about wealth should be spoken in all 
states-namely, that riches are for the sake of the body, as the body 
is for the sake of the soul. They are good, and wealth is intended 
by nature to be for the sake of them, and is therefore inferior to 
them both, and third in order of excellence. This argument teaches 
us that he who would be happy ought not to seek to be rich, or 
rather he should seek to be rich justly and temperately, and then 
there would be no murders in states requiring to be purged away by 
other murders. But now, as I said at first, avarice is the chiefest 
cause and source of the worst trials for voluntary homicide. A 
second cause is ambition: this creates jealousies, which are 
troublesome companions, above all to the jealous man himself, and in a 
less degree to the chiefs of the state. And a third cause is 
cowardly and unjust fear, which has been the occasion of many murders. 
When a man is doing or has done something which he desires that no one 
should know him to be doing or to have done, he will take the life 
of those who are likely to inform of such things, if he have no 
other means of getting rid of them. Let this be said as a prelude 
concerning crimes of violence in general; and I must not omit to 
mention a tradition which is firmly believed by many, and has been 
received by them from those who are learned in the mysteries : they say 
that such deeds will be punished in the world below, and also that 
when the perpetrators return to this world they will pay the natural 
penalty which is due to the sufferer, and end their lives in like 
manner by the hand of another. If he who is about to commit murder 
believes this, and is made by the mere prelude to dread such a 
penalty, there is no need to proceed with the proclamation of the law. 
But if he will not listen, let the following law be declared and 
registered against him: 

Whoever shall wrongfully and of design slay with his own hand any of 
his kinsmen, shall in the first place be deprived of legal privileges; 
and he shall not pollute the temples, or the agora, or the harbours, 
or any other place of meeting, whether he is forbidden of men or 
not; for the law, which represents the whole state, forbids him, and 
always is and will be in the attitude of forbidding him. And if a 
cousin or nearer relative of the deceased, whether on the male or 
female side, does not prosecute the homicide when he ought, and have 
him proclaimed an outlaw, he shall in the first place be involved in 
the pollution, and incur the hatred of the Gods, even as the curse 
of the law stirs up the voices of men against him; and in the second 
place he shall be liable to be prosecuted by any one who is willing to 
inflict retribution on behalf of the dead. And he who would avenge a 
murder shall observe all the precautionary ceremonies of lavation, and 
any others which the God commands in cases of this kind. Let him 
have proclamation made, and then go forth and compel the perpetrator 
to suffer the execution of justice according to the law. Now the 
legislator may easily show that these things must be accomplished by 
prayers and sacrifices to certain Gods, who are concerned with the 
prevention of murders in states. But who these Gods are, and what 
should be the true manner of instituting such trials with due regard 
to religion, the guardians of the law, aided by the interpreters, 
and the prophets, and the God, shall determine, and when they have 
determined let them carry on the prosecution at law. The cause shall 
have the same judges who are appointed to decide in the case of 
those who plunder temples. Let him who is convicted be punished with 



death, and let him not be buried in the country of the murdered man, 
for this would be shameless as well as impious. But if he fly and will 
not stand his trial, let him fly for ever; or, if he set foot anywhere 
on any part of the murdered man's country, let any relation of the 
deceased, or any other citizen who may first happen to meet with 
him, kill him with impunity, or bind and deliver him to those among 
the judges of the case who are magistrates, that they may put him to 
death. And let the prosecutor demand surety of him whom he prosecutes; 
three sureties sufficient in the opinion of the magistrates who try 
the cause shall be provided by him, and they shall undertake to 
produce him at the trial. But if he be unwilling or unable to 
provide sureties, then the magistrates shall take him and keep him 
in bonds, and produce him at the day of trial. 

If a man do not commit a murder with his own hand, but contrives the 
death of another, and is the author of the deed in intention and 
design, and he continues to dwell in the city, having his soul not 
pure of the guilt of murder, let him be tried in the same way, 
except in what relates to the sureties; and also, if he be found 
guilty, his body after execution may have burial in his native land, 
but in all other respects his case shall be as the former; and whether 
a stranger shall kill a citizen, or a citizen a stranger, or a slave a 
slave, there shall be no difference as touching murder by one's own 
hand or by contrivance, except in the matter of sureties; and these, 
as has been said, shall be required of the actual murderer only, and 
he who brings the accusation shall bind them over at the time. If a 
slave be convicted of slaying a freeman voluntarily, either by his own 
hand or by contrivance, let the public executioner take him in the 
direction of the sepulchre, to a place whence he can see the tomb of 
the dead man, and inflict upon him as many stripes as the person who 
caught him orders, and if he survive, let him put him to death. And if 
any one kills a slave who has done no wrong, because he is afraid that 
he may inform of some base and evil deeds of his own, or for any 
similar reason, in such a case let him pay the penalty of murder, as 
he would have done if he had slain a citizen. There are things about 
which it is terrible and unpleasant to legislate, but impossible not 
to legislate. If, for example, there should be murders of kinsmen, 
either perpetrated by the hands of kinsmen, or by their contrivance, 
voluntary and purely malicious, which most often happen in 
ill-regulated and ill-educated states, and may perhaps occur even in a 
country where a man would not expect to find them, we must repeat once 
more the tale which we narrated a little while ago, in the hope that 
he who hears us will be the more disposed to abstain voluntarily on 
these grounds from murders which are utterly abominable. For the myth, 
or saying, or whatever we ought to call it, has been plainly set forth 
by priests of old; they have pronounced that the justice which 
guards and avenges the blood of kindred, follows the law of 
retaliation, and ordains that he who has done any murderous act should 
of necessity suffer that which he has done. He who has slain a 
father shall himself be slain at some time or other by his children-if 
a mother, he shall of necessity take a woman's nature, and lose his 
life at the hands of his offspring in after ages; for where the 
blood of a family has been polluted there is no other purification, 
nor can the pollution be washed out until the homicidal soul which the 
deed has given life for life, and has propitiated and laid to sleep 
the wrath of the whole family. These are the retributions of Heaven, 
and by such punishments men should be deterred. But if they are not 
deterred, and any one should be incited by some fatality to deprive 
his father or mother, or brethren, or children, of life voluntarily 
and of purpose, for him the earthly lawgiver legislates as 
follows : -There shall be the same proclamations about outlawry, and 
there shall be the same sureties which have been enacted in the former 
cases. But in his case, if he be convicted, the servants of the judges 
and the magistrates shall slay him at an appointed place without the 
city where three ways meet, and there expose his body naked, and 



each of the magistrates on behalf of the whole city shall take a stone 
and cast it upon the head of the dead man, and so deliver the city 
from pollution; after that, they shall bear him to the borders of 
the land, and cast him forth unburied, according to law. And what 
shall he suffer who slays him who of all men, as they say, is his 
own best friend? I mean the suicide, who deprives himself by 
violence of his appointed share of life, not because the law of the 
state requires him, nor yet under the compulsion of some painful and 
inevitable misfortune which has come upon him, nor because he has 
had to suffer from irremediable and intolerable shame, but who from 
sloth or want of manliness imposes upon himself an unjust penalty. For 
him, what ceremonies there are to be of purification and burial God 
knows, and about these the next of kin should enquire of the 
interpreters and of the laws thereto relating, and do according to 
their injunctions. They who meet their death in this way shall be 
buried alone, and none shall be laid by their side; they shall be 
buried ingloriously in the borders of the twelve portions the land, in 
such places as are uncultivated and nameless, and no column or 
inscription shall mark the place of their interment. And if a beast of 
burden or other animal cause the death of any one, except in the 
case of anything of that kind happening to a competitor in the 
public contests, the kinsmen of the deceased shall prosecute the 
slayer for murder, and the wardens of the country, such, and so many 
as the kinsmen appoint, shall try the cause, and let the beast when 
condemned be slain by them, and let them cast it beyond the borders. 
And if any lifeless thing deprive a man of life, except in the case of 
a thunderbolt or other fatal dart sent from the Gods-whether a man 
is killed by lifeless objects, falling upon him, or by his falling 
upon them, the nearest of kin shall appoint the nearest neighbour to 
be a judge, and thereby acquit himself and the whole family of 
guilt. And he shall cast forth the guilty thing beyond the border, 
as has been said about the animals. 

If a man is found dead, and his murderer be unknown, and after a 
diligent search cannot be detected, there shall be the same 
proclamation as in the previous cases, and the same interdict on the 
murderer; and having proceeded against him, they shall proclaim in the 
agora by a herald, that he who has slain such and such a person, and 
has been convicted of murder, shall not set his foot in the temples, 
nor at all in the country of the murdered man, and if he appears and 
is discovered, he shall die, and be cast forth unburied beyond the 
border. Let this one law then be laid down by us about murder; and let 
cases of this sort be so regarded. 

And now let us say in what cases and under what circumstances the 
murderer is rightly free from guilt: -If a man catch a thief coming, 
into his house by night to steal, and he take and kill him, or if he 
slay a footpad in self-defence, he shall be guiltless. And any one who 
does violence to a free woman or a youth, shall be slain with impunity 
by the injured person, or by his or her father or brothers or sons. If 
a man find his wife suffering violence, he may kill the violator, 
and be guiltless in the eye of the law; or if a person kill another in 
warding off death from his father or mother or children or brethren or 
wife who are doing no wrong, he shall assuredly be guiltless. 

Thus much as to the nurture and education of the living soul of man, 
having which, he can, and without which, if he unfortunately be 
without them, he cannot live; and also concerning the 
punishments : -which are to be inflicted for violent deaths, let thus 
much be enacted. Of the nurture and education of the body we have 
spoken before, and next in order we have to speak of deeds of 
violence, voluntary and involuntary, which men do to one another; 
these we will now distinguish, as far as we are able, according to 
their nature and number, and determine what will be the suitable 
penalties of each, and so assign to them their proper place in the 
series of our enactments. The poorest legislator will have no 
difficulty in determining that wounds and mutilations arising out of 



wounds should follow next in order after deaths. Let wounds be divided 
as homicides were divided-into those which are involuntary, and 
which are given in passion or from fear, and those inflicted 
voluntarily and with premeditation. Concerning all this, we must 
make some such proclamation as the following : -Mankind must have 
laws, and conform to them, or their life would be as bad as that of 
the most savage beast. And the reason of this is that no man's 
nature is able to know what is best for human society; or knowing, 
always able and willing to do what is best. In the first place, 
there is a difficulty in apprehending that the true art or politics is 
concerned, not with private but with public good (for public good 
binds together states, but private only distracts them); and that both 
the public and private good as well of individuals as of states is 
greater when the state and not the individual is first considered. 
In the second place, although a person knows in the abstract that this 
is true, yet if he be possessed of absolute and irresponsible power, 
he will never remain firm in his principles or persist in regarding 
the public good as primary in the state, and the private good as 
secondary. Human nature will be always drawing him into avarice and 
selfishness, avoiding pain and pursuing Pleasure without any reason, 
and will bring these to the front, obscuring the juster and better; 
and so working darkness in his soul will at last fill with evils 
both him and the whole city. For if a man were born so divinely gifted 
that he could naturally apprehend the truth, he would have no need 
of laws to rule over him; for there is no law or order which is 
above knowledge, nor can mind, without impiety, be deemed the 
subject or slave of any man, but rather the lord of all. I speak of 
mind, true and free, and in harmony with nature. But then there is 
no such mind anywhere, or at least not much; and therefore we must 
choose law and order, which are second best. These look at things as 
they exist for the most part only, and are unable to survey the 
whole of them. And therefore I have spoken as I have. 

And now we will determine what penalty he ought to pay or suffer who 
has hurt or wounded another. Any one may easily imagine the 
questions which have to be asked in all such cases: -What did he wound, 
or whom, or how, or when? for there are innumerable particulars of 
this sort which greatly vary from one another. And to allow courts 
of law to determine all these things, or not to determine any of them, 
is alike impossible. There is one particular which they must determine 
in all cases-the question of fact. And then, again, that the 
legislator should not permit them to determine what punishment is to 
be inflicted in any of these cases, but should himself decide about, 
of them, small or great, is next to impossible. 

Cle. Then what is to be the inference? 

Ath . The inference is, that some things should be left to courts 
of law; others the legislator must decide for himself. 

Cle. And what ought the legislator to decide, and what ought he to 
leave to courts of law? 

Ath. I may reply, that in a state in which the courts are bad and 
mute, because the judges conceal their opinions and decide causes 
clandestinely; or what is worse, when they are disorderly and noisy, 
as in a theatre, clapping or hooting in turn this or that orator-I say 
that then there is a very serious evil, which affects the whole state. 
Unfortunate is the necessity of having to legislate for such courts, 
but where the necessity exists, the legislator should only allow 
them to ordain the penalties for the smallest offences; if the state 
for which he is legislating be of this character, he must take most 
matters into his own hands and speak distinctly. But when a state 
has good courts, and the judges are well trained and scrupulously 
tested, the determination of the penalties or punishments which 
shall be inflicted on the guilty may fairly and with advantage be left 
to them. And we are not to be blamed for not legislating concerning 
all that large class of matters which judges far worse educated than 
ours would be able to determine, assigning to each offence what is due 



both to the perpetrator and to the sufferer. We believe those for whom 
we are legislating to be best able to judge, and therefore to them the 
greater part may be left. At the same time, as I have often said, we 
should exhibit to the judges, as we have done, the outline and form of 
the punishments to be inflicted, and then they will not transgress the 
just rule. That was an excellent practice, which we observed before, 
and which now that we are resuming the work of legislation, may with 
advantage be repeated by us . 

Let the enactment about wounding be in the following terms: -If 
anyone has a purpose and intention to slay another who is not his 
enemy, and whom the law does not permit him to slay, and he wounds 
him, but is unable to kill him, he who had the intent and has 
wounded him is not to be pitied-he deserves no consideration, but 
should be regarded as a murderer and be tried for murder. Still having 
respect to the fortune which has in a manner favoured him, and to 
the providence which in pity to him and to the wounded man saved the 
one from a fatal blow, and the other from an accursed fate and 
calamity-as a thank-offering to this deity, and in order not to oppose 
his will-in such a case the law will remit the punishment of death, 
and only compel the offender to emigrate to a neighbouring city for 
the rest of his life, where he shall remain in the enjoyment of all 
his possessions. But if he have injured the wounded man, he shall make 
such compensation for the injury as the court deciding the cause shall 
assess, and the same judges shall decide who would have decided if the 
man had died of his wounds. And if a child intentionally wound his 
parents, or a servant his master, death shall be the penalty. And if a 
brother ora sister intentionally wound a brother or a sister, and is 
found guilty, death shall be the penalty. And if a husband wound a 
wife, or a wife a husband, with intent to kill, let him or her undergo 
perpetual exile; if they have sons or daughters who are still young, 
the guardians shall take care of their property, and have charge of 
the children as orphans. If their sons are grown up, they shall be 
under no obligation to support the exiled parent, but they shall 
possess the property themselves. And if he who meets with such a 
misfortune has no children, the kindred of the exiled man to the 
degree of sons of cousins, both on the male and female side, shall 
meet together, and after taking counsel with the guardians of the 
and the priests, shall appoint a 5040th citizen to be the heir of 
the house, considering and reasoning that no house of all the 5040 
belongs to the inhabitant or to the whole family, but is the public 
and private property of the state. Now the state should seek to have 
its houses as holy and happy as possible. And if any one of the houses 
be unfortunate, and stained with impiety, and the owner leave no 
posterity, but dies unmarried, or married and childless, having 
suffered death as the penalty of murder or some other crime 
committed against the Gods or against his fellow-citizens, of which 
death is the penalty distinctly laid down in the law; or if any of the 
citizens be in perpetual exile, and also childless, that house shall 
first of all be purified and undergo expiation according to law; and 
then let the kinsmen of the house, as we were just now saying, and the 
guardians of the law, meet and consider what family there is in the 
state which is of the highest repute for virtue and also for good 
fortune, in which there are a number of sons; from that family let 
them take one and introduce him to the father and forefathers of the 
dead man as their son, and, for the sake of the omen, let him be 
called so, that he may be the continuer of their family, the keeper of 
their hearth, and the minister of their sacred rites with better 
fortune than his father had; and when they have made this 
supplication, they shall make him heir according to law, and the 
offending person they shall leave nameless and childless and 
portionless when calamities such as these overtake him. 

Now the boundaries of some things do not touch one another, but 
there is a borderland which comes in between, preventing them from 
touching. And we were saying that actions done from passion are of 



this nature, and come in between the voluntary and involuntary. If a 
person be convicted of having inflicted wounds in a passion, in the 
first place he shall pay twice the amount of the injury, if the 
wound be curable, or, if incurable, four times the amount of the 
injury; or if the wound be curable, and at the same time cause great 
and notable disgrace to the wounded person, he shall pay fourfold. And 
whenever any one in wounding another injures not only the sufferer, 
but also the city, and makes him incapable of defending his country 
against the enemy, he, besides the other penalties, shall pay a 
penalty for the loss which the state has incurred. And the penalty 
shall be, that in addition to his own times of service, he shall serve 
on behalf of the disabled person, and shall take his place in war; or, 
if he refuse, he shall be liable to be convicted by law of refusal 
to serve. The compensation for the injury, whether to be twofold or 
threefold or fourfold, shall be fixed by the judges who convict him. 
And if, in like manner, a brother wounds a brother, the parents and 
kindred of either sex, including the children of cousins, whether on 
the male or female side, shall meet, and when they have judged the 
cause, they shall entrust the assessment of damages to the parents, as 
is natural; and if the estimate be disputed, then the kinsmen on the 
male side shall make the estimate, or if they cannot, they shall 
commit the matter to the guardians of the law. And when similar 
charges of wounding are brought by children against their parents, 
those who are more than sixty years of age, having children of their 
own, not adopted, shall be required to decide; and if any one is 
convicted, they shall determine whether he or she ought to die, or 
suffer some other punishment either greater than death, or, at any 
rate, not much less. A kinsman of the offender shall not be allowed to 
judge the cause, not even if he be of the age which is prescribed by 
the law. If a slave in a fit of anger wound a freeman, the owner of 
the slave shall give him up to the wounded man, who may do as he 
pleases with him, and if be not give him up he shall himself make good 
the injury. And if any one says that the slave and the wounded man are 
conspiring together, let him argue the point, and if he is cast, he 
shall pay for the wrong three times over, but if he gains his case, 
the freeman who conspired with the slave shall reliable to an action 
for kidnapping. And if any one unintentionally wounds another he shall 
simply pay for the harm, for no legislator is able to control 
chance. In such a case the judges shall be the same as those who are 
appointed in the case of children suing their parents; and they 
shall estimate the amount of the injury. 

All the preceding injuries and every kind of assault are deeds of 
violence; and every man, woman, or child ought to consider that the 
elder has the precedence of the younger in honour, both among the Gods 
and also among men who would live in security and happiness. Wherefore 
it is a foul thing and hateful to the Gods to see an elder man 
assaulted by a younger in the city; and it is reasonable that a 
young man when struck by an elder should lightly endure his anger, 
laying up in store for himself a like honour when he is old. Let 
this be the law: -Every one shall reverence his elder in word and deed; 
he shall respect any one who is twenty years older than himself, 
whether male or female, regarding him or her as his father or 
mother; and he shall abstain from laying hands on any one who is of an 
age to have been his father or his mother, out of reverence to the 
Gods who preside over birth; similarly he shall keep his hands from 
a stranger, whether he be an old inhabitant or newly arrived; he shall 
not venture to correct such an one by blows, either as the aggressor 
or in self-defence. If he thinks that some stranger has struck him out 
of wantonness or insolence, and ought to be punished, he shall take 
him to the wardens of the city, but let him not strike him, that the 
stranger may be kept far away from the possibility of lifting up his 
hand against a citizen, and let the wardens of the city take the 
offender and examine him, not forgetting their duty to the God of 
Strangers, and in case the stranger appears to have struck the citizen 



unjustly, let them inflict upon him as many blows with the scourge 
as he has himself inflicted, and quell his presumption. But if he be 
innocent, they shall threaten and rebuke the man who arrested him, and 
let them both go. If a person strikes another of the same age or 
somewhat older than himself, who has no children, whether he be an old 
man who strikes an old man or a young man who strikes a young man, let 
the person struck defend himself in the natural way without a weapon 
and with his hands only. He who, being more than forty years of age, 
dares to fight with another, whether he be the aggressor or in self 
defence, shall be regarded as rude and ill-mannered and 

slavish; -this will be a disgraceful punishment, and therefore suitable 
to him. The obedient nature will readily yield to such exhortations, 
but the disobedient, who heeds not the prelude, shall have the law 
ready for him: -If any man smite another who is older than himself, 
either by twenty or by more years, in the first place, he who is at 
hand, not being younger than the combatants, nor their equal in age, 
shall separate them, or be disgraced according to law; but if he be 
the equal in age of the person who is struck or younger, he shall 
defend the person injured as he would a brother or father or still 
older relative. Further, let him who dares to smite an elder be 
tried for assault, as I have said, and if he be found guilty, let 
him be imprisoned for a period of not less than a year, or if the 
judges approve of a longer period, their decision shall be final. 
But if a stranger or metic smite one who is older by twenty years or 
more, the same law shall hold about the bystanders assisting, and he 
who is found guilty in such a suit, if he be a stranger but not 
resident, shall be imprisoned during a period of two years; and a 
metic who disobeys the laws shall be imprisoned for three years, 
unless the court assign him a longer term. And let him who was present 
in any of these cases and did not assist according to law be punished, 
if he be of the highest dass, by paying a fine of a raina; or if he 
be of the second class, of fifty drachmas; or if of the third class, 
by a fine of thirty drachmas; or if he be of the fourth class, by a 
fine of twenty drachmas; and the generals and taxiarchs and 
phylarchs and hipparchs shall form the court in such cases. 

Laws are partly framed for the sake of good men, in order to 
instruct them how they thay live on friendly terms with one another, 
and partly for the sake of those who refuse to be instructed, whose 
spirit cannot be subdued, or softened, or hindered from plunging 
into evil. These are the persons who cause the word to be spoken which 
I am about to utter; for them the legislator legislates of 
necessity, and in the hope that there may be no need of his laws. He 
who shall dare to lay violent hands upon his father or mother, or 
any still older relative, having no fear either of the wrath of the 
Gods above, or of the punishments that are spoken of in the world 
below, but transgresses in contempt of ancient and universal 
traditions as though he were too wise to believe in them, requires 
some extreme measure of prevention. Now death is not the worst that 
can happen to men; far worse are the punishments which are said to 
pursue them in the world below. But although they are most true tales, 
they work on such souls no prevention; for if they had any effect 
there would be no slayers of mothers, or impious hands lifted up 
against parents; and therefore the punishments of this world which are 
inflicted during life ought not in such cases to fall short, if 
possible, of the terrors of the world below. Let our enactment then be 
as follows: -If a man dare to strike his father or his mother, or their 
fathers or mothers, he being at the time of sound mind, then let any 
one who is at hand come to the rescue as has been already said, and 
the metic or stranger who comes to the rescue shall be called to the 
first place in the games; but if he do not come he shall suffer the 
punishment of perpetual exile. He who is not a metic, if he comes to 
the rescue, shall have praise, and if he do not come, blame. And if 
a slave come to the rescue, let him be made free, but if he do not 
come the rescue, let him receive 100 strokes of the whip, by order 



of the wardens of the agora, if the occurrence take place in the 
agora; or if somewhere in the city beyond the limits of the agora, any 
warden of the city is in residence shall punish him; or if in the 
country, then the commanders of the wardens of the country. If those 
who are near at the time be inhabitants of the same place, whether 
they be youths, or men, or women, let them come to the rescue and 
denounce him as the impious one; and he who does not come to the 
rescue shall fall under the curse of Zeus, the God of kindred and of 
ancestors, according to law. And if any one is found guilty of 
assaulting a parent, let him in the first place be for ever banished 
from the city into the country, and let him abstain from the 
temples; and if he do not abstain, the wardens of the country shall 
punish him with blows, or in any way which they please, and if he 
return he shall be put to death. And if any freeman eat or drink, or 
have any other sort of intercourse with him, or only meeting him 
have voluntarily touched him, he shall not enter into any temple, 
nor into the agora, nor into the city, until he is purified; for he 
should consider that he has become tainted by a curse. And if he 
disobeys the law, and pollutes the city and the temples contrary to 
law, and one of the magistrates sees him and does not indict him, when 
he gives in his account this omission shall be a most serious charge. 

If a slave strike a freeman, whether a stranger or a citizen, let 
any one who is present come to the rescue, or pay the penalty 
already mentioned; and let the bystanders bind him, and deliver him up 
to the injured person, and he receiving him shall put him in chains, 
and inflict on him as many stripes as he pleases; but having 
punished him he must surrender him to his master according to law, and 
not deprive him of his property. Let the law be as follows: -The 
slave who strikes a freeman, not at the command of the magistrates, 
his owner shall receive bound from the man whom he has stricken, and 
not release him until the slave has persuaded the man whom he has 
stricken that he ought to be released. And let there be the same 
laws about women in relation to women, about men and women in relation 
to one another. 

BOOK X 

And now having spoken of assaults, let us sum up all acts of 
violence under a single law, which shall be as follows: -No one shall 
take or carry away any of his neighbour's goods, neither shall he 
use anything which is his neighbour's without the consent of the 
owner; for these are the offences which are and have been, and will 
ever be, the source of all the aforesaid evils. The greatest of them 
are excesses and insolences of youth, and are offences against the 
greatest when they are done against religion; and especially great 
when in violation of public and holy rites, or of the partly-common 
rites in which tribes and phratries share; and in the second degree 
great when they are committed against private rites and sepulchres, 
and in the third degree (not to repeat the acts formerly mentioned) , 
when insults are offered to parents; the fourth kind of violence is 
when any one, regardless of the authority of the rulers, takes or 
carries away or makes use of anything which belongs to them, not 
having their consent; and the fifth kind is when the violation of 
the civil rights of an individual demands reparation. There should 
be a common law embracing all these cases. For we have already said in 
general terms what shall be the punishment of sacrilege, whether 
fraudulent or violent, and now we have to determine what is to be 
the punishment of those who speak or act insolently toward the Gods. 
But first we must give them an admonition which may be in the 
following terms: -No one who in obedience to the laws believed that 
there were Gods, ever intentionally did any unholy act, or uttered any 
unlawful word; but he who did must have supposed one of three 
things-either that they did not exist, -which is the first possibility, 
or secondly, that, if they did, they took no care of man, or 
thirdly, that they were easily appeased and turned aside from their 



purpose, by sacrifices and prayers. 

Cleinias . What shall we say or do to these persons? 

Athenian Stranger. My good friend, let us first hear the jests which 
I suspect that they in their superiority will utter against us. 

Cle. What jests? 

Ath . They will make some irreverent speech of this sort:-"0 
inhabitants of Athens, and Sparta, and Cnosus, " they will reply, "in 
that you speak truly; for some of us deny the very existence of the 
Gods, while others, as you say, are of opinion that they do not care 
about us; and others that they are turned from their course by 
gifts. Now we have a right to claim, as you yourself allowed, in the 
matter of laws, that before you are hard upon us and threaten us, 
you should argue with us and convince us-you should first attempt to 
teach and persuade us that there are Gods by reasonable evidences, and 
also that they are too good to be unrighteous, or to be propitiated, 
or turned from their course by gifts. For when we hear such things 
said of them by those who are esteemed to be the best of poets, and 
orators, and prophets, and priests, and by innumerable others, the 
thoughts of most of us are not set upon abstaining from unrighteous 
acts, but upon doing them and atoning for them. When lawgivers profess 
that they are gentle and not stern, we think that they should first of 
all use persuasion to us, and show us the existence of Gods, if not in 
a better manner than other men, at any rate in a truer; and who 
knows but that we shall hearken to you? If then our request is a 
fair one, please to accept our challenge." 

Cle. But is there any difficulty in proving the existence of the 
Gods? 

Ath. How would you prove it? 

Cle. How? In the first place, the earth and the sun, and the stars 
and the universe, and the fair order of the seasons, and the 
division of them into years and months, furnish proofs of their 
existence; and also there is the fact that all Hellenes and barbarians 
believe in them. 

Ath. I fear, my sweet friend, though I will not say that I much 
regard, the contempt with which the profane will be likely to assail 
us. For you do not understand the nature of their complaint, and you 
fancy that they rush into impiety only from a love of sensual 
pleasure . 

Cle. Why, Stranger, what other reason is there? 

Ath. One which you who live in a different atmosphere would never 
guess . 

Cle. What is it? 

Ath. A very grievous sort of ignorance which is imagined to be the 
greatest wisdom. 

Cle. What do you mean? 

Ath. At Athens there are tales preserved in writing which the virtue 
of your state, as I am informed, refuses to admit. They speak of the 
Gods in prose as well as verse, and the oldest of them tell of the 
origin of the heavens and of the world, and not far from the beginning 
of their story they proceed to narrate the birth of the Gods, and 
how after they were born they behaved to one another. Whether these 
stories have in other ways a good or a bad influence, I should not 
like to be severe upon them, because they are ancient; but, looking at 
them with reference to the duties of children to their parents, I 
cannot praise them, or think that they are useful, or at all true. 
Of the words of the ancients I have nothing more to say; and I 
should wish to say of them only what is pleasing to the Gods. But as 
to our younger generation and their wisdom, I cannot let them off when 
they do mischief. For do but mark the effect of their words: when 
you and I argue for the existence of the Gods, and produce the sun, 
moon, stars, and earth, claiming for them a divine being, if we 
would listen to the aforesaid philosophers we should say that they are 
earth and stones only, which can have no care at all of human affairs, 
and that all religion is a cooking up of words and a make-believe. 



Cle. One such teacher, Stranger, would be bad enough, and you 
imply that there are many of them, which is worse. 

Ath . Well, then; what shall we say or do?-Shall we assume that 
some one is accusing us among unholy men, who are trying to escape 
from the effect of our legislation; and that they say of us-How 
dreadful that you should legislate on the supposition that there are 
Gods! Shall we make a defence of ourselves? or shall we leave them and 
return to our laws, lest the prelude should become longer than the 
law? For the discourse will certainly extend to great length, if we 
are to treat the impiously disposed as they desire, partly 
demonstrating to them at some length the things of which they demand 
an explanation, partly making them afraid or dissatisfied, and then 
proceed to the requisite enactments. 

Cle. Yes, Stranger; but then how often have we repeated already that 
on the present occasion there is no reason why brevity should be 
preferred to length; who is "at our heels"?-as the saying goes, and it 
would be paltry and ridiculous to prefer the shorter to the better. It 
is a matter of no small consequence, in some way or other to prove 
that there are Gods, and that they are good, and regard justice more 
than men do. The demonstration of this would be the best and noblest 
prelude of all our laws. And therefore, without impatience, and 
without hurry, let us unreservedly consider the whole matter, 
summoning up all the power of persuasion which we possess. 

Ath. Seeing you thus in earnest, I would fain offer up a prayer that 
I may succeed: -but I must proceed at once. Who can be calm when he 
is called upon to prove the existence of the Gods? Who can avoid 
hating and abhorring the men who are and have been the cause of this 
argument; I speak of those who will not believe the tales which they 
have heard as babes and sucklings from their mothers and nurses, 
repeated by them both in jest and earnest, like charms, who have 
also heard them in the sacrificial prayers, and seen sights 
accompanying them-sights and sounds delightful to children-and their 
parents during the sacrifices showing an intense earnestness on behalf 
of their children and of themselves, and with eager interest talking 
to the Gods, and beseeching them, as though they were firmly convinced 
of their existence; who likewise see and hear the prostrations and 
invocations which are made by Hellenes and barbarians at the rising 
and setting of the sun and moon, in all the vicissitudes of life, 
not as if they thought that there were no Gods, but as if there 
could be no doubt of their existence, and no suspicion of their 
non-existence; when men, knowing all these things, despise them on 
no real grounds, as would be admitted by all who have any particle 
of intelligence, and when they force us to say what we are now saying, 
how can any one in gentle terms remonstrate with the like of them, 
when he has to begin by proving to them the very existence of the 
Gods? Yet the attempt must be made; for it would be unseemly that 
one half of mankind should go mad in their lust of pleasure, and the 
other half in their indignation at such persons. Our address to 
these lost and perverted natures should not be spoken in passion; 
let us suppose ourselves to select some one of them, and gently reason 
with him, smothering our anger : -0 my son, we will say to him, you 
are young, and the advance of time will make you reverse may of the 
opinions which you now hold. Wait awhile, and do not attempt to 
judge at present of the highest things; and that is the highest of 
which you now think nothing-to know the Gods rightly and to live 
accordingly. And in the first place let me indicate to you one point 
which is of great importance, and about which I cannot be 
deceived : -You and your friends are not the first who have held this 
opinion about the Gods. There have always been persons more or less 
numerous who have had the same disorder. I have known many of them, 
and can tell you, that no one who had taken up in youth this 
opinion, that the Gods do not exist, ever continued in the same 
until he was old; the two other notions certainly do continue in 
some cases, but not in many; the notion, I mean, that the Gods 



exist, but take no heed of human things, and the other notion that 
they do take heed of them, but are easily propitiated with 
sacrifices and prayers. As to the opinion about the Gods which may 
some day become clear to you, I advise you go wait and consider if 
it be true or not; ask of others, and above all of the legislator. 
In the meantime take care that you do not offend against the Gods. For 
the duty of the legislator is and always will be to teach you the 
truth of these matters. 

Cle. Our address, Stranger, thus far, is excellent. 

Ath . Quite true, Megillus and Cleinias, but I am afraid that we have 
unconsciously lighted on a strange doctrine. 

Cle. What doctrine do you mean? 

Ath. The wisest of all doctrines, in the opinion of many. 

Cle. I wish that you would speak plainer. 

Ath. The doctrine that all things do become, have become, and will 
become, some by nature, some by art, and some by chance. 

Cle. Is not that true? 

Ath. Well, philosophers are probably right; at any rate we may as 
well follow in their track, and examine what is the meaning of them 
and their disciples. 

Cle. By all means. 

Ath. They say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of 
nature and of chance, the lesser of art, which, receiving from 
nature the greater and primeval creations, moulds and fashions all 
those lesser works which are generally termed artificial. 

Cle. How is that? 

Ath. I will explain my meaning still more clearly. They say that 
fire and water, and earth and air, all exist by nature and chance, and 
none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in 
order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by 
means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are 
severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain 
affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of 
soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures 
of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion 
and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that 
is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the 
seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they 
say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and 
chance only. Art sprang up afterwards and out of these, mortal and 
of mortal birth, and produced in play certain images and very 
partial imitations of the truth, having an affinity to one another, 
such as music and painting create and their companion arts. And 
there are other arts which have a serious purpose, and these 
co-operate with nature, such, for example, as medicine, and husbandry, 
and gymnastic. And they say that politics cooperate with nature, but 
in a less degree, and have more of art; also that legislation is 
entirely a work of art, and is based on assumptions which are not 
true . 

Cle. How do you mean? 

Ath. In the first place, my dear friend, these people would say that 
the Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, 
which are different in different places, according to the agreement of 
those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature 
and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no 
existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing 
about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are 
made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority 
for the moment and at the time at which they are made. -These, my 
friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which 
find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the 
highest right is might, and in this way the young fall into impieties, 
under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them 
imagine; and hence arise factions, these philosophers inviting them to 



lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real 
dominion over others, and not in legal subjection to them. 

Cle. What a dreadful picture, Stranger, have you given, and how 
great is the injury which is thus inflicted on young men to the ruin 
both of states and families! 

Ath . True, Cleinias; but then what should the lawgiver do when 
this evil is of long standing? should he only rise up in the state and 
threaten all mankind, proclaiming that if they will not say and 
think that the Gods are such as the law ordains (and this may be 
extended generally to the honourable, the just, and to all the highest 
things, and to all that relates to virtue and vice), and if they 
will not make their actions conform to the copy which the law gives 
them, then he who refuses to obey the law shall die, or suffer stripes 
and bonds, or privation of citizenship, or in some cases be punished 
by loss of property and exile? Should he not rather, when he is making 
laws for men, at the same time infuse the spirit of persuasion into 
his words, and mitigate the severity of them as far as he can? 

Cle. Why, Stranger, if such persuasion be at all possible, then a 
legislator who has anything in him ought never to weary of 
persuading men; he ought to leave nothing unsaid in support of the 
ancient opinion that there are Gods, and of all those other truths 
which you were just now mentioning; he ought to support the law and 
also art, and acknowledge that both alike exist by nature, and no less 
than nature, if they are the creations of mind in accordance with 
right reason, you appear to me to maintain, and I am disposed to agree 
with you in thinking. 

Ath. Yes, my enthusiastic Cleinias; but are not these things when 
spoken to a multitude hard to be understood, not to mention that 
they take up a dismal length of time? 

Cle. Why, Stranger, shall we, whose patience failed not when 
drinking or music were the themes of discourse, weary now of 
discoursing about the Gods, and about divine things? And the 
greatest help to rational legislation is that the laws when once 
written down are always at rest; they can be put to the test at any 
future time, and therefore, if on first hearing they seem difficult, 
there is no reason for apprehension about them, because any man 
however dull can go over them and consider them again and again; nor 
if they are tedious but useful, is there any reason or religion, as it 
seems to me, in any man refusing to maintain the principles of them to 
the utmost of his power. 

Megillus. Stranger, I like what Cleinias is saying. 

Ath. Yes, Megillus, and we should do as he proposes; for if 
impious discourses were not scattered, as I may say, throughout the 
world, there would have been no need for any vindication of the 
existence of the Gods-but seeing that they are spread far and wide, 
such arguments are needed; and who should come to the rescue of the 
greatest laws, when they are being undermined by bad men, but the 
legislator himself? 

Meg. There is no more proper champion of them. 

Ath. Well, then, tell me, Cleinias-for I must ask you to be my 
partner-does not he who talks in this way conceive fire and water 
and earth and air to be the first elements of all things? These he 
calls nature, and out of these he supposes the soul to be formed 
afterwards; and this is not a mere conjecture of ours about his 
meaning, but is what he really means. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. Then, by Heaven, we have discovered the source of this vain 
opinion of all those physical investigators; and I would have you 
examine their arguments with the utmost care, for their impiety is a 
very serious matter; they not only make a bad and mistaken use of 
argument, but they lead away the minds of others: that is my opinion 
of them. 

Cle. You are right; but I should like to know how this happens. 

Ath. I fear that the argument may seem singular. 



Cle. Do not hesitate, Stranger; I see that you are afraid of such 
a discussion carrying you beyond the limits of legislation. But if 
there be no other way of showing our agreement in the belief that 
there are Gods, of whom the law is said now to approve, let us take 
this way, my good sir. 

Ath . Then I suppose that I must repeat the singular argument of 
those who manufacture the soul according to their own impious notions; 
they affirm that which is the first cause of the generation and 
destruction of all things, to be not first, but last, and that which 
is last to be first, and hence they have fallen into error about the 
true nature of the Gods. 

Cle. Still I do not understand you. 

Ath. Nearly all of them, my friends, seem to be ignorant of the 
nature and power of the soul, especially in what relates to her 
origin: they do not know that she is among the first of things, and 
before all bodies, and is the chief author of their changes and 
transpositions. And if this is true, and if the soul is older than the 
body, must not the things which are of the soul's kindred be of 
necessity prior to those which appertain to the body? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. Then thought and attention and mind and art and law will be 
prior to that which is hard and soft and heavy and light; and the 
great and primitive works and actions will be works of art; they 
will be the first, and after them will come nature and works of 
nature, which however is a wrong term for men to apply to them; 
these will follow, and will be under the government of art and mind. 

Cle. But why is the word "nature" wrong? 

Ath. Because those who use the term mean to say that nature is the 
first creative power; but if the soul turn out to be the primeval 
element, and not fire or air, then in the truest sense and beyond 
other things the soul may be said to exist by nature; and this would 
be true if you proved that the soul is older than the body, but not 
otherwise . 

Cle. You are quite right. 

Ath. Shall we, then, take this as the next point to which our 
attention should be directed? 

Cle. By all means. 

Ath. Let us be on our guard lest this most deceptive argument with 
its youthful looks, beguiling us old men, give us the slip and make 
a laughing-stock of us. Who knows but we may be aiming at the greater, 
and fail of attaining the lesser? Suppose that we three have to pass a 
rapid river, and I, being the youngest of the three and experienced in 
rivers, take upon me the duty of making the attempt first by myself; 
leaving you in safety on the bank, I am to examine whether the river 
is passable by older men like yourselves, and if such appears to be 
the case then I shall invite you to follow, and my experience will 
help to convey you across; but if the river is impassable by you, then 
there will have been no danger to anybody but myself-would not that 
seem to be a very fair proposal? I mean to say that the argument in 
prospect is likely to be too much for you, out of your depth and 
beyond your strength, and I should be afraid that the stream of my 
questions might create in you who are not in the habit of answering, 
giddiness and confusion of mind, and hence a feeling of unpleasantness 
and unsuitableness might arise. I think therefore that I had better 
first ask the questions and then answer them myself while you listen 
in safety; in that way I can carry on the argument until I have 
completed the proof that the soul is prior to the body. 

Cle. Excellent, Stranger, and I hope that you will do as you 
propose . 

Ath. Come, then, and if ever we are to call upon the Gods, let us 
call upon them now in all seriousness to come to the demonstration 
of their own existence. And so holding fast to the rope we will 
venture upon the depths of the argument. When questions of this sort 
are asked of me, my safest answer would appear to be as 



follows : -Some one says to me, "0 Stranger, are all things at rest 
and nothing in motion, or is the exact opposite of this true, or are 
some things in motion and others at rest?-To this I shall reply that 
some things are in motion and others at rest. "And do not things which 
move a place, and are not the things which are at rest at rest in a 
place?" Certainly. "And some move or rest in one place and some in 
more places than one?" You mean to say, we shall rejoin, that those 
things which rest at the centre move in one place, just as the 
circumference goes round of globes which are said to be at rest? 
"Yes." And we observe that, in the revolution, the motion which 
carries round the larger and the lesser circle at the same time is 
proportionally distributed to greater and smaller, and is greater 
and smaller in a certain proportion. Here is a wonder which might be 
thought an impossibility, that the same motion should impart swiftness 
and slowness in due proportion to larger and lesser circles. "Very 
true." And when you speak of bodies moving in many places, you seem to 
me to mean those which move from one place to another, and sometimes 
have one centre of motion and sometimes more than one because they 
turn upon their axis; and whenever they meet anything, if it be 
stationary, they are divided by it; but if they get in the midst 
between bodies which are approaching and moving towards the same 
spot from opposite directions, they unite with them. "I admit the 
truth of what you are saying." Also when they unite they grow, and 
when they are divided they waste away-that is, supposing the 
constitution of each to remain, or if that fails, then there is a 
second reason of their dissolution. "And when are all things created 
and how?" Clearly, they are created when the first principle 
receives increase and attains to the second dimension, and from this 
arrives at the one which is neighbour to this, and after reaching 
the third becomes perceptible to sense. Everything which is thus 
changing and moving is in process of generation; only when at rest has 
it real existence, but when passing into another state it is destroyed 
utterly. Have we not mentioned all motions that there are, and 
comprehended them under their kinds and numbered them with the 
exception, my friends, of two? 

Cle. Which are they? 

Ath . Just the two, with which our present enquiry is concerned. 

Cle. Speak plainer. 

Ath. I suppose that our enquiry has reference to the soul? 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. Let us assume that there is a motion able to move other things, 
but not to move itself; -that is one kind; and there is another kind 
which can move itself as well as other things, working in 
composition and decomposition, by increase and diminution and 
generation and destruction-that is also one of the many kinds of 
motion . 

Cle. Granted. 

Ath. And we will assume that which moves other, and is changed by 
other, to be the ninth, and that which changes itself and others, 
and is co-incident with every action and every passion, and is the 
true principle of change and motion in all that is-that we shall be 
inclined to call the tenth. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. And which of these ten motions ought we to prefer as being 
the mightiest and most efficient? 

Cle. I must say that the motion which is able to move itself is 
ten thousand times superior to all the others. 

Ath. Very good; but may I make one or two corrections in what I have 
been saying? 

Cle. What are they? 

Ath. When I spoke of the tenth sort of motion, that was not quite 
correct . 

Cle. What was the error? 

Ath. According to the true order, the tenth was really the first 



in generation and power; then follows the second, which was 
strangely enough termed the ninth by us . 

Cle. What do you mean? 

Ath . I mean this: when one thing changes another, and that 
another, of such will there be any primary changing element? How can a 
thing which is moved by another ever be the beginning of change? 
Impossible. But when the self-moved changes other, and that again 
other, and thus thousands upon tens of thousands of bodies are set 
in motion, must not the beginning of all this motion be the change 
of the self-moving principle? 

Cle. Very true, and I quite agree. 

Ath. Or, to put the question in another way, making answer to 
ourselves : -If , as most of these philosophers have the audacity to 
affirm, all things were at rest in one mass, which of the 
above-mentioned principles of motion would first spring up among them? 

Cle. Clearly the self-moving; for there could be no change in them 
arising out of any external cause; the change must first take place in 
themselves . 

Ath. Then we must say that self-motion being the origin of all 
motions, and the first which arises among things at rest as well as 
among things in motion, is the eldest and mightiest principle of 
change, and that which is changed by another and yet moves other is 
second. 

Cle. Quite true. 

Ath. At this stage of the argument let us put a question. 

Cle. What question? 

Ath. If we were to see this power existing in any earthy, watery, or 
fiery substance, simple or compound-how should we describe it? 

Cle. You mean to ask whether we should call such a self-moving power 
life? 

Ath. I do. 

Cle. Certainly we should. 

Ath. And when we see soul in anything, must we not do the 
same-must we not admit that this is life? 

Cle. We must. 

Ath. And now, I beseech you, reflect; -you would admit that we have a 
threefold knowledge of things? 

Cle. What do you mean? 

Ath. I mean that we know the essence, and that we know the 
definition of the essence, and the name, -these are the three; and 
there are two questions which may be raised about anything. 

Cle. How two? 

Ath. Sometimes a person may give the name and ask the definition; or 
he may give the definition and ask the name. I may illustrate what I 
mean in this way. 

Cle. How? 

Ath. Number like some other things is capable of being divided 
into equal parts; when thus divided, number is named "even," and the 
definition of the name "even" is "number divisible into two equal 
parts"? 

Cle. True. 

Ath. I mean, that when we are asked about the definition and give 
the name, or when we are asked about the name and give the 
def inition-in either case, whether we give name or definition, we 
speak of the same thing, calling "even" the number which is divided 
into two equal parts . 

Cle. Quite true. 

Ath. And what is the definition of that which is named "soul"? Can 
we conceive of any other than that which has been already given-the 
motion which can move itself? 

Cle. You mean to say that the essence which is defined as the 
self-moved is the same with that which has the name soul? 

Ath. Yes; and if this is true, do we still maintain that there is 
anything wanting in the proof that the soul is the first origin and 



moving power of all that is, or has become, or will be, and their 
contraries, when she has been clearly shown to be the source of change 
and motion in all things? 

Cle. Certainly not; the soul as being the source of motion, has been 
most satisfactorily shown to be the oldest of all things. 

Ath . And is not that motion which is produced in another, by 
reason of another, but never has any self-moving power at all, being 
in truth the change of an inanimate body, to be reckoned second, or by 
any lower number which you may prefer? 

Cle. Exactly. 

Ath. Then we are right, and speak the most perfect and absolute 
truth, when we say that the soul is prior to the body, and that the 
body is second and comes afterwards, and is born to obey the soul, 
which is the ruler? 

Cle. Nothing can be more true. 

Ath. Do you remember our old admission, that if the soul was prior 
to the body the things of the soul were also prior to those of the 
body? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. Then characters and manners, and wishes and reasonings, and 
true opinions, and reflections, and recollections are prior to 
length and breadth and depth and strength of bodies, if the soul is 
prior to the body. 

Cle. To be sure. 

Ath. In the next place, must we not of necessity admit that the soul 
is the cause of good and evil, base and honourable, just and unjust, 
and of all other opposites, if we suppose her to be the cause of all 
things? 

Cle. We must. 

Ath. And as the soul orders and inhabits all things that move, 
however moving, must we not say that she orders also the heavens? 

Cle. Of course. 

Ath. One soul or more? More than one-I will answer for you; at any 
rate, we must not suppose that there are less than two-one the 
author of good, and the other of evil. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. Yes, very true; the soul then directs all things in heaven, and 
earth, and sea by her movements, and these are described by the 
terms-will, consideration, attention, deliberation, opinion true and 
false, joy and sorrow, confidence, fear, hatred, love, and other 
primary motions akin to these; which again receive the secondary 
motions of corporeal substances, and guide all things to growth and 
decay, to composition and decomposition, and to the qualities which 
accompany them, such as heat and cold, heaviness and lightness, 
hardness and softness, blackness and whiteness, bitterness and 
sweetness, and all those other qualities which the soul uses, 
herself a goddess, when truly receiving the divine mind she 
disciplines all things rightly to their happiness; but when she is the 
companion of folly, she does the very contrary of all this. Shall we 
assume so much, or do we still entertain doubts? 

Cle. There is no room at all for doubt. 

Ath. Shall we say then that it is the soul which controls heaven and 
earth, and the whole world?-that it is a principle of wisdom and 
virtue, or a principle which has neither wisdom nor virtue? Suppose 
that we make answer as follows :- 

Cle. How would you answer? 

Ath. If, my friend, we say that the whole path and movement of 
heaven, and of all that is therein, is by nature akin to the 
movement and revolution and calculation of mind, and proceeds by 
kindred laws, then, as is plain, we must say that the best soul 
takes care of the world and guides it along the good path. 

Cle. True. 

Ath. But if the world moves wildly and irregularly, then the evil 
soul guides it. 



Cle. True again. 

Ath . Of what nature is the movement of mind?-To this question it 
is not easy to give an intelligent answer; and therefore I ought to 
assist you in framing one. 

Cle. Very good. 

Ath. Then let us not answer as if we would look straight at the sun, 
making ourselves darkness at midday-I mean as if we were under the 
impression that we could see with mortal eyes, or know adequately 
the nature of mind; -it will be safer to look at the image only. 

Cle. What do you mean? 

Ath. Let us select of the ten motions the one which mind chiefly 
resembles; this I will bring to your recollection, and will then 
make the answer on behalf of us all. 

Cle. That will be excellent. 

Ath. You will surely remember our saying that all things were either 
at rest or in motion? 

Cle. I do. 

Ath. And that of things in motion some were moving in one place, and 
others in more than one? 

Cle. Yes. 

Ath. Of these two kinds of motion, that which moves in one place 
must move about a centre like globes made in a lathe, and is most 
entirely akin and similar to the circular movement of mind. 

Cle. What do you mean? 

Ath. In saying that both mind and the motion which is in one place 
move in the same and like manner, in and about the same, and in 
relation to the same, and according to one proportion and order, and 
are like the motion of a globe, we invented a fair image, which does 
no discredit to our ingenuity. 

Cle. It does us great credit. 

Ath. And the motion of the other sort which is not after the same 
manner, nor in the same, nor about the same, nor in relation to the 
same, nor in one place, nor in order, nor according to any rule or 
proportion, may be said to be akin to senselessness and folly? 

Cle. That is most true. 

Ath. Then, after what has been said, there is no difficulty in 
distinctly stating, that since soul carries all things round, either 
the best soul or the contrary must of necessity carry round and 
order and arrange the revolution of the heaven. 

Cle. And judging from what has been said, Stranger, there would be 
impiety in asserting that any but the most perfect soul or souls 
carries round the heavens . 

Ath. You have understood my meaning right well, Cleinias, and now 
let me ask you another question. 

Cle. What are you going to ask? 

Ath. If the soul carries round the sun and moon, and the other 
stars, does she not carry round each individual of them? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. Then of one of them let us speak, and the same argument will 
apply to all. 

Cle. Which will you take? 

Ath. Every one sees the body of the sun, but no one sees his soul, 
nor the soul of any other body living or dead; and yet there is 
great reason to believe that this nature, unperceived by any of our 
senses, is circumfused around them all, but is perceived by mind; 
and therefore by mind and reflection only let us apprehend the 
following point. 

Cle. What is that? 

Ath. If the soul carries round the sun, we shall not be far wrong in 
supposing one of three alternatives. 

Cle. What are they? 

Ath. Either the soul which moves the sun this way and that, 
resides within the circular and visible body, like the soul which 
carries us about every way; or the soul provides herself with an 



external body of fire or air, as some affirm, and violently propels 
body by body; or thirdly, she is without such abody, but guides the 
sun by some extraordinary and wonderful power. 

Cle. Yes, certainly; the soul can only order all things in one of 
these three ways . 

Ath . And this soul of the sun, which is therefore better than the 
sun, whether taking the sun about in a chariot to give light to men, 
or acting from without or in whatever way, ought by every man to be 
deemed a God. 

Cle. Yes, by every man who has the least particle of sense. 

Ath. And of the stars too, and of the moon, and of the years and 
months and seasons, must we not say in like manner, that since a 
soul or souls having every sort of excellence are the causes of all of 
them, those souls are Gods, whether they are living beings and 
reside in bodies, and in this way order the whole heaven, or 
whatever be the place and mode of their existence; -and will any one 
who admits all this venture to deny that all things full of Gods? 

Cle. No one, Stranger, would be such a madman. 

Ath. And now, Megillus and Cleinias, let us offer terms to him who 
has hitherto denied the existence of the Gods, and leave him. 

Cle. What terms? 

Ath. Either he shall teach us that we were wrong in saying that 
the soul is the original of all things, and arguing accordingly; or, 
if he be not able to say anything better, then he must yield to us and 
live for the remainder of his life in the belief that there are 
Gods . -Let us see, then, whether we have said enough or not enough to 
those who deny that there are Gods. 

Cle. Certainly-quite enough, Stranger. 

Ath. Then to them we will say no more. And now we are to address him 
who, believing that there are Gods, believes also that they take no 
heed of human affairs: To him we say-0 thou best of men, in 
believing that there are Gods you are led by some affinity to them, 
which attracts you towards your kindred and makes you honour and 
believe in them. But the fortunes of evil and unrighteous men in 
private as well as public life, which, though not really happy, are 
wrongly counted happy in the judgment of men, and are celebrated 
both by poets and prose writers-these draw you aside from your natural 
piety. Perhaps you have seen impious men growing old and leaving their 
children's children in high offices, and their prosperity shakes 
your faith-you have known or heard or been yourself an eyewitness of 
many monstrous impieties, and have beheld men by such criminal 
means from small beginnings attaining to sovereignty and the 
pinnacle of greatness; and considering all these things you do not 
like to accuse the Gods of them, because they are your relatives; 
and so from some want of reasoning power, and also from an 
unwillingness to find fault with them, you have come to believe that 
they exist indeed, but have no thought or care of human things. Now, 
that your present evil opinion may not grow to still greater 
impiety, and that we may if possible use arguments which may conjure 
away the evil before it arrives, we will add another argument to 
that originally addressed to him who utterly denied the existence of 
the Gods. And do you, Megillus and Cleinias, answer for the young 
man as you did before; and if any impediment comes in our way, I 
will take the word out of your mouths, and carry you over the river as 
I did just now. 

Cle. Very good; do as you say, and we will help you as well as we 
can . 

Ath. There will probably be no difficulty in proving to him that the 
Gods care about the small as well as about the great. For he was 
present and heard what was said, that they are perfectly good, and 
that the care of all things is most entirely natural to them. 

Cle. No doubt he heard that. 

Ath. Let us consider together in the next place what we mean by this 
virtue which we ascribe to them. Surely we should say that to be 



temperate and to possess mind belongs to virtue, and the contrary to 
vice? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath . Yes; and courage is a part of virtue, and cowardice of vice? 

Cle. True. 

Ath. And the one is honourable, and the other dishonourable? 

Cle. To be sure. 

Ath. And the one, like other meaner things, is a human quality, 
but the Gods have no part in anything of the sort? 

Cle. That again is what everybody will admit. 

Ath. But do we imagine carelessness and idleness and luxury to be 
virtues? What do you think? 

Cle. Decidedly not. 

Ath. They rank under the opposite class? 

Cle. Yes. 

Ath. And their opposites, therefore, would fall under the opposite 
class? 

Cle. Yes. 

Ath. But are we to suppose that one who possesses all these good 
qualities will be luxurious and heedless and idle, like those whom the 
poet compares to stingless drones? 

Cle. And the comparison is a most just one. 

Ath. Surely God must not be supposed to have a nature which he 
himself hates?-he who dares to say this sort of thing must not be 
tolerated for a moment. 

Cle. Of course not. How could he have? 

Ath. Should we not on any principle be entirely mistaken in praising 
any one who has some special business entrusted to him, if he have a 
mind which takes care of great matters and no care of small ones? 
Reflect; he who acts in this way, whether he be God or man, must act 
from one of two principles. 

Cle. What are they? 

Ath. Either he must think that the neglect of the small matters is 
of no consequence to the whole, or if he knows that they are of 
consequence, and he neglects them, his neglect must be attributed to 
carelessness and indolence. Is there any other way in which his 
neglect can be explained? For surely, when it is impossible for him to 
take care of all, he is not negligent if he fails to attend to these 
things great or small, which a God or some inferior being might be 
wanting in strength or capacity to manage? 

Cle. Certainly not. 

Ath. Now, then, let us examine the offenders, who both alike confess 
that there are Gods, but with a dif f erence-the one saying that they 
may be appeased, and the other that they have no care of small 
matters: there are three of us and two of them, and we will say to 
them-In the first place, you both acknowledge that the Gods hear and 
see and know all things, and that nothing can escape them which is 
matter of sense and knowledge : -do you admit this? 

Cle. Yes. 

Ath. And do you admit also that they have all power which mortals 
and immortals can have? 

Cle. They will, of course, admit this also. 

Ath. And surely we three and they two-five in all-have 
acknowledged that they are good and perfect? 

Cle. Assuredly. 

Ath. But, if they are such as we conceive them to be, can we 
possibly suppose that they ever act in the spirit of carelessness 
and indolence? For in us inactivity is the child of cowardice, and 
carelessness of inactivity and indolence. 

Cle. Most true. 

Ath. Then not from inactivity and carelessness is any God ever 
negligent; for there is no cowardice in them. 

Cle. That is very true. 

Ath. Then the alternative which remains is, that if the Gods neglect 



the lighter and lesser concerns of the universe, they neglect them 
because they know that they ought not to care about such 
matters-what other alternative is there but the opposite of their 
knowing? 

Cle. There is none. 

Ath . And, most excellent and best of men, do I understand you to 
mean that they are careless because they are ignorant, and do not know 
that they ought to take care, or that they know, and yet like the 
meanest sort of men, knowing the better, choose the worse because they 
are overcome by pleasures and pains? 

Cle. Impossible. 

Ath. Do not all human things partake of the nature of soul? And is 
not man the most religious of all animals? 

Cle. That is not to be denied. 

Ath. And we acknowledge that all mortal creatures are the property 
of the Gods, to whom also the whole of heaven belongs? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. And, therefore, whether a person says that these things are 
to the Gods great or small-in either case it would not be natural 
for the Gods who own us, and who are the most careful and the best 
of owners to neglect us . -There is also a further consideration. 

Cle. What is it? 

Ath. Sensation and power are in an inverse ratio to each other in 
respect to their case and difficulty. 

Cle. What do you mean? 

Ath. I mean that there is greater difficulty in seeing and hearing 
the small than the great, but more facility in moving and 
controlling and taking care of and unimportant things than of their 
opposites . 

Cle. Far more. 

Ath. Suppose the case of a physician who is willing and able to cure 
some living thing as a whole-how will the whole fare at his hands if 
he takes care only of the greater and neglects the parts which are 
lesser? 

Cle. Decidedly not well. 

Ath. No better would be the result with pilots or generals, or 
householders or statesmen, or any other such class, if they 
neglected the small and regarded only the great; -as the builders 
say, the larger stones do not lie well without the lesser. 

Cle. Of course not. 

Ath. Let us not, then, deem God inferior to human workmen, who, in 
proportion to their skill, finish and perfect their works, small as 
well as great, by one and the same art; or that God, the wisest of 
beings, who is both willing and able to take care, is like a lazy 
good-for-nothing, or a coward, who turns his back upon labour and 
gives no thought to smaller and easier matters, but to the greater 
only. 

Cle. Never, Stranger, let us admit a supposition about the Gods 
which is both impious and false. 

Ath. I think that we have now argued enough with him who delights to 
accuse the Gods of neglect. 

Cle. Yes. 

Ath. He has been forced to acknowledge that he is in error, but he 
still seems to me to need some words of consolation. 

Cle. What consolation will you offer him? 

Ath. Let us say to the youth: -The ruler of the universe has 
ordered all things with a view to the excellence and preservation of 
the whole, and each part, as far as may be, has an action and 
passion appropriate to it. Over these, down to the least fraction of 
them, ministers have been appointed to preside, who have wrought out 
their perfection with infinitesimal exactness. And one of these 
portions of the universe is thine own, unhappy man, which, however 
little, contributes to the whole; and you do not seem to be aware that 
this and every other creation is for the sake of the whole, and in 



order that the life of the whole may be blessed; and that you are 
created for the sake of the whole, and not the whole for the sake of 
you. For every physician and every skilled artist does all things 
for the sake of the whole, directing his effort towards the common 
good, executing the part for the sake of the whole, and not the 
whole for the sake of the part. And you are annoyed because you are 
ignorant how what is best for you happens to you and to the 
universe, as far as the laws of the common creation admit. Now, as the 
soul combining first with one body and then with another undergoes all 
sorts of changes, either of herself, or through the influence of 
another soul, all that remains to the player of the game is that he 
should shift the pieces; sending the better nature to the better 
place, and the worse to the worse, and so assigning to them their 
proper portion. 

Cle. In what way do you mean? 

Ath . In a way which may be supposed to make the care of all things 
easy to the Gods. If any one were to form or fashion all things 
without any regard to the whole-if, for example, he formed a living 
element of water out of fire, instead of forming many things out of 
one or one out of many in regular order attaining to a first or second 
or third birth, the transmutation would have been infinite; but now 
the ruler of the world has a wonderfully easy task. 

Cle. How so? 

Ath. I will explain : -When the king saw that our actions had life, 
and that there was much virtue in them and much vice, and that the 
soul and body, although not, like the Gods of popular opinion, 
eternal, yet having once come into existence, were indestructible (for 
if either of them had been destroyed, there would have been no 
generation of living beings); and when he observed that the good of 
the soul was ever by nature designed to profit men, and the evil to 
harm them-he, seeing all this, contrived so to place each of the parts 
that their position might in the easiest and best manner procure the 
victory of good and the defeat of evil in the whole. And he 
contrived a general plan by which a thing of a certain nature found 
a certain seat and room. But the formation of qualities he left to the 
wills of individuals. For every one of us is made pretty much what 
he is by the bent of his desires and the nature of his soul. 

Cle. Yes, that is probably true. 

Ath. Then all things which have a soul change, and possess in 
themselves a principle of change, and in changing move according to 
law and to the order of destiny: natures which have undergone a lesser 
change move less and on the earth's surface, but those which have 
suffered more change and have become more criminal sink into the 
abyss, that is to say, into Hades and other places in the world below, 
of which the very names terrify men, and which they picture to 
themselves as in a dream, both while alive and when released from 
the body. And whenever the soul receives more of good or evil from her 
own energy and the strong influence of others-when she has communion 
with divine virtue and becomes divine, she is carried into another and 
better place, which is perfect in holiness; but when she has communion 
with evil, then she also changes the Place of her life. 

This is the justice of the Gods who inhabit Olympus. 

youth or young man, who fancy that you are neglected by the Gods, 
know that if you become worse you shall go to the worse souls, or if 
better to the better, and in every succession of life and death you 
will do and suffer what like may fitly suffer at the hands of like. 
This is the justice of heaven, which neither you nor any other 
unfortunate will ever glory in escaping, and which the ordaining 
powers have specially ordained; take good heed thereof, for it will be 
sure to take heed of you. If you say: -I am small and will creep into 
the depths of the earth, or I am high and will fly up to heaven, you 
are not so small or so high but that you shall pay the fitting 



penalty, either here or in the world below or in some still more 
savage place whither you shall be conveyed. This is also the 
explanation of the fate of those whom you saw, who had done unholy and 
evil deeds, and from small beginnings had grown great, and you fancied 
that from being miserable they had become happy; and in their actions, 
as in a mirror, you seemed to see the universal neglect of the Gods, 
not knowing how they make all things work together and contribute to 
the great whole. And thinkest thou, bold man, that thou needest not to 
know this?-he who knows it not can never form any true idea of the 
happiness or unhappiness of life or hold any rational discourse 
respecting either. If Cleinias and this our reverend company succeed 
in bringing to you that you know not what you say of the Gods, then 
will God help you; but should you desire to hear more, listen to 
what we say to the third opponent, if you have any understanding 
whatsoever. For I think that we have sufficiently proved the existence 
of the Gods, and that they care for men: -The other notion that they 
are appeased by the wicked, and take gifts, is what we must not 
concede to any one, and what every man should disprove to the utmost 
of his power. 

Cle. Very good; let us do as you say. 

Ath. Well, then, by the Gods themselves I conjure you to tell 
me-if they are to be propitiated, how are they to be propitiated? 
Who are they, and what is their nature? Must they not be at least 
rulers who have to order unceasingly the whole heaven? 

Cle. True. 

Ath. And to what earthly rulers can they be compared, or who to 
them? How in the less can we find an image of the greater? Are they 
charioteers of contending pairs of steeds, or pilots of vessels? 
Perhaps they might be compared to the generals of armies, or they 
might be likened to physicians providing against the diseases which 
make war upon the body, or to husbandmen observing anxiously the 
effects of the seasons on the growth of plants; or I perhaps, to 
shepherds of flocks. For as we acknowledge the world to be full of 
many goods and also of evils, and of more evils than goods, there 
is, as we affirm, an immortal conflict going on among us, which 
requires marvellous watchfulness; and in that conflict the Gods and 
demigods are our allies, and we are their property. Injustice and 
insolence and folly are the destruction of us, and justice and 
temperance and wisdom are our salvation; and the place of these latter 
is in the life of the Gods, although some vestige of them may 
occasionally be discerned among mankind. But upon this earth we know 
that there dwell souls possessing an unjust spirit, who may be 
compared to brute animals, which fawn upon their keepers, whether dogs 
or shepherds, or the best and most perfect masters; for they in like 
manner, as the voices of the wicked declare, prevail by flattery and 
prayers and incantations, and are allowed to make their gains with 
impunity. And this sin, which is termed dishonesty, is an evil of 
the same kind as what is termed disease in living bodies or pestilence 
in years or seasons of the year, and in cities and governments has 
another name, which is injustice. 

Cle. Quite true. 

Ath. What else can he say who declares that the Gods are always 
lenient to the doers of unjust acts, if they divide the spoil with 
them? As if wolves were to toss a portion of their prey to the dogs, 
and they, mollified by the gift, suffered them to tear the flocks. 
Must not he who maintains that the Gods can be propitiated argue thus? 

Cle. Precisely so. 

Ath. And to which of the above-mentioned classes of guardians 
would any man compare the Gods without absurdity? Will he say that 
they are like pilots, who are themselves turned away from their duty 
by "libations of wine and the savour of fat," and at last overturn 
both ship and sailors? 

Cle. Assuredly not. 

Ath. And surely they are not like charioteers who are bribed to give 



up the victory to other chariots? 

Cle. That would be a fearful image of the Gods. 

Ath . Nor are they like generals, or physicians, or husbandmen, or 
shepherds; and no one would compare them to dogs who have silenced 
by wolves . 

Cle. A thing not to be spoken of. 

Ath. And are not all the Gods the chiefest of all guardians, and 
do they not guard our highest interests? 

Cle. Yes; the chiefest. 

Ath. And shall we say that those who guard our noblest interests, 
and are the best of guardians, are inferior in virtue to dogs, and 
to men even of moderate excellence, who would never betray justice for 
the sake of gifts which unjust men impiously offer them? 

Cle. Certainly not: nor is such a notion to be endured, and he who 
holds this opinion may be fairly singled out and characterized as of 
all impious men the wickedest and most impious. 

Ath. Then are the three assertions-that the Gods exist, and that 
they take care of men, and that they can never be persuaded to do 
injustice, now sufficiently demonstrated? May we say that they are? 

Cle. You have our entire assent to your words. 

Ath. I have spoken with vehemence because I am zealous against 
evil men; and I will tell dear Cleinias, why I am so. I would not have 
the wicked think that, having the superiority in argument, they may do 
as they please and act according to their various imaginations about 
the Gods; and this zeal has led me to speak too vehemently; but if 
we have at all succeeded in persuading the men to hate themselves 
and love their opposites, the prelude of our laws about impiety will 
not have been spoken in vain. 

Cle. So let us hope; and even if we have failed, the style of our 
argument will not discredit the lawgiver. 

Ath. After the prelude shall follow a discourse, which will be the 
interpreter of the law; this shall proclaim to all impious 
persons : -that they must depart from their ways and go over to the 
pious. And to those who disobey, let the law about impiety be as 
follows: -If a man is guilty of any impiety in word or deed, any one 
who happens to present shall give information to the magistrates, in 
aid of the law; and let the magistrates who. first receive the 
information bring him before the appointed court according to the law; 
and if a magistrate, after receiving information, refuses to act, he 
shall be tried for impiety at the instance of any one who is willing 
to vindicate the laws; and if any one be cast, the court shall 
estimate the punishment of each act of impiety; and let all such 
criminals be imprisoned. There shall be three prisons in the state: 
the first of them is to be the common prison in the neighbourhood of 
the agora for the safe-keeping of the generality of offenders; another 
is to be in the neighbourhood of the nocturnal council, and is to be 
called the "House of Reformation"; another, to be situated in some 
wild and desolate region in the centre of the country, shall be called 
by some name expressive of retribution. Now, men fall into impiety 
from three causes, which have been already mentioned, and from each of 
these causes arise two sorts of impiety, in all six, which are worth 
distinguishing, and should not all have the same punishment. For he 
who does not believe in Gods, and yet has a righteous nature, hates 
the wicked and dislikes and refuses to do injustice, and avoids 
unrighteous men, and loves the righteous. But they who besides 
believing that the world is devoid of Gods are intemperate, and have 
at the same time good memories and quick wits, are worse; although 
both of them are unbelievers, much less injury is done by the one than 
by the other. The one may talk loosely about the Gods and about 
sacrifices and oaths, and perhaps by laughing at other men he may make 
them like himself, if he be not punished. But the other who holds 
the same opinions and is called a clever man, is full of stratagem and 
deceit-men of this class deal in prophecy and jugglery of all kinds, 
and out of their ranks sometimes come tyrants and demagogues and 



generals and hierophants of private mysteries and the Sophists, as 
they are termed, with their ingenious devices. There are many kinds of 
unbelievers, but two only for whom legislation is required; one the 
hypocritical sort, whose crime is deserving of death many times 
over, while the other needs only bonds and admonition. In like 
manner also the notion that the Gods take no thought of men produces 
two other sorts of crimes, and the notion that they may be propitiated 
produces two more. Assuming these divisions, let those who have been 
made what they are only from want of understanding, and not from 
malice or an evil nature, be placed by the judge in the House of 
Reformation, and ordered to suffer imprisonment during a period of not 
less than five years. And in the meantime let them have no intercourse 
with the other citizens, except with members of the nocturnal council, 
and with them let them converse with a view to the improvement of 
their soul's health. And when the time of their imprisonment has 
expired, if any of them be of sound mind let him be restored to sane 
company, but if not, and if he be condemned a second time, let him 
be punished with death. As to that class of monstrous natures who 
not only believe that there are no Gods, or that they are negligent, 
or to be propitiated, but in contempt of mankind conjure the souls 
of the living and say that they can conjure the dead and promise to 
charm the Gods with sacrifices and prayers, and will utterly overthrow 
individuals and whole houses and states for the sake of money-let 
him who is guilty of any of these things be condemned by the court 
to be bound according to law in the prison which is in the centre of 
the land, and let no freeman ever approach him, but let him receive 
the rations of food appointed by the guardians of the law from the 
hands of the public slaves; and when he is dead let him be cast beyond 
the borders unburied, and if any freeman assist in burying him, let 
him pay the penalty of impiety to any one who is willing to bring a 
suit against him. But if he leaves behind him children who are fit 
to be citizens, let the guardians of orphans take care of them, just 
as they would of any other orphans, from the day on which their father 
is convicted. 

In all these cases there should be one law, which will make men in 
general less liable to transgress in word or deed, and less foolish, 
because they will not be allowed to practise religious rites 
contrary to law. And let this be the simple form of the law: -No man 
shall have sacred rites in a private house. When he would sacrifice, 
let him go to the temples and hand over his offerings to the priests 
and priestesses, who see to the sanctity of such things, and let him 
pray himself, and let any one who pleases join with him in prayer. The 
reason of this is as follows : -Gods and temples are not easily 
instituted, and to establish them rightly is the work of a mighty 
intellect. And women especially, and men too, when they are sick or in 
danger, or in any sort of difficulty, or again on their receiving 
any good fortune, have a way of consecrating the occasion, vowing 
sacrifices, and promising shrines to Gods, demigods, and sons of Gods; 
and when they are awakened by terrible apparitions and dreams or 
remember visions, they find in altars and temples the remedies of 
them, and will fill every house and village with them, placing them in 
the open air, or wherever they may have had such visions; and with a 
view to all these cases we should obey the law. The law has also 
regard to the impious, and would not have them fancy that by the 
secret performance of these actions-by raising temples and by building 
altars in private houses, they can propitiate the God secretly with 
sacrifices and prayers, while they are really multiplying their crimes 
infinitely, bringing guilt from heaven upon themselves, and also 
upon those who permit them, and who are better men than they are; 
and the consequence is that the whole state reaps the fruit of their 
impiety, which, in a certain sense, is deserved. Assuredly God will 
not blame the legislator, who will enact the following law: -No one 
shall possess shrines of the Gods in private houses, and he who is 
found to possess them, and perform any sacred rites not publicly 



authorized-supposing the offender to be some man or woman who is not 
guilty of any other great and impious crime-shall be informed 
against by him who is acquainted with the fact, which shall be 
announced by him to the guardians of the law; and let them issue 
orders that he or she shall carry away their private rites to the 
public temples, and if they do not persuade them, let them inflict a 
penalty on them until they comply. And if a person be proven guilty of 
impiety, not merely from childish levity, but such as grown-up men may 
be guilty of, whether he have sacrificed publicly or privately to 
any Gods, let him be punished with death, for his sacrifice is impure. 
Whether the deed has been done in earnest, or only from childish 
levity, let the guardians of the law determine, before they bring 
the matter into court and prosecute the offender for impiety. 
BOOK XI 

In the next place, dealings between man and man require to be 
suitably regulated. The principle of them is very simple: -Thou shalt 
not, if thou canst help, touch that which is mine, or remove the least 
thing which belongs to me without my consent; and may I be of a 
sound mind, and do to others as I would that they should do to me. 
First, let us speak of treasure trove: -May I never pray the Gods to 
find the hidden treasure, which another has laid up for himself and 
his family, he not being one of my ancestors, nor lift, if I should 
find, such a treasure. And may I never have any dealings with those 
who are called diviners, and who in any way or manner counsel me to 
take up the deposit entrusted to the earth, for I should not gain so 
much in the increase of my possessions, if I take up the prize, as I 
should grow in justice and virtue of soul, if I abstain; and this will 
be a better possession to me than the other in a better part of 
myself; for the possession of justice in the soul is preferable to the 
possession of wealth. And of many things it is well said-"Move not the 
immovables," and this may be regarded as one of them. And we shall 
do well to believe the common tradition which says that such deeds 
prevent a man from having a family. Now as to him who is careless 
about having children and regardless of the legislator, taking up that 
which neither he deposited, nor any ancestor of his, without the 
consent of the depositor, violating the simplest and noblest of laws 
which was the enactment of no mean man: -"Take not up that which was 
not laid down by thee"-of him, I say, who despises these two 
legislators, and takes up, not small matter which he has not 
deposited, but perhaps a great heap of treasure, what he ought to 
suffer at the hands of the Gods, God only knows; but I would have 
the first person who sees him go and tell the wardens of the city, 
if the occurrence has taken place in the city, or if the occurrence 
has taken place in the agora he shall tell the wardens of the agora, 
or if in the country he shall tell the wardens of the country and 
their commanders. When information has been received the city shall 
send to Delphi, and, whatever the God answers about the money and 
the remover of the money, that the city shall do in obedience to the 
oracle; the informer, if he be a freeman, shall have the honour of 
doing rightly, and he who informs not, the dishonour of doing wrongly; 
and if he be a slave who gives information, let him be freed, as he 
ought to be, by the state, which shall give his master the price of 
him; but if he do not inform he shall be punished with death. Next 
in order shall follow a similar law, which shall apply equally to 
matters great and small: -If a man happens to leave behind him some 
part of his property, whether intentionally or unintentionally, let 
him who may come upon the left property suffer it to remain, 
reflecting that such things are under the protection of the Goddess of 
ways, and are dedicated to her by the law. But if any one defies the 
law, and takes the property home with him, let him, if the thing is of 
little worth, and the man who takes it a slave, be beaten with many 
stripes by him, being a person of not less than thirty years of age. 
Or if he be a freeman, in addition to being thought a mean person 



and a despiser of the laws, let him pay ten times the value of the 
treasure which he has moved to the leaver. And if some one accuses 
another of having anything which belongs to him, whether little or 
much, and the other admits that he has this thing, but denies that the 
property in dispute belongs to other, if the property be registered 
with the magistrates according to law, the claimant shall summon the 
possessor, who shall bring it before the magistrates; and when it is 
brought into court, if it be registered in the public registers, to 
which of the litigants it belonged, let him take it and go his way. Or 
if the property be registered as belonging to some one who is not 
present, whoever will offer sufficient surety on behalf of the 
absent person that he will give it up to him, shall take it away as 
the representative of the other. But if the property which is 
deposited be not registered with the magistrates, let it remain 
until the time of trial with three of the eldest of the magistrates; 
and if it be an animal which is deposited, then he who loses the 
suit shall pay the magistrates for its keep, and they shall 
determine the cause within three days. 

Any one who is of sound mind may arrest his own slave, and do with 
him whatever he will of such things as are lawful; and he may arrest 
the runaway slave of any of his friends or kindred with a view to 
his safe-keeping. And if any one takes away him who is being carried 
off as a slave, intending to liberate him, he who is carrying him 
off shall let him go; but he who takes him away shall give three 
sufficient sureties; and if he give them, and not without giving them, 
he may take him away, but if he take him away after any other manner 
he shall be deemed guilty of violence, and being convicted shall pay 
as a penalty double the amount of the damages claimed to him who has 
been deprived of the slave. Any man may also carry off a freedman, 
if he do not pay respect or sufficient respect to him who freed him. 
Now the respect shall be, that the freedman go three times in the 
month to the hearth of the person who freed him and offer to do 
whatever he ought, so far as he can; and he shall agree to make such a 
marriage as his former master approves. He shall not be permitted to 
have more property than he who gave him liberty, and what more he 
has shall belong to his master. The freedman shall not remain in the 
state more than twenty years, but like other foreigners shall go away, 
taking his entire property with him, unless he has the consent of 
the magistrates and of his former master to remain. If a freedman or 
any other stranger has a property greater than the census of the third 
class, at the expiration, of thirty days from the day on which this 
comes to pass, he shall take that which is his and go his way, and 
in this case he shall not be allowed to remain any longer by the 
magistrates. And if any one disobeys this regulation, and is brought 
into court and convicted, he shall be punished with death, his 
property shall be confiscated. Suits about these matters shall take 
place before the tribes, unless the plaintiff and defendant have got 
rid of the accusation either before their neighbours or before 
judges chosen by them. If a man lay claim to any animal or anything 
else which he declares to be his, let the possessor refer to the 
seller or to some honest and trustworthy person, who has given, or 
in some legitimate way made over the property to him; if he be a 
citizen or a metic, sojourning in the city, within thirty days, or, if 
the property have been delivered to him by a stranger, within five 
months, of which the middle month shall include the summer solstice. 
When goods are exchanged by selling and buying, a man shall deliver 
them, and receive the price of them, at a fixed place in the agora, 
and have done with the matter; but he shall not buy or sell anywhere 
else, nor give credit. And if in any other manner or in any other 
place there be an exchange of one thing for another, and the seller 
give credit to the man who buys fram him, he must do this on the 
understanding that the law gives no protection in cases of things sold 
not in accordance with these regulations. Again, as to 
contributions, any man who likes may go about collecting contributions 



as a friend among friends, but if any difference arises about the 
collection, he is to act on the understanding that the law gives no 
protection in such cases. He who sells anything above the value of 
fifty drachmas shall be required to remain in the city for ten days, 
and the purchaser shall be informed of the house of the seller, with a 
view to the sort of charges which are apt to arise in such cases, 
and the restitutions which the law allows. And let legal restitution 
be on this wise: -If a man sells a slave who is in a consumption, or 
who has the disease of the stone, or of strangury, or epilepsy, or 
some other tedious and incurable disorder of body or mind, which is 
not discernible to the ordinary man, if the purchaser be a physician 
or trainer, he shall have no right of restitution; nor shall there 
be any right of restitution if the seller has told the truth 
beforehand to the buyer. But if a skilled person sells to another 
who is not skilled, let the buyer appeal for restitution within six 
months, except in the case of epilepsy, and then the appeal may be 
made within a year. The cause shall be determined by such physicians 
as the parties may agree to choose; and the defendant, if he lose 
the suit, shall pay double the price at which he sold. If a private 
person sell to another private person, he shall have the right of 
restitution, and the decision shall be given as before, but the 
defendant, if he be cast, shall only pay back the price of the 
slave. If a person sells a homicide to another, and they both know 
of the fact, let there be no restitution in such a case, but if he 
do not know of the fact, there shall be a right of restitution, 
whenever the buyer makes the discovery; and the decision shall rest 
with the five youngest guardians of the law, and if the decision be 
that the seller was cognisant the fact, he shall purify the house of 
the purchaser, according to the law of the interpreters, and shall pay 
back three times the purchase-money. 

If man exchanges either money for money, or anything whatever for 
anything else, either with or without life, let him give and receive 
them genuine and unadulterated, in accordance with the law. And let us 
have a prelude about all this sort of roguery, like the preludes of 
our other laws. Every man should regard adulteration as of one and the 
same class with falsehood and deceit, concerning which the many are 
too fond of saying that at proper times and places the practice may 
often be right. But they leave the occasion, and the when, and the 
where, undefined and unsettled, and from this want of definiteness 
in their language they do a great deal of harm to themselves and to 
others. Now a legislator ought not to leave the matter undetermined; 
he ought to prescribe some limit, either greater or less. Let this 
be the rule prescribed: -No one shall call the Gods to witness, when he 
says or does anything false or deceitful or dishonest, unless he would 
be the most hateful of mankind to them. And he is most hateful to them 
takes a false oath, and pays no heed to the Gods; and in the next 
degree, he who tells a falsehood in the presence of his superiors. Now 
better men are the superiors of worse men, and in general elders are 
the superiors of the young; wherefore also parents are the superiors 
of their off spring, and men of women and children, and rulers of 
their subjects; for all men ought to reverence any one who is in any 
position of authority, and especially those who are in state 
offices. And this is the reason why I have spoken of these matters. 
For every one who is guilty of adulteration in the agora tells a 
falsehood, and deceives, and when he invokes the Gods, according to 
the customs and cautions of the wardens of the agora, he does but 
swear without any respect for God or man. Certainly, it is an 
excellent rule not lightly to defile the names of the Gods, after 
the fashion of men in general, who care little about piety and 
purity in their religious actions. But if a man will not conform to 
this rule, let the law be as follows: -He who sells anything in the 
agora shall not ask two prices for that which he sells, but he shall 
ask one price, and if he do not obtain this, he shall take away his 
goods; and on that day he shall not value them either at more or less; 



and there shall be no praising of any goods, or oath taken about them. 
If a person disobeys this command, any citizen who is present, not 
being less than thirty years of age, may with impunity chastise and 
beat the swearer, but if instead of obeying the laws he takes no heed, 
he shall be liable to the charge of having betrayed them. If a man 
sells any adulterated goods and will not obey these regulations, he 
who knows and can prove the fact, and does prove it in the presence of 
the magistrates, if he be a slave or a metic, shall have the 
adulterated goods; but if he be a citizen, and do not pursue the 
charge, he shall be called a rogue, and deemed to have robbed the Gods 
of the agora; or if he proves the charge, he shall dedicate the 
goods to the Gods of the agora. He who is proved to have sold any 
adulterated goods, in addition to losing the goods themselves, shall 
be beaten with stripes-a stripe for a drachma, according to the 
price of the goods; and the herald shall proclaim in the agora the 
offence for which he is going to be beaten. The warden of the agora 
and the guardians of the law shall obtain information from experienced 
persons about the rogueries and adulterations of the sellers, and 
shall write up what the seller ought and ought not to do in each case; 
and let them inscribe their laws on a column in front of the court 
of the wardens of the agora, that they may be clear instructors of 
those who have business in the agora. Enough has been said in what has 
preceded about the wardens of the city, and if anything seems to be 
wanting, let them communicate with the guardians of the law, and write 
down the omission, and place on a column in the court of the wardens 
of the city the primary and secondary regulations which are laid 
down for them about their office. 

After the practices of adulteration naturally follow the practices 
of retail trade. Concerning these, we will first of all give a word of 
counsel and reason, and the law shall come afterwards. Retail trade in 
a city is not by nature intended to do any harm, but quite the 
contrary; for is not he a benefactor who reduces the inequalities 
and incommensurabilities of goods to equality and common measure? 
And this is what the power of money accomplishes, and the merchant may 
be said to be appointed for this purpose. The hireling and the 
tavern-keeper, and many other occupations, some of them more and 
others less seemly-alike have this object; -they seek to satisfy our 
needs and equalize our possessions. Let us then endeavour to see 
what has brought retail trade into ill-odour, and wherein, lies the 
dishonour and unseemliness of it, in order that if not entirely, we 
may yet partially, cure the evil by legislation. To effect this is 
no easy matter, and requires a great deal of virtue. 

Cleinias . What do you mean? 

Athenian Stranger. Dear Cleinias, the class of men is small-they 
must have been rarely gifted by nature, and trained by 
education-who, when assailed by wants and desires, are able to hold 
out and observe moderation, and when they might make a great deal of 
money are sober in their wishes, and prefer a moderate to a large 
gain. But the mass of mankind are the very opposite: their desires are 
unbounded, and when they might gain in moderation they prefer gains 
without limit; wherefore all that relates to retail trade, and 
merchandise, and the keeping of taverns, is denounced and numbered 
among dishonourable things. For if what I trust may never be and 
will not be, we were to compel, if I may venture to say a ridiculous 
thing, the best men everywhere to keep taverns for a time, or carry on 
retail trade, or do anything of that sort; or if, in consequence of 
some fate or necessity, the best women were compelled to follow 
similar callings, then we should know how agreeable and pleasant all 
these things are; and if all such occupations were managed on 
incorrupt principles, they would be honoured as we honour a mother 
or a nurse. But now that a man goes to desert places and builds bouses 
which can only be reached be long journeys, for the sake of retail 
trade, and receives strangers who are in need at the welcome 
resting-place, and gives them peace and calm when they are tossed by 



the storm, or cool shade in the heat; and then instead of behaving 
to them as friends, and showing the duties of hospitality to his 
guests, treats them as enemies and captives who are at his mercy, 
and will not release them until they have paid the most unjust, 
abominable, and extortionate ransom-these are the sort of practices, 
and foul evils they are, which cast a reproach upon the succour of 
adversity. And the legislator ought always to be devising a remedy for 
evils of this nature. There is an ancient saying, which is also a true 
one-"To fight against two opponents is a difficult thing," as is 
seen in diseases and in many other cases. And in this case also the 
war is against two enemies-wealth and poverty; one of whom corrupts 
the soul of man with luxury, while the other drives him by pain into 
utter shamelessness . What remedy can a city of sense find against this 
disease? In the first place, they must have as few retail traders as 
possible; and in the second place, they must assign the occupation 
to that class of men whose corruption will be the least injury to 
the state; and in the third place, they must devise some way whereby 
the followers of these occupations themselves will not readily fall 
into habits of unbridled shamelessness and meanness. 

After this preface let our law run as follows, and may fortune 
favour us: -No landowner among the Magnetes, whose city the God is 
restoring and resettling-no one, that is, of the 5040 families, 
shall become a retail trader either voluntarily or involuntarily; 
neither shall he be a merchant, or do any service for private 
persons unless they equally serve him, except for his father or his 
mother, and their fathers and mothers; and in general for his elders 
who are freemen, and whom he serves as a freeman. Now it is 
difficult to determine accurately the things which are worthy or 
unworthy of a freeman, but let those who have obtained the prize of 
virtue give judgment about them in accordance with their feelings of 
right and wrong. He who in any way shares in the illiberality of 
retail trades may be indicted for dishonouring his race by any one who 
likes, before those who have been judged to be the first in virtue; 
and if he appear to throw dirt upon his father's house by an 
unworthy occupation, let him be imprisoned for a year and abstain from 
that sort of thing; and if he repeat the offence, for two years; and 
every time that he is convicted let the length of his imprisonment 
be doubled. This shall be the second law: -He who engages in retail 
trade must be either a metic or a stranger. And a third law shall 
be: -In order that the retail trader who dwells in our city may be as 
good or as little bad as possible, the guardians of the law shall 
remember that they are not only guardians of those who may be easily 
watched and prevented from becoming lawless or bad, because they are 
wellborn and bred; but still more should they have a watch over 
those who are of another sort, and follow pursuits which have a very 
strong tendency to make men bad. And, therefore, in respect of the 
multifarious occupations of retail trade, that is to say, in respect 
of such of them as are allowed to remain, because they seem to be 
quite necessary in a state-about these the guardians of the law should 
meet and take counsel with those who have experience of the several 
kinds of retail trade, as we before commanded, concerning adulteration 
(which is a matter akin to this), and when they meet they shall 
consider what amount of receipts, after deducting expenses, will 
produce a moderate gain to the retail trades, and they shall fix in 
writing and strictly maintain what they find to be the right 
percentage of profit; this shall be seen to by the wardens of the 
agora, and by the wardens of the city, and by the wardens of the 
country. And so retail trade will benefit every one, and do the 
least possible injury to those in the state who practise it. 

When a man makes an agreement which he does not fulfil, unless the 
agreement be of a nature which the law or a vote of the assembly 
does not allow, or which he has made under the influence of some 
unjust compulsion, or which he is prevented from fulfilling against 
his will by some unexpected chance, the other party may go to law with 



him in the courts of the tribes, for not having completed his 
agreement, if the parties are not able previously to come to terms 
before arbiters or before their neighbours. The class of craftsmen who 
have furnished human life with the arts is dedicated to Hephaestus and 
Athene; and there is a class of craftsmen who preserve the works of 
all craftsmen by arts of defence, the votaries of Ares and Athene, 
to which divinities they too are rightly dedicated. All these continue 
through life serving the country and the people; some of them are 
leaders in battle; others make for hire implements and works, and they 
ought not to deceive in such matters, out of respect to the Gods who 
are their ancestors. If any craftsman through indolence omit to 
execute his work in a given time, not reverencing the God who gives 
him the means of life, but considering, foolish fellow, that he is his 
own God and will let him off easily, in the first place, he shall 
suffer at the hands of the God, and in the second place, the law shall 
follow in a similar spirit. He shall owe to him who contracted with 
him the price of the works which he has failed in performing, and he 
shall begin again and execute them gratis in the given time. When a 
man undertakes a work, the law gives him the same advice which was 
given to the seller, that he should not attempt to raise the price, 
but simply ask the value; this the law enjoins also on the contractor; 
for the craftsman assuredly knows the value of his work. Wherefore, in 
free states the man of art ought not to attempt to impose upon private 
individuals by the help of his art, which is by nature a true thing; 
and he who is wronged in a matter of this sort, shall have a right 
of action against the party who has wronged him. And if any one lets 
out work to a craftsman, and does not pay him duly according to the 
lawful agreement, disregarding Zeus the guardian of the city and 
Athene, who are the partners of the state, and overthrows the 
foundations of society for the sake of a little gain, in his case 
let the law and the Gods maintain the common bonds of the state. And 
let him who, having already received the work in exchange, does not 
pay the price in the time agreed, pay double the price; and if a 
year has elapsed, although interest is not to be taken on loans, yet 
for every drachma which he owes to the contractor let him pay a 
monthly interest of an obol . Suits about these matters are to be 
decided by the courts of the tribes; and by the way, since we have 
mentioned craftsmen at all, we must not forget the other craft of war, 
in which generals and tacticians are the craftsmen, who undertake 
voluntarily the work of our safety, as other craftsmen undertake other 
public works; -if they execute their work well the law will never 
tire of praising him who gives them those honours which are the just 
rewards of the soldier; but if any one, having already received the 
benefit of any noble service in war, does not make the due return of 
honour, the law will blame him. Let this then be the law, having an 
ingredient of praise, not compelling but advising the great body of 
the citizens to honour the brave men who are the saviours of the whole 
state, whether by their courage or by their military skill; -they 
should honour them, I say, in the second place; for the first and 
highest tribute of respect is to be given to those who are able 
above other men to honour the words of good legislators. 

The greater part of the dealings between man and man have been now 
regulated by us with the exception of those that relate to orphans and 
the supervision of orphans by their guardians. These follow next in 
order, and must be regulated in some way. But to arrive at them we 
must begin with the testamentary wishes of the dying and the case of 
those who may have happened to die intestate. When I said, Cleinias, 
that we must regulate them, I had in my mind the difficulty and 
perplexity in which all such matters are involved. You cannot leave 
them unregulated, for individuals would make regulations at variance 
with one another, and repugnant to the laws and habits of the living 
and to their own previous habits, if a person were simply allowed to 
make any will which he pleased, and this were to take effect in 
whatever state he may have been at the end of his life; for most of us 



lose our senses in a manner, and feel crushed when we think that we 
are about to die. 

Cle. What do you mean, Stranger? 

Ath . Cleinias, a man when he is about to die is an intractable 
creature, and is apt to use language which causes a great deal of 
anxiety and trouble to the legislator. 

Cle. In what way? 

Ath. He wants to have the entire control of all his property, and 
will use angry words. 

Cle. Such as what? 

Ath. ye Gods, he will say, how monstrous that I am not allowed 
to give, or not to give my own to whom I will-less to him who has been 
bad to me, and more to him who has been good to me, and whose 
badness and goodness have been tested by me in time of sickness or 
in old age and in every other sort of fortune! 

Cle. Well Stranger, and may he not very fairly say so? 

Ath. In my opinion, Cleinias, the ancient legislators were too 
good-natured, and made laws without sufficient observation or 
consideration of human things. 

Cle. What do you mean? 

Ath. I mean, my friend that they were afraid of the testator's 
reproaches, and so they passed a law to the effect that a man should 
be allowed to dispose of his property in all respects as he liked; but 
you and I, if I am not mistaken, will have something better to say 
to our departing citizens. 

Cle. What? 

Ath. my friends, we will say to them, hard is it for you, who 
are creatures of a day, to know what is yours-hard too, as the Delphic 
oracle says, to know yourselves at this hour. Now I, as the 
legislator, regard you and your possessions, not as belonging to 
yourselves, but as belonging to your whole family, both past and 
future, and yet more do regard both family and possessions as 
belonging to the state; wherefore, if some one steals upon you with 
flattery, when you are tossed on the sea of disease or old age, and 
persuades you to dispose of your property in a way that is not for the 
best, I will not, if I can help, allow this; but I will legislate with 
a view to the whole, considering what is best both for the state and 
for the family, esteeming as I ought the feelings of an individual 
at a lower rate; and I hope that you will depart in peace and kindness 
towards us, as you are going the way of all mankind; and we will 
impartially take care of all your concerns, not neglecting any of 
them, if we can possibly help. Let this be our prelude and consolation 
to the living and dying, Cleinias, and let the law be as follows: 

He who makes a disposition in a testament, if he be the father of 
a family, shall first of all inscribe as his heir any one of his 
sons whom he may think fit; and if he gives any of his children to 
be adopted by another citizen, let the adoption be inscribed. And if 
he has a son remaining over and above who has not been adopted upon 
any lot, and who may be expected to be sent out to a colony 
according to law, to him his father may give as much as he pleases 
of the rest of his property, with the exception of the paternal lot 
and the fixtures on the lot. And if there are other sons, let him 
distribute among them what there is more than the lot in such portions 
as he pleases. And if one of the sons has already a house of his 
own, he shall not give him of the money, nor shall he give money to 
a daughter who has been betrothed, but if she is not betrothed he 
may give her money. And if any of the sons or daughters shall be found 
to have another lot of land in the country, which has accrued after 
the testament has been made, they shall leave the lot which they 
have inherited to the heir of the man who has made the will. If the 
testator has no sons, but only daughters, let him choose the husband 
of any one of his daughters whom he pleases, and leave and inscribe 
him as his son and heir. And if a man have lost his son, when he was a 
child, and before he could be reckoned among grown-up men, whether his 



own or an adopted son, let the testator make mention of the 
circumstance and inscribe whom he will to be his second son in hope of 
better fortune. If the testator has no children at all, he may 
select and give to any one whom he pleases the tenth part of the 
property which he has acquired; but let him not be blamed if he 
gives all the rest to his adopted son, and makes a friend of him 
according to the law. If the sons of a man require guardians, and: the 
father when he dies leaves a will appointing guardians, those have 
been named by him, whoever they are and whatever their number be, if 
they are able and willing to take charge of the children, shall be 
recognized according to the provisions of the will. But if he dies and 
has made no will, or a will in which he has appointed no guardians, 
then the next of kin, two on the father's and two on the mother's 
side, and one of the friends of the deceased, shall have the authority 
of guardians, whom the guardians of the law shall appoint when the 
orphans require guardians. And the fifteen eldest guardians of the law 
shall have the whole care and charge of the orphans, divided into 
threes according to seniority-a body of three for one year, and then 
another body of three for the next year, until the cycle of the five 
periods is complete; and this, as far as possible, is to continue 
always. If a man dies, having made no will at all, and leaves sons who 
require the care of guardians, they shall share in the protection 
which is afforded by these laws. 

And if a man dying by some unexpected fate leaves daughters behind 
him, let him pardon the legislator if he gives them in marriage, he 
have a regard only to two out of three conditions-nearness of kin 
and the preservation of the lot, and omits the third condition, 
which a father would naturally consider, for he would choose out of 
all the citizens a son for himself, and a husband for his daughter, 
with a view to his character and disposition-the father, say, shall 
forgive the legislator if he disregards this, which to him is an 
impossible consideration. Let the law about these matters where 
practicable be as follows: -If a man dies without making a will, and 
leaves behind him daughters, let his brother, being the son of the 
same father or of the same mother, having no lot, marry the daughter 
and have the lot of the dead man. And if he have no brother, but 
only a brother's son, in like manner let them marry, if they be of a 
suitable age; and if there be not even a brother's son, but only the 
son of a sister, let them do likewise, and so in the fourth degree, if 
there be only the testator's father's brother, or in the fifth degree, 
his father's brother's son, or in the sixth degree, the child of his 
father's sister. Let kindred be always reckoned in this way: if a 
person leaves daughters the relationship shall proceed upwards through 
brothers and sisters, and brothers' and sisters' children, and first 
the males shall come, and after them the females in the same family. 
The judge shall consider and determine the suitableness or 
unsuitableness of age in marriage; he shall make an inspection of 
the males naked, and of the women naked down to the navel. And if 
there be a lack of kinsmen in a family extending to grandchildren of a 
brother, or to the grandchildren of a grandfather's children, the 
maiden may choose with the consent of her guardians any one of the 
citizens who is willing and whom she wills, and he shall be the heir 
of the dead man, and the husband of his daughter. Circumstances 
vary, and there may sometimes be a still greater lack of relations 
within the limits of the state; and if any maiden has no kindred 
living in the city, and there is some one who has been sent out to a 
colony, and she is disposed to make him the heir of her father's 
possessions, if he be indeed of her kindred, let him proceed to take 
the lot according to the regulation of the law; but if he be not of 
her kindred, she having no kinsmen within the city, and he be chosen 
by the daughter of the dead man, and empowered to marry by the 
guardians, let him return home and take the lot of him who died 
intestate. And if a man has no children, either male or female, and 
dies without making a will, let the previous law in general hold; 



and let a man and a woman go forth from the family and share the 
deserted house, and let the lot belong absolutely to them; and let the 
heiress in the first degree be a sister, and in a second degree a 
daughter of a brother, and in the third, a daughter of a sister, in 
the fourth degree the sister of a father, and in the fifth degree 
the daughter of a father's brother, and in a sixth degree of a 
father's sister; and these shall dwell with their male kinsmen, 
according to the degree of relationship and right, as we enacted 
before. Now we must not conceal from ourselves that such laws are 
apt to be oppressive and that there may sometimes be a hardship in the 
lawgiver commanding the kinsman of the dead man to marry his relation; 
be may be thought not to have considered the innumerable hindrances 
which may arise among men in the execution of such ordinances; for 
there may be cases in which the parties refuse to obey, and are 
ready to do anything rather than marry, when there is some bodily or 
mental malady or defect among those who are bidden to marry or be 
married. Persons may fancy that the legislator never thought of 
this, but they are mistaken; wherefore let us make a common prelude on 
behalf of the lawgiver and of his subjects, the law begging the latter 
to forgive the legislator, in that he, having to take care of the 
common weal, cannot order at the same time the various circumstances 
of individuals, and begging him to pardon them if naturally they are 
sometimes unable to fulfil the act which he in his ignorance imposes 
upon them. 

Cle. And how, Stranger, can we act most fairly under the 
circumstances? 

Ath . There must be arbiters chosen to deal with such laws and the 
subjects of them. 

Cle. What do you mean? 

Ath. I mean to say, that a case may occur in which the nephew, 
having a rich father, will be unwilling to marry the daughter of his 
uncle; he will have a feeling of pride, and he will wish to look 
higher. And there are cases in which the legislator will be imposing 
upon him the greatest calamity, and he will be compelled to disobey 
the law, if he is required, for example, to take a wife who is mad, or 
has some other terrible malady of soul or body, such as makes life 
intolerable to the sufferer. Then let what we are saying concerning 
these cases be embodied in a law: -If any one finds fault with the 
established laws respecting testaments, both as to other matters and 
especially in what relates to marriage, and asserts that the 
legislator, if he were alive and present, would not compel him to 
obey-that is to say, would not compel those who are by our law 
required to marry or be given in marriage, to do either-and some 
kinsman or guardian dispute this, the reply is that the legislator 
left fifteen of the guardians of the law to be arbiters and fathers of 
orphans, male or female, and to them let the disputants have recourse, 
and by their aid determine any matters of the kind, admitting their 
decision to be final. But if any one thinks that too great power is 
thus given to the guardians of the law, let him bring his 
adversaries into the court of the select judges, and there have the 
points in dispute determined. And he who loses the cause shall have 
censure and blame from the legislator, which, by a man of sense, is 
felt to be a penalty far heavier than a great loss of money. 

Thus will orphan children have a second birth. After their first 
birth we spoke of their nurture and education, and after their 
second birth, when they have lost their parents, we ought to take 
measures that the misfortune of orphanhood may be as little sad to 
them as possible. In the first place, we say that the guardians of the 
law are lawgivers and fathers to them, not inferior to their natural 
fathers. Moreover, they shall take charge of them year by year as of 
their own kindred; and we have given both to them and to the 
children's own guardians a suitable admonition concerning the 
nurture of orphans. And we seem to have spoken opportunely in our 
former discourse, when we said that the souls of the dead have the 



power after death of taking an interest in human affairs, about 
which there are many tales and traditions, long indeed, but true; 
and seeing that they are so many and so ancient, we must believe them, 
and we must also believe the lawgivers, who tell us that these 
things are true, if they are not to be regarded as utter fools. But if 
these things are really so, in the first place men should have a 
fear of the Gods above, who regard the loneliness of the orphans; 
and in the second place of the souls of the departed, who by nature 
incline to take an especial care of their own children, and are 
friendly to those who honour, and unfriendly to those who dishonour 
them. Men should also fear the souls of the living who are aged and 
high in honour; wherever a city is well ordered and prosperous, 
their descendants cherish them, and so live happily; old persons are 
quick to see and hear all that relates to them, and are propitious 
to those who are just in the fulfilment of such duties, and they 
punish those who wrong the orphan and the desolate, considering that 
they are the greatest and most sacred of trusts. To all which 
matters the guardian and magistrate ought to apply his mind, if he has 
any, and take heed of the nurture and education of the orphans, 
seeking in every possible way to do them good, for he is making a 
contribution to his own good and that of his children. He who obeys 
the tale which precedes the law, and does no wrong to an orphan, 
will never experience the wrath of the legislator. But he who is 
disobedient, and wrongs any one who is bereft of father or mother, 
shall pay twice the penalty which he would have paid if he had wronged 
one whose parents had been alive. As touching other legislation 
concerning guardians in their relation to orphans, or concerning 
magistrates and their superintendence of the guardians, if they did 
not possess examples of the manner in which children of freemen should 
be brought up in the bringing up of their own children, and of the 
care of their property in the care of their own, or if they had not 
just laws fairly stated about these very things-there would have 
been reason in making laws for them, under the idea that they were a 
peculiar-class, and we might distinguish and make separate rules for 
the life of those who are orphans and of those who are not orphans. 
But as the case stands, the condition of orphans with us not different 
from the case of those who have father, though in regard to honour and 
dishonour, and the attention given to them, the two are not usually 
placed upon a level. Wherefore, touching the legislation about 
orphans, the law speaks in serious accents, both of persuasion and 
threatening, and such a threat as the following will be by no means 
out of place: -He who is the guardian of an orphan of either sex, and 
he among the guardians of the law to whom the superintendence of 
this guardian has been assigned, shall love the unfortunate orphan 
as though he were his own child, and he shall be as careful and 
diligent in the management of his possessions as he would be if they 
were his own, or even more careful and dilligent. Let every one who 
has the care of an orphan observe this law. But any one who acts 
contrary to the law on these matters, if he be a guardian of the 
child, may be fined by a magistrate, or, if he be himself a 
magistrate, the guardian may bring him before the court of select 
judges, and punish him, if convicted, by exacting a fine of double the 
amount of that inflicted by the court. And if a guardian appears to 
the relations of the orphan, or to any other citizen, to act 
negligently or dishonestly, let them bring him before the same 
court, and whatever damages are given against him, let him pay 
fourfold, and let half belong to the orphan and half to him who 
procured the conviction. If any orphan arrives at years of discretion, 
and thinks that he has been ill-used by his guardians, let him 
within five years of the expiration of the guardianship be allowed 
to bring them to trial; and if any of them be convicted, the court 
shall determine what he shall pay or suffer. And if magistrate shall 
appear to have wronged the orphan by neglect, and he be convicted, let 
the court determine what he shall suffer or pay to the orphan, and 



if there be dishonesty in addition to neglect, besides paying the 
fine, let him be deposed from his office of guardian of the law, and 
let the state appoint another guardian of the law for the city and for 
the country in his room. 

Greater differences than there ought to be sometimes arise between 
fathers and sons, on the part either of fathers who will be of opinion 
that the legislator should enact that they may, if they wish, lawfully 
renounce their son by the proclamation of a herald in the face of 
the world, or of sons who think that they should be allowed to 
indict their fathers on the charge of imbecility when they are 
disabled by disease or old age. These things only happen, as a 
matter of fact, where the natures of men are utterly bad; for where 
only half is bad, as, for example, if the father be not bad, but the 
son be bad, or conversely, no great calamity is the result of such 
an amount of hatred as this. In another state, a son disowned by his 
father would not of necessity cease to be a citizen, but in our state, 
of which these are to be the laws, the disinherited must necessarily 
emigrate into another country, for no addition can be made even of a 
single family to the 5040 households; and, therefore, he who 
deserves to suffer these things must be renounced not only by his 
father, who is a single person, but by the whole family, and what is 
done in these cases must be regulated by some such law as the 
following : -He who in the sad disorder of his soul has a mind, justly 
or unjustly, to expel from his family a son whom he has begotten and 
brought up, shall not lightly or at once execute his purpose; but 
first of all he shall collect together his own kinsmen extending to 
cousins, and in like manner his son's kinsmen by the mother's side, 
and in their presence he shall accuse his son, setting forth that he 
deserves at the hands of them all to be dismissed from the family; and 
the son shall be allowed to address them in a similar manner, and show 
that he does not deserve to suffer any of these things. And if the 
father persuades them, and obtains the suffrages of more than half 
of his kindred, exclusive of the father and mother and the offender 
himself-I say, if he obtains more than half the suffrages of all the 
other grown-up members of the family, of both sexes, the father 
shall be permitted to put away his son, but not otherwise. And if 
any other citizen is willing to adopt the son who is put away, no 
law shall hinder him; for the characters of young men are subject to 
many changes in the course of their lives. And if he has been put 
away, and in a period of ten years no one is willing to adopt him, let 
those who have the care of the superabundant population which is 
sent out into colonies, see to him, in order that he may be suitably 
provided for in the colony. And if disease or age or harshness of 
temper, or all these together, makes a man to be more out of his 
mind than the rest of the world are-but this is not observable, except 
to those who live with him-and he, being master of his property, is 
the ruin of the house, and his son doubts and hesitates about 
indicting his father for insanity, let the law in that case or, that 
he shall first of all go to the eldest guardians of the law and tell 
them of his father's misfortune, and they shall duly look into the 
matter, and take counsel as to whether he shall indict him or not. And 
if they advise him to proceed, they shall be both his witnesses and 
his advocates; and if the father is cast, he shall henceforth be 
incapable of ordering the least particular of his life; let him be 
as a child dwelling in the house for the remainder of his days. And if 
a man and his wife have an unfortunate incompatibility of temper, 
ten of the guardians of the law, who are impartial, and ten of the 
women who regulate marriages, shall look to the matter, and if they 
are able to reconcile them they shall be formally reconciled; but if 
their souls are too much tossed with passion, they shall endeavour 
to find other partners. Now they are not likely to have very gentle 
tempers; and, therefore, we must endeavour to associate with them 
deeper and softer natures. Those who have no children, or only a 
few, at the time of their separation, should choose their new partners 



with a view to the procreation of children; but those who have a 
sufficient number of children should separate and marry again in order 
that they may have some one to grow old with and that the pair may 
take care of one another in age. If a woman dies, leaving children, 
male or female, the law will advise rather than compel the husband 
to bring up the children without introducing into the house a 
stepmother. But if he have no children, then he shall be compelled 
to marry until he has begotten a sufficient number of sons to his 
family and to the state. And if a man dies leaving a sufficient number 
of children, the mother of his children shall remain with them and 
bring, them up. But if she appears to be too young to live 
virtuously without a husband, let her relations communicate with the 
women who superintend marriage, and let both together do what they 
think best in these matters; if there is a lack of children, let the 
choice be made with a view to having them; two children, one of either 
sex, shall be deemed sufficient in the eye of the law. When a child is 
admitted to be the offspring of certain parents and is acknowledged by 
them, but there is need of a decision as to which parent the child 
is to follow-in case a female slave have intercourse with a male 
slave, or with a freeman or freedman, the offspring shall always 
belong to the master of the female slave. Again, if a free woman 
have intercourse with a male slave, the offspring shall belong to 
the master of the slave; but if a child be born either of a slave by 
her master, or of his mistress by a slave-and this be provence 
offspring of the woman and its father shall be sent away by the 
women who superintend marriage into another country, and the guardians 
of the law shall send away the offspring of the man and its mother. 

Neither God, nor a man who has understanding, will ever advise any 
one to neglect his parents. To a discourse concerning the honour and 
dishonour of parents, a prelude such as the following, about the 
service of the Gods, will be a suitable introduction : -There are 
ancient customs about the Gods which are universal, and they are of 
two kinds: some of the Gods we see with our eyes and we honour them, 
of others we honour the images, raising statues of them which we 
adore; and though they are lifeless, yet we imagine that the living 
Gods have a good will and gratitude to us on this account. Now, if a 
man has a father or mother, or their fathers or mothers treasured up 
in his house stricken in years, let him consider that no statue can be 
more potent to grant his requests than they are, who are sitting at 
his hearth if only he knows how to show true service to them. 

Cle. And what do you call the true mode of service? 

Ath . I will tell you, my friend, for such things are worth 
listening to. 

Cle. Proceed. 

Ath. Oedipus, as tradition says, when dishonoured by his sons, 
invoked on them curses which every one declares to have been heard and 
ratified by the Gods, and Amyntor in his wrath invoked curses on his 
son Phoenix, and Theseus upon Hippolytus, and innumerable others 
have also called down wrath upon their children, whence it is clear 
that the Gods listen to the imprecations of parents; for the curses of 
parents are, as they ought to be, mighty against their children as 
no others are. And shall we suppose that the prayers of a father or 
mother who is specially dishonoured by his or her children, are 
heard by the Gods in accordance with nature; and that if a parent is 
honoured by them, and in the gladness of his heart earnestly 
entreats the Gods in his prayers to do them good, he is not equally 
heard, and that they do not minister to his request? If not, they 
would be very unjust ministers of good, and that we affirm to be 
contrary to their nature. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. May we not think, as I was saying just now, that we can possess 
no image which is more honoured by the Gods, than that of a father 
or grandfather, or of a mother stricken in years? whom when a man 
honours, the heart of the God rejoices, and he is ready to answer 



their prayers. And, truly, the figure of an ancestor is a wonderful 
thing, far higher than that of a lifeless image. For the living, 
when they are honoured by us, join in our prayers, and when they are 
dishonoured, they utter imprecations against us; but lifeless 
objects do neither. And therefore, if a man makes a right use of his 
father and grandfather and other aged relations, he will have images 
which above all others will win him the favour of the Gods. 

Cle. Excellent. 

Ath . Every man of any understanding fears and respects the prayers 
of parents, knowing well that many times and to many persons they have 
been accomplished. Now these things being thus ordered by nature, good 
men think it a blessing from heaven if their parents live to old age 
and reach the utmost limit of human life, or if taken away before 
their time they are deeply regretted by them; but to bad men parents 
are always a cause of terror. Wherefore let every man honour with 
every sort of lawful honour his own parents, agreeably to what has now 
been said. But if this prelude be an unmeaning sound in the cars of 
any one, let the law follow, which may be rightly imposed in these 
terms:-If any one in this city be not sufficiently careful of his 
parents, and do not regard and gratify in every respect their wishes 
more than those of his sons and of his other offspring or of 
himself-let him who experiences this sort of treatment either come 
himself, or send some one to inform the three eldest guardians of 
the law, and three of the women who have the care of marriages; and 
let them look to the matter and punish youthful evil-doers with 
stripes and bonds if they are under thirty years of age, that is to 
say, if they be men, or if they be women, let them undergo the same 
punishment up to forty years of age. But if, when they are still 
more advanced in years, they continue the same neglect of their 
parents, and do any hurt to any of them, let them be brought before 
a court in which every single one of the eldest citizens shall be 
the judges, and if the offender be convicted, let the court 
determine what he ought to pay or suffer, and any penalty may be 
imposed on him which a man can pay or suffer. If the person who has 
been wronged be unable to inform the magistrates, let any freeman 
who hears of his case inform, and if he do not, he shall be deemed 
base, and shall be liable to have a suit for damage brought against 
him by any one who likes. And if a slave inform, he shall receive 
freedom; and if he be the slave of the injurer or injured party, he 
shall be set free by the magistrates, or if he belong to any other 
citizen, the public shall pay a price on his behalf to the owner; 
and let the magistrates take heed that no one wrongs him out of 
revenge, because he has given information. 

Cases in which one man injures another by poisons, and which prove 
fatal, have been already discussed; but about other cases in which a 
person intentionally and of malice harms another with meats, or 
drinks, or ointments, nothing has as yet been determined. For there 
are two kinds of poisons used among men, which cannot clearly be 
distinguished. There is the kind just now explicitly mentioned, 
which injures bodies by the use of other bodies according to a natural 
law; there is also another kind which persuades the more daring 
class that they can do injury by sorceries, and incantations, and 
magic knots, as they are termed, and makes others believe that they 
above all persons are injured by the powers of the magician. Now it is 
not easy to know the nature of all these things; nor if a man do 
know can he readily persuade others to believe him. And when men are 
disturbed in their minds at the sight of waxen images fixed either 
at their doors, or in a place where three ways meet, or on the 
sepulchres of parents, there is no use in trying to persuade them that 
they should despise all such things because they have no certain 
knowledge about them. But we must have a law in two parts, 
concerning poisoning, in whichever of the two ways the attempt is 
made, and we must entreat, and exhort, and advise men not to have 
recourse to such practices, by which they scare the multitude out of 



their wits, as if they were children, compelling the legislator and 
the judge to heal the fears which the sorcerer arouses, and to tell 
them in the first place, that he who attempts to poison or enchant 
others knows not what he is doing, either as regards the body 
(unless he has a knowledge of medicine) , or as regards his 
enchantments (unless he happens to be a prophet or diviner) . Let the 
law, then, run as follows about poisoning or witchcraft : -He who 
employs poison to do any injury, not fatal, to a man himself, or to 
his servants, or any injury, whether fatal or not, to his cattle or 
his bees, if he be a physician, and be convicted of poisoning, shall 
be punished with death; or if he be a private person, the court 
shall determine what he is to pay or suffer. But he who seems to be 
the sort of man injures others by magic knots, or enchantments, or 
incantations, or any of the like practices, if he be a prophet or 
diviner, let him die; and if, not being a prophet, he be convicted 
of witchcraft, as in the previous case, let the court fix what he 
ought to pay or suffer. 

When a man does another any injury by theft or violence, for the 
greater injury let him pay greater damages to the injured man, and 
less for the smaller injury; but in all cases, whatever the injury may 
have been, as much as will compensate the loss. And besides the 
compensation of the wrong, let a man pay a further penalty for the 
chastisement of his offence: he who has done the wrong instigated by 
the folly of another, through the lightheartedness of youth or the 
like, shall pay a lighter penalty; but he who has injured another 
through his own folly, when overcome by pleasure or pain, in 
cowardly fear, or lust, or envy, or implacable anger, shall endure a 
heavier punishment. Not that he is punished because he did wrong, 
for that which is done can never be undone, but in order that in 
future times, he, and those who see him corrected, may utterly hate 
injustice, or at any rate abate much of their evil-doing. Having an 
eye to all these things, the law, like a good archer, should aim at 
the right measure of punishment, and in all cases at the deserved 
punishment. In the attainment of this the judge shall be a 
fellow-worker with the legislator, whenever the law leaves to him to 
determine what the offender shall suffer or pay; and the legislator, 
like a painter, shall give a rough sketch of the cases in which the 
law is to be applied. This is what we must do, Megillus and 
Cleinias, in the best and fairest manner that we can, saying what 
the punishments are to be of all actions of theft and violence, and 
giving laws of such a kind as the Gods and sons of Gods would have 
us give. 

If a man is mad he shall not be at large in the city, but his 
relations shall keep him at home in any way which they can; or if not, 
let them pay a penalty-he who is of the highest class shall pay a 
penalty of one hundred drachmae, whether he be a slave or a freeman 
whom he neglects; and he of the second class shall pay four-fifths 
of a raina; and he of the third class three-fifths; and he of the 
fourth class two-fifths. Now there are many sorts of madness, some 
arising out of disease, which we have already mentioned; and there are 
other kinds, which originate in an evil and passionate temperament, 
and are increased by bad education; out of a slight quarrel this class 
of madmen will often raise a storm of abuse against one another, and 
nothing of that sort ought to be allowed to occur in a well-ordered 
state. Let this, then, be the law about abuse, which shall relate to 
all cases: -No one shall speak evil of another; and when a man disputes 
with another he shall teach and learn of the disputant and the 
company, but he shall abstain from evilspeaking; for out of the 
imprecations which men utter against one another, and the feminine 
habit of casting aspersions on one another, and using foul names, 
out of words light as air, in very deed the greatest enmities and 
hatreds spring up. For the speaker gratifies his anger, which is an 
ungracious element of his nature; and nursing up his wrath by the 
entertainment of evil thoughts, and exacerbating that part of his soul 



which was formerly civilized by education, he lives in a state of 
savageness and moroseness, and pays a bitter penalty for his anger. 
And in such cases almost all men take to saying something ridiculous 
about their opponent, and there is no man who is in the habit of 
laughing at another who does not miss virtue and earnestness 
altogether, or lose the better half of greatness. Wherefore let no one 
utter any taunting word at a temple, or at the public sacrifices, or 
at games, or in the agora, or in a court of justice, or in any 
public assembly. And let the magistrate who presides on these 
occasions chastise an offender, and he shall be blameless; but if he 
fails in doing so, he shall not claim the prize of virtue; for he is 
one who heeds not the laws, and does not do what the legislator 
commands. And if in any other place any one indulges in these sort 
of revilings, whether he has begun the quarrel or is only retaliating, 
let any elder who is present support the law, and control with blows 
those who indulge in passion, which is another great evil; and if he 
do not, let him be liable to pay the appointed penalty. And we say 
now, that he who deals in reproaches against others cannot reproach 
them without attempting to ridicule them; and this, when done in a 
moment of anger, is what we make matter of reproach against him. But 
then, do we admit into our state the comic writers who are so fond 
of making mankind ridiculous, if they attempt in a good-natured manner 
to turn the laugh against our citizens? or do we draw the 
distinction of jest and earnest, and allow a man to make use of 
ridicule in jest and without anger about any thing or person; though 
as we were saying, not if he be angry have a set purpose? We forbid 
earnest-that is unalterably fixed; but we have still to say who are to 
be sanctioned or not to be sanctioned by the law in the employment 
of innocent humour. A comic poet, or maker of iambic or satirical 
lyric verse, shall not be permitted to ridicule any of the citizens, 
either by word or likeness, either in anger or without anger. And if 
any one is disobedient, the judges shall either at once expel him from 
the country, or he shall pay a fine of three minae, which shall be 
dedicated to the God who presides over the contests. Those only who 
have received permission shall be allowed to write verses at one 
another, but they shall be without anger and in jest; in anger and 
in serious earnest they shall not be allowed. The decision of this 
matter shall be left to the superintendent of the general education of 
the young, and whatever he may license, the writer shall be allowed to 
produce, and whatever he rejects let not the poet himself exhibit, 
or ever teach anybody else, slave or freeman, under the penalty of 
being dishonoured, and held disobedient to the laws. 

Now he is not to be pitied who is hungry, or who suffers any 
bodily pain, but he who is temperate, or has some other virtue, or 
part of a virtue, and at the same time suffers from misfortune; it 
would be an extraordinary thing if such an one, whether slave or 
freeman, were utterly forsaken and fell into the extremes of poverty 
in any tolerably well-ordered city or government. Wherefore the 
legislator may safely make a law applicable to such cases in the 
following terms: -Let there be no beggars in our state; and if 
anybody begs, seeking to pick up a livelihood by unavailing prayers, 
let the wardens of the agora turn him out of the agora, and the 
wardens of the city out of the city, and the wardens of the country 
send him out of any other parts of the land across the border, in 
order that the land may be cleared of this sort of animal. 

If a slave of either sex injure anything, which is not his or her 
own, through inexperience, or some improper practice, and the person 
who suffers damage be not himself in part to blame, the master of 
the slave who has done the harm shall either make full satisfaction, 
or give up the the slave who has done has done the injury. But if 
master argue that the charge has arisen by collusion between the 
injured party and the injurer, with the view of obtaining the slave, 
let him sue the person, who says that he has been injured, for 
malpractices. And if he gain a conviction, let him receive double 



the value which the court fixes as the price of the slave; and if he 
lose his suit, let him make amends for the injury, and give up the 
slave. And if a beast of burden, or horse, or dog, or any other 
animal, injure the property of a neighbour, the owner shall in like 
manner pay for the injury. 

If any man refuses to be a witness, he who wants him shall summon 
him, and he who is summoned shall come to the trial; and if he knows 
and is willing to bear witness, let him bear witness, but if he says 
he does not know let him swear by the three divinities Zeus, and 
Apollo, and Themis, that he does not, and have no more to do with 
the cause. And he who is summoned to give witness and does not 
answer to his summoner, shall be liable for the harm which ensues 
according to law. And if a person calls up as a witness any one who is 
acting as a judge, let him give his witness, but he shall not 
afterwards vote in the cause. A free woman may give her witness and 
plead, if she be more than forty years of age, and may bring an action 
if she have no husband; but if her husband be alive she shall only 
be allowed to bear witness. A slave of either sex and a child shall be 
allowed to give evidence and to plead, but only in cases of murder; 
and they must produce sufficient sureties that they will certainly 
remain until the trial, in case they should be charged with false 
witness. And either of the parties in a cause may bring an 
accusation of perjury against witnesses, touching their evidence in 
whole or in part, if he asserts that such evidence has been given; but 
the accusation must be brought previous to the final decision of the 
cause. The magistrates shall preserve the accusations of false 
witness, and have them kept under the seal of both parties, and 
produce them on the day when the trial for false witness takes 
place. If a man be twice convicted of false witness, he shall not be 
required, and if thrice, he shall not be allowed to bear witness; 
and if he dare to witness after he has been convicted three times, let 
any one who pleases inform against him to the magistrates, and let the 
magistrates hand him over to the court, and if he be convicted he 
shall be punished with death. And in any case in which the evidence is 
rightly found to be false, and yet to have given the victory to him 
who wins the suit, and more than half the witnesses are condemned, the 
decision which was gained by these means shall be a discussion and a 
decision as to whether the suit was determined by that false 
evidence or and in whichever way the decision may be given, the 
previous suit shall be determined accordingly. 

There are many noble things in human life, but to most of them 
attach evils which are fated to corrupt and spoil them. Is not justice 
noble, which has been the civilizer of humanity? How then can the 
advocate of justice be other than noble? And yet upon this 
profession which is presented to us under the fair name of art has 
come an evil reputation. In the first place; we are told that by 
ingenious pleas and the help of an advocate the law enables a man to 
win a particular cause, whether just or unjust; and the power of 
speech which is thereby imparted, are at the service of him sho is 
willing to pay for them. Now in our state this so-called art, 
whether really an art or only an experience and practice destitute 
of any art, ought if possible never to come into existence, or if 
existing among us should litten to the request of the legislator and 
go away into another land, and not speak contrary to justice. If the 
offenders obey we say no more; but those who disobey, the voice of the 
law is as follows: -If anyone thinks that he will pervert the power 
of justice in the minds of the judges, and unseasonably litigate or 
advocate, let any one who likes indict him for malpractices of law and 
dishonest advocacy, and let him be judged in the court of select 
judges; and if he be convicted, let the court determine whether he may 
be supposed to act from a love of money or from contentiousness. And 
if he is supposed to act from contentiousness, the court shall fix a 
time during which he shall not be allowed to institute or plead a 
cause; and if he is supposed to act as be does from love of money, 



in case he be a stranger, he shall leave the country, and never return 
under penalty of death; but if he be a citizen, he shall die, 
because he is a lover of money, in whatever manner gained; and 
equally, if he be judged to have acted more than once from 
contentiousness, he shall die. 
BOOK XII 

If a herald or an ambassador carry a false message from our city 
to any other, or bring back a false message from the city to which 
he is sent, or be proved to have brought back, whether from friends or 
enemies, in his capacity of herald or ambassador, what they have never 
said, let him be indicted for having violated, contrary to the law, 
the commands and duties imposed upon him by Hermes and Zeus, and let 
there be a penalty fixed, which he shall suffer or pay if he be 
convicted. 

Theft is a mean, and robbery a shameless thing; and none of the sons 
of Zeus delight in fraud and violence, or ever practised, either. 
Wherefore let no one be deluded by poets or mythologers into a 
mistaken belief of such such things, nor let him suppose, when he 
thieves or is guilty of violence, that he is doing nothing base, but 
only what the Gods themselves do. For such tales are untrue and 
improbable; and he who steals or robs contrary to the law, is never 
either a God or the son of a God; of this the legislator ought to be 
better informed than all the, poets put together. Happy is he and 
may he be forever happy, who is persuaded and listens to our words; 
but he who disobeys shall have to contend against the following 
law: -If a man steal anything belonging to the public, whether that 
which he steals be much or little, he shall have the same 
punishment. For he who steals a little steals with the same wish as he 
who steals much, but with less power, and he who takes up a greater 
amount; not having deposited it, is wholly unjust. Wherefore the law 
is not disposed to inflict a less penalty on the one than on the other 
because his theft, is less, but on the ground that the thief may 
possibly be in one case still curable, and may in another case be 
incurable. If any one convict in a court of law a stranger or a 
slave of a theft of public property, let the court determine what 
punishment he shall suffer, or what penalty he shall pay, bearing in 
mind that he is probably not incurable. But the citizen who has been 
brought up as our citizens will have been, if he be found guilty of 
robbing his country by fraud or violence, whether he be caught in 
the act or not, shall be punished with death; for he is incurable. 

Now for expeditions of war much consideration and many laws are 
required; the great principle of all is that no one of either sex 
should be without a commander; nor should the mind of any one be 
accustomed to do anything, either in jest or earnest, of his own 
motion, but in war and in peace he should look to and follow his 
leader, even in the least things being under his guidance; for 
example, he should stand or move, or exercise, or wash, or take his 
meals, or get up in the night to keep guard and deliver messages 
when he is bidden; and in the hour of danger he should not pursue 
and not retreat except by order of his superior; and in a word, not 
teach the soul or accustom her to know or understand how to do 
anything apart from others. Of all soldiers the life should be 
always and in all things as far as possible in common and together; 
there neither is nor ever will be a higher, or better, or more 
scientific principle than this for the attainment of salvation and 
victory in war. And we ought in time of peace from youth upwards to 
practise this habit of commanding others, and of being commanded by 
others; anarchy should have no place in the life of man or of the 
beasts who are subject to man. I may add that all dances ought to be 
performed with view to military excellence; and agility and ease 
should be cultivated for the same object, and also endurance of the 
want of meats and drinks, and of winter cold and summer heat, and of 
hard couches; and, above all, care should be taken not to destroy 



the peculiar qualities of the head and the feet by surrounding them 
with extraneous coverings, and so hindering their natural growth of 
hair and soles. For these are the extremities, and of all the parts of 
the body, whether they are preserved or not is of the greatest 
consequence; the one is the servant of the whole body, and the other 
the master, in whom all the ruling senses are by nature set. Let the 
young man imagine that he hears in what has preceded the praises of 
the military life; the law shall be as follows: -He shall serve in 
war who is on the roll or appointed to some special service, and if 
any one is absent from cowardice, and without the leave of the 
generals; he shall be indicted before the military commanders for 
failure of service when the army comes home; and the soldiers shall be 
his judges; the heavy armed, and the cavalry, and the other arms of 
the service shall form separate courts; and they shall bring the 
heavy-armed before the heavy-armed, and the horsemen before the 
horsemen, and the others in like manner before their peers; and he who 
is found guilty shall never be allowed to compete for any prize of 
valour, or indict another for not serving on an expedition, or be an 
accuser at all in any military matters. Moreover, the court shall 
further determine what punishment he shall suffer, or what penalty 
he shall pay. When the suits for failure of service are completed, the 
leaders of the several kinds of troops shall again hold an assembly, 
and they shall adjudge the prizes of valour; and he who likes shall 
give judgment in his own branch of the service, saying nothing about 
any former expedition, nor producing any proof or witnesses to confirm 
his statement, but speaking only of the present occasion. The crown of 
victory shall be an olive wreath which the victor shall offer up the 
temple of any war-god whom he likes, adding an inscription for a 
testimony to last during life, that such an one has received the 
first, the second, or prize. If any one goes on an expedition, and 
returns home before the appointed time, when the generals, have not 
withdrawn the army, be shall be indicted for desertion before the same 
persons who took cognisance of failure of service, and if he be 
found guilty, the same punishment shall be inflicted on him. 

Now every man who is engaged in any suit ought to be very careful of 
bringing false witness against any one, either intentionally or 
unintentionally, if he can help; for justice is truly said to be an 
honourable maiden, and falsehood is naturally repugnant to honour 
and justice. A witness ought to be very careful not to sift against 
justice, as for example in what relates to the throwing away of 
arms-he must distinguish the throwing them away when necessary, and 
not make that a reproach, or bring in action against some innocent 
person on that account. To make the distinction maybe difficult; but 
still the law must attempt to define the different kinds in some 
way. Let me endeavour to explain my meaning by an ancient tale: -If 
Patroclus had been brought to the tent still alive but without his 
arms (and this has happened to innumerable persons), the original 
arms, which the poet says were presented to Peleus by the Gods as a 
nuptial gift when he married. Thetis, remaining in the hands of 
Hector, then the base spirits of that day might have reproached the 
son of Menoetius with having cast away his arms. Again, there is the 
case of those who have been thrown down precipices and lost their 
arms; and of those who at sea, and in stormy places, have been 
suddenly overwhelmed by floods of water; and there are numberless 
things of this kind which one might adduce by way of extenuation, 
and with the view of justifying a misfortune which is easily 
misrepresented. We must, therefore, endeavour to divide to the best of 
our power the greater and more serious evil from the lesser. And a 
distinction may be drawn in the use of terms of reproach. A man does 
not always deserve to be called the thrower away of his shield; he may 
be only the loser of his arms. For there is a great or rather absolute 
difference between him who is deprived of his arms by a sufficient 
force, and him who voluntarily lets his shield go. Let the law then be 
as follows: -If a person having arms is overtaken by the enemy and does 



not turn round and defend himself, but lets them go voluntarily or 
throws them away, choosing a base life and a swift escape rather 
than a courageous and noble and blessed death-in such a case of the 
throwing away of arms let justice be done, but the judge need take 
no note of the case just now mentioned; for the bad man ought always 
to be punished, in the hope that he may be improved, but not the 
unfortunate, for there is no advantage in that. And what shall be 
the punishment suited to him who has thrown away his weapons of 
defence? Tradition says that Caeneus, the Thessalian, was changed by a 
God from a woman into a man; but the converse miracle cannot now be 
wrought, or no punishment would be more proper than that the man who 
throws away his shield should be changed into a woman. This however is 
impossible, and therefore let us make a law as nearly like this as 
we can-that he who loves his life too well shall be in no danger for 
the remainder of his days, but shall live for ever under the stigma of 
cowardice. And let the law be in the following terms: -When a man is 
found guilty of disgracefully throwing away his arms in war, no 
general or military officer shall allow him to serve as a soldier, 
or give him any place at all in the ranks of soldiers; and the officer 
who gives the coward any place, shall suffer a penalty which the 
public examiner shall exact of him; and if he be of the highest 
dass, he shall pay a thousand drachmae; or if he be of the second 
class, five rainae; or if he be of the third, three minae; or if he 
be of the fourth class, one mina. And he who is found guilty of 
cowardice, shall not only be dismissed from manly dangers, which is 
a disgrace appropriate to his nature, but he shall pay a thousand 
drachmae, if he be of the highest class, and five minae if he be of 
the second class, and three if he be of the third class, and a mina, 
like the preceding, if he be of the fourth class. 

What regulations will be proper about examiners, seeing that some of 
our magistrates are elected by lot, and for a year, and some for a 
longer time and from selected persons? Of such magistrates, who will 
be a sufficient censor or examiner, if any of them, weighed down by 
the pressure of office or his own inability to support the dignity 
of his office, be guilty of any crooked practice? It is by no means 
easy to find a magistrate who excels other magistrates in virtue, 
but still we must endeavour to discover some censor or examiner who is 
more than man. For the truth is, that there are many elements of 
dissolution in a state, as there are also in a ship, or in an 
animal; they all have their cords, and girders, and sinews-one 
nature diffused in many places, and called by many names; and the 
office of examiner is a most important element in the preservation and 
dissolution of states. For if the examiners are better than the 
magistrates, and their duty is fulfilled justly and without blame, 
then the whole state and country flourishes and is happy; but if the 
examination of the magistrates is carried on in a wrong way, then, 
by the relaxation of that justice which is the uniting principle of 
all constitutions, every power in the state is rent asunder from every 
other; they no longer incline in the same direction, but fill the city 
with faction, and make many cities out of one, and soon bring all to 
destruction. Wherefore the examiners ought to be admirable in every 
sort of virtue. Let us invent a mode of creating them, which shall 
be as follows : -Every year, after the summer solstice, the whole city 
shall meet in the common precincts of Helios and Apollo, and shall 
present to the God three men out of their own number in the manner 
following : -Each citizen shall select, not himself, but some other 
citizen whom he deems in every way the best, and who is not less 
than fifty years of age. And out of the selected persons who have 
the greatest number of votes, they shall make a further selection 
until they reduce them to one-half, if they are an even number; but if 
they are not an even number, they shall subtract the one who has the 
smallest number of votes, and make them an even number, and then leave 
the half which have the great number of votes. And if two persons have 
an equal number of votes, and thus increase the number beyond 



one-half, they shall withdraw the younger of the two and do away 
with the excess; and then including all the rest they shall again 
vote, until there are left three having an unequal number of votes. 
But if all the three, or two out of the three, have equal votes, let 
them commit the election to good fate and fortune, and separate off by 
lot the first, and the second, and the third; these they shall crown 
with an olive wreath and give them the prize of excellence, at the 
same time proclaiming to all the world that the city of the 
Magnetes, by providence of the Gods, is again preserved, and 
presents to the Sun and to Apollo her three best men as 
first-fruits, to be a common offering to them, according to the 
ancient law, as long as their lives answer to the judgment formed of 
them. And these shall appoint in their first year twelve examiners, to 
continue until each has completed seventy-five years, to whom three 
shall afterwards be added yearly; and let these divide all the 
magistracies into twelve parts, and prove the holders of them by every 
sort of test to which a freeman may be subjected; and let them live 
while they hold office in the precinct of Helios and Apollo, in 
which they were chosen, and let each one form a judgment of some 
things individually, and of others in company with his colleagues; and 
let him place a writing in the agora about each magistracy, and what 
the magistrate ought to suffer or pay, according to the decision of 
the examiners. And if a magistrate does not admit that he has been 
justly judged, let him bring the examiners before the select judges, 
and if he be acquitted by their decision, let him, if he will, 
accuse the examiners themselves; if, however, he be convicted, and 
have been condemned to death by the examiners, let him die (and of 
course he can only die once) : -but any other penalties which admit of 
being doubled let him suffer twice over. 

And now let us pass under review the examiners themselves; what will 
their examination be, and how conducted? During the life of these men, 
whom the whole state counts worthy of the rewards of virtue, they 
shall have the first seat at all public assemblies, and at all 
Hellenic sacrifices and sacred missions, and other public and holy 
ceremonies in which they share. The chiefs of each sacred mission 
shall be selected from them, and they only of all the citizens shall 
be adorned with a crown of laurel; they shall all be priests of Apollo 
and Helios; and one of them, who is judged first of the priests 
created in that year, shall be high priest; and they shall write up 
his name in each year to be a measure of time as long as the city 
lasts; and after their death they shall be laid out and carried to the 
grave and entombed in a manner different from the other citizens. They 
shall be decked in a robe all of white, and there shall be no crying 
or lamentation over them; but a chorus of fifteen maidens, and another 
of boys, shall stand around the bier on either side, hymning the 
praises of the departed priests in alternate responses, declaring 
their blessedness in song all day long; and at dawn a hundred of the 
youths who practise gymnastic and whom the relations of the departed 
shall choose, shall carry the bier to the sepulchre, the young men 
marching first, dressed in the garb of warriors-the cavalry with their 
horses, the heavy-armed with their arms, and the others in like 
manner. And boys neat the bier and in front of it shall sing their 
national hymn, and maidens shall follow behind, and with them the 
women who have passed the age of childbearing; next, although they are 
interdicted from other burials, let priests and priestesses follow, 
unless the Pythian oracle forbid them; for this burial is free from 
pollution. The place of burial shall be an oblong vaulted chamber 
underground, constructed of tufa, which will last for ever, having 
stone couches placed side by side. And here they will lay the 
blessed person, and cover the sepulchre with a circular mound of earth 
and plant a grove of trees around on every side but one; and on that 
side the sepulchre shall be allowed to extend for ever, and a new 
mound will not be required. Every year they shall have contests in 
music and gymnastics, and in horsemanship, in honour of the dead. 



These are the honours which shall be given to those who at the 
examination are found blameless; but if any of them, trusting to the 
scrutiny being over, should, after the judgment has been given, 
manifest the wickedness of human nature, let the law ordain that he 
who pleases shall indict him, and let the cause be tried in the 
following manner. In the first place, the court shall be composed of 
the guardians of the law, and to them the surviving examiners shall be 
added, as well as the court of select judges; and let the pursuer 
lay his indictment in this form-he shall say that so-and-so is 
unworthy of the prize of virtue and of his office; and if the 
defendant be convicted let him be deprived of his office, and of the 
burial, and of the other honours given him. But if the prosecutor do 
not obtain the fifth part of the votes, let him, if he be of the first 
dass, pay twelve minae, and eight if he be of the second class, and 
six if he be of the third dass, and two minae if he be of the fourth 
class . 

The so-called decision of Rhadamanthus is worthy of all 
admiration. He knew that the men of his own time believed and had no 
doubt that there were Gods, which was a reasonable belief in those 
days, because most men were the sons of Gods, and according to 
tradition he was one himself. He appears to have thought that he ought 
to commit judgment to no man, but to the Gods only, and in this way 
suits were simply and speedily decided by him. For he made the two 
parties take an oath respecting the points in dispute, and so got 
rid of the matter speedily and safely. But now that a certain 
portion of mankind do not believe at all in the existence of the Gods, 
and others imagine that they have no care of us, and the opinion of 
most men, and of the men, is that in return for small sacrifice and 
a few flattering words they will be their accomplices in purloining 
large sums and save them from many terrible punishments, the way of 
Rhadamanthus is no longer suited to the needs of justice; for as the 
needs of men about the Gods are changed, the laws should also be 
changed; -in the granting of suits a rational legislation ought to do 
away with the oaths of the parties on either side-he who obtains leave 
to bring an action should write, down the charges, but should not 
add an oath; and the defendant in like manner should give his denial 
to the magistrates in writing, and not swear; for it is a dreadful 
thing to know, when many lawsuits are going on in a state that 
almost half the people who meet one another quite unconcernedly at the 
public meals and in other companies and relations of private life 
are perjured. Let the law, then, be as follows: -A judge who is about 
to give judgment shall take an oath, and he who is choosing 
magistrates for the state shall either vote on oath or with a voting 
tablet which he brings from a temple; so too the judge of dances and 
of all music, and the superintendents and umpires of gymnastic and 
equestrian contests, and any matters in which, as far as men can 
judge, there is nothing to be gained by a false oath; but all cases in 
which a denial confirmed by an oath clearly results in a great 
advantage to the taker of the oath, shall be decided without the 
oath of the parties to the suit, and the presiding judges shall not 
permit either of them, to use an oath for the sake of persuading, 
nor to call down curses on himself and his race, nor to use unseemly 
supplications or womanish laments. But they shall ever be teaching and 
learning what is just in auspicious words; and he who does otherwise 
shall be supposed to speak beside the point, and the judges shall 
again bring him back to the question at issue. On the other hand, 
strangers in their dealings with strangers shall as at present have 
power to give and receive oaths, for they will not often grow old in 
the city or leave a fry of young ones like themselves to be the sons 
and heirs of the land. 

As to the initiation of private suits, let the manner of deciding 
causes between all citizens be the same as in cases in which any 
freeman is disobedient to the state in minor matters, of which the 
penalty is not stripes, imprisonment, or death. But as regards 



attendance at choruses or processions or other shows, and as regards 
public services, whether the celebration of sacrifice in peace, or the 
payment of contributions in war-in all these cases, first comes the 
necessity of providing remedy for the loss; and by those who will 
not obey, there shall be security given to the officers whom the 
city and the law empower to exact the sum due; and if they forfeit 
their security, let the goods which they have pledged be, and the 
money given to the city; but if they ought to pay a larger sum, the 
several magistrates shall impose upon the disobedient a suitable 
penalty, and bring them before the court, until they are willing to do 
what they are ordered. 

Now a state which makes money from the cultivation of the soil only, 
and has no foreign trade, must consider what it will do about the 
emigration of its own people to other countries, and the reception 
of strangers from elsewhere. About these matters the legislator has to 
consider, and he will begin by trying to persuade men as far as he 
can. The intercourse of cities with one another is apt to create a 
confusion of manners; strangers, are always suggesting novelties to 
strangers. When states are well governed by good laws the mixture 
causes the greatest possible injury; but seeing that most cities are 
the reverse of well-ordered, the confusion which arises in them from 
the reception of strangers, and from the citizens themselves rushing 
off into other cities, when any one either young or old desires to 
travel anywhere abroad at whatever time, is of no consequence. On 
the other hand, the refusal of states to receive others, and for their 
own citizens never to go to other places, is an utter impossibility, 
and to the rest of the world is likely to appear ruthless and 
uncivilized; it is a practise adopted by people who use harsh words, 
such as xenelasia or banishment of strangers, and who have harsh and 
morose ways, as men think. And to be thought or not to be thought well 
of by the rest of the world is no light matter; for the many are not 
so far wrong in their judgment of who are bad and who are good, as 
they are removed from the nature of virtue in themselves. Even bad men 
have a divine instinct which guesses rightly, and very many who are 
utterly depraved form correct notions and judgments of the differences 
between the good and bad. And the generality of cities are quite right 
in exhorting us to value a good reputation in the world, for there 
is no truth greater and more important than this-that he who is really 
good (I am speaking of the man who would be perfect) seeks for 
reputation with, but not without, the reality of goodness. And our 
Cretan colony ought also to acquire the fairest and noblest reputation 
for virtue from other men; and there is every reason to expect that, 
if the reality answers to the idea, she will before of the few 
well-ordered cities which the sun and the other Gods behold. 
Wherefore, in the matter of journeys to other countries and the 
reception of strangers, we enact as follows: -In the first place, let 
no one be allowed to go anywhere at all into a foreign country who 
is less than forty years of age; and no one shall go in a private 
capacity, but only in some public one, as a herald, or on an 
embassy; or on a sacred mission. Going abroad on an expedition or in 
war, not to be included among travels of the class authorized by the 
state. To Apollo at Delphi and to Zeus at Olympia and to Nemea and 
to the Isthmus, -citizens should be sent to take part in the sacrifices 
and games there dedicated to the Gods; and they should send as many as 
possible, and the best and fairest that can be found, and they will 
make the city renowned at holy meetings in time of peace, procuring 
a glory which shall be the converse of that which is gained in war; 
and when they come home they shall teach the young that the 
institutions of other states are inferior to their own. And they shall 
send spectators of another sort, if they have the consent of the 
guardians, being such citizens as desire to look a little more at 
leisure at the doings of other men; and these no law shall hinder. For 
a city which has no experience of good and bad men or intercourse with 
them, can never be thoroughly, and perfectly civilized, nor, again, 



can the citizens of a city properly observe the laws by habit only, 
and without an intelligent understanding of them. And there always are 
in the world a few inspired men whose acquaintance is beyond price, 
and who spring up quite as much in ill-ordered as in well-ordered 
cities. These are they whom the citizens of a well ordered city should 
be ever seeking out, going forth over sea and over land to find him 
who is incorruptible-that he may establish more firmly institutions in 
his own state which are good already; and amend what is deficient; for 
without this examination and enquiry a city will never continue 
perfect any more than if the examination is ill-conducted. 

Cleinias . How can we have an examination and also a good one? 

Athenian Stranger. In this way: In the first place, our spectator 
shall be of not less than fifty years of age; he must be a man of 
reputation, especially in war, if he is to exhibit to other cities a 
model of the guardians of the law, but when he is more than sixty 
years of age he shall no longer continue in his office of spectator, 
And when he has carried on his inspection during as many out of the 
ten years of his office as he pleases, on his return home let him go 
to the assembly of those who review the laws. This shall be a mixed 
body of young and old men, who shall be required to meet daily between 
the hour of dawn and the rising of the sun. They shall consist, in the 
first place, of the priests who have obtained the rewards of virtue; 
and in the second place, of guardians of the law, the ten eldest being 
chosen; the general superintendent of education shall also be 
member, as well the last appointed as those who have been released 
from the office; and each of them shall take with him as his companion 
young man, whomsoever he chooses, between the ages of thirty and 
forty. These shall be always holding conversation and discourse 
about the laws of their own city or about any specially good ones 
which they may hear to be existing elsewhere; also about kinds of 
knowledge which may appear to be of use and will throw light upon 
the examination, or of which the want will make the subject of laws 
dark and uncertain to them. Any knowledge of this sort which the 
elders approve, the younger men shall learn with all diligence; and if 
any one of those who have been invited appear to be unworthy, the 
whole assembly shall blame him who invited him. The rest of the city 
shall watch over those among the young men who distinguish themselves, 
having an eye upon them, and especially honouring them if they 
succeed, but dishonouring them above the rest if they turn out to be 
inferior. This is the assembly to which he who has visited the 
institutions of other men, on his return home shall straightway go, 
and if he have discovered any one who has anything to say about the 
enactment of laws or education or nurture, or if he have himself 
made any observations, let him communicate his discoveries to the 
whole assembly. And if he be seen to have come home neither better nor 
worse, let him be praised at any rate for his enthusiasm; and if he be 
much better, let him be praised so much the more; and not only while 
he lives but after his death let the assembly honour him with 
fitting honours. But if on his return home he appear to have been 
corrupted, pretending to be wise when he is not, let him hold no 
communication with any one, whether young or old; and if he will 
hearken to the rulers, then he shall be permitted to live as a private 
individual; but if he will not, let him die, if he be convicted in a 
court of law of interfering about education and the laws, And if he 
deserve to be indicted, and none of the magistrates indict him, let 
that be counted as a disgrace to them when the rewards of virtue are 
decided. 

Let such be the character of the person who goes abroad, and let him 
go abroad under these conditions. In the next place, the stranger 
who comes from abroad should be received in a friendly spirit. Now 
there are four kinds of strangers, of whom we must make some 
mention-the first is he who comes and stays throughout the summer; 
this class are like birds of passage, taking wing in pursuit of 
commerce, and flying over the sea to other cities, while the season 



lasts; he shall be received in market-places and harbours and public 
buildings, near the city but outside, by those magistrates who are 
appointed to superintend these matters; and they shall take care 
that a stranger, whoever he be, duly receives justice; but he shall 
not be allowed to make any innovation. They shall hold the intercourse 
with him which is necessary, and this shall be as little as 
possible. The second kind is just a spectator who comes to see with 
his eyes and hear with his ears the festivals of the Muses; such ought 
to have entertainment provided them at the temples by hospitable 
persons, and the priests and ministers of the temples should see and 
attend to them. But they should not remain more than a reasonable 
time; let them see and hear that for the sake of which they came, 
and then go away, neither having suffered nor done any harm. The 
priests shall be their judges, if any of them receive or do any 
wrong up to the sum of fifty drachmae, but if any greater charge be 
brought, in such cases the suit shall come before the wardens of the 
agora. The third kind of stranger is he who comes on some public 
business from another land, and is to be received with public honours. 
He is to be received only by the generals and commanders of horse 
and foot, and the host by whom he is entertained, in conjunction 
with the Prytanes, shall have the sole charge of what concerns him. 
There is a fourth dass of persons answering to our spectators, who 
come from another land to look at ours. In the first place, such 
visits will be rare, and the visitor should be at least fifty years of 
age; he may possibly be wanting to see something that is rich and rare 
in other states, or himself to show something in like manner to 
another city. Let such an one, then, go unbidden to the doors of the 
wise and rich, being one of them himself: let him go, for example, 
to the house of the superintendent of education, confident that he 
is a fitting guest of such a host, or let him go to the house of 
some of those who have gained the prize of virtue and hold discourse 
with them, both learning from them, and also teaching them; and when 
he has seen and heard all, he shall depart, as a friend taking leave 
of friends, and be honoured by them with gifts and suitable tributes 
of respect. These are the customs, according to which our city 
should receive all strangers of either sex who come from other 
countries, and should send forth her own citizens, showing respect 
to Zeus, the God of hospitality, not forbidding strangers at meals and 
sacrifices, as is the manner which prevails among the children of 
the Nile, nor driving them away by savage proclamations. 

When a man becomes surety, let him give the security in a distinct 
form, acknowledging the whole transaction in a written document, and 
in the presence of not less than three witnesses if the sum be under a 
thousand drachmae, and of not less than five witnesses if the sum be 
above a thousand drachmae. The agent of a dishonest or untrustworthy 
seller shall himself be responsible; both the agent and the 
principal shall be equally liable. If a person wishes to find anything 
in the house of another, he shall enter naked, or wearing only a short 
tunic and without a girdle, having first taken an oath by the 
customary Gods that he expects to find it there; he shall then make 
his search, and the other shall throw open his house and allow him 
to search things both sealed and unsealed. And if a person will not 
allow the searcher to make his search, he who is prevented shall go to 
law with him, estimating the value of the goods after which he is 
searching, and if the other be convicted he shall pay twice the 
value of the article. If the master be absent from home, the 
dwellers in the house shall let him search the unsealed property, 
and on the sealed property the searcher shall set another seal, and 
shall appoint any one whom he likes to guard them during five days; 
and if the master of the house be absent during a longer time, he 
shall take with him the wardens of the city, and so make his search, 
opening the sealed property as well as the unsealed, and then, 
together with the members of the family and the wardens of the city, 
he shall seal them up again as they were before. There shall be a 



limit of time in the case of disputed things, and he who has had 
possession of them during a certain time shall no longer be liable 
to be disturbed. As to houses and lands there can be no dispute in 
this state of ours; but if a man has any other possessions which he 
has used and openly shown in the city and in the agora and in the 
temples, and no one has put in a claim to them, and some one says that 
he was looking for them during this time, and the possessor is 
proved to have made no concealment, if they have continued for a year, 
the one having the goods and the other looking for them, the claim 
of the seeker shall not be allowed after the expiration of the year; 
or if he does not use or show the lost property in the market or in 
the city, but only in the country, and no one offers himself as the 
owner during five years, at the expiration of the five years the claim 
shall be barred for ever after; or if he uses them in the city but 
within the house, then the appointed time of claiming the goods 
shall be three years, or ten years if he has them in the country in 
private. And if he has them in another land, there shall be no limit 
of time or prescription, but whenever the owner finds them he may 
claim them. 

If any one prevents another by force from being present at a 
trial, whether a principal party or his witnesses; if the person 
prevented be a slave, whether his own or belonging to another, the 
suit shall be incomplete and invalid; but if he who is prevented be 
a freeman, besides the suit being incomplete, the other who has 
prevented him shall be imprisoned for a year, and shall be 
prosecuted for kidnapping by any one who pleases. And if any one 
hinders by force a rival competitor in gymnastic or music, or any 
other sort of contest, from being present at the contest, let him 
who has a mind inform the presiding judges, and they shall liberate 
him who is desirous of competing; and if they are not able, and he who 
hinders the other from competing wins the prize, then they shall 
give the prize of victory to him who is prevented, and inscribe him as 
the conqueror in any temples which he pleases; and he who hinders 
the other shall not be permitted to make any offering or inscription 
having reference to that contest, and in any case he shall be liable 
for damages, whether he be defeated or whether he conquer. 

If any one knowingly receives anything which has been stolen, he 
shall undergo the same punishment as the thief, and if a man 
receives an exile he shall be punished with death. Every man should 
regard the friend and enemy of the state as his own friend and 
enemy; and if any one makes peace or war with another on his own 
account, and without the authority of the state, he, like the receiver 
of the exile, shall undergo the penalty of death. And if any 
fraction of the City declare war or peace against any, the generals 
shall indict the authors of this proceeding, and if they are convicted 
death shall be the penalty. Those who serve their country ought to 
serve without receiving gifts, and there ought to be no excusing or 
approving the saying, "Men should receive gifts as the reward of good, 
but not of evil deeds"; for to know which we are doing, and to stand 
fast by our knowledge, is no easy matter. The safest course is to obey 
the law which says, "Do no service for a bribe," and let him who 
disobeys, if he be convicted, simply die. With a view to taxation, for 
various reasons, every man ought to have had his property valued: 
and the tribesmen should likewise bring a register of the yearly 
produce to the wardens of the country, that in this way there may be 
two valuations; and the public officers may use annuary whichever on 
consideration they deem the best, whether they prefer to take a 
certain portion of the whole value, or of the annual revenue, after 
subtracting what is paid to the common tables. 

Touching offerings to the Gods, a moderate man should observe 
moderation in what he offers. Now the land and the hearth of the house 
of all men is sacred to all Gods; wherefore let no man dedicate them a 
second time to the Gods. Gold and silver, whether possessed by private 
persons or in temples, are in other cities provocative of envy, and 



ivory, the product of a dead body, is not a proper offering; brass and 
iron, again, are instruments of war; but of wood let a man bring 
what offerings he likes, provided it be a single block, and in like 
manner of stone, to the public temples; of woven work let him not 
offer more than one woman can execute in a month. White is a colour 
suitable to the Gods, especially in woven works, but dyes should 
only be used for the adornments of war. The most divine of gifts are 
birds and images, and they should be such as one painter can execute 
in a single day. And let all other offerings follow a similar rule. 
Now that the whole city has been divided into parts of which the 
nature and number have been described, and laws have been given 
about all the most important contracts as far as this was possible, 
the next thing will be to have justice done. The first of the courts 
shall consist of elected judges, who shall be chosen by the 
plaintiff and the defendant in common: these shall be called 
arbiters rather than judges. And in the second court there shall be 
judges of the villages and tribes corresponding to the twelvefold 
division of the land, and before these the litigants shall go to 
contend for greater damages, if the suit be not decided before the 
first judges; the defendant, if he be defeated the second time, 
shall pay a fifth more than the damages mentioned in the indictment; 
and if he find fault with his judges and would try a third time, let 
him carry the suit before the select judges, and if he be again 
defeated, let him pay the whole of the damages and half as much again. 
And the plaintiff, if when defeated before the first judges he persist 
in going on to the second, shall if he wins receive in addition to the 
damages a fifth part more, and if defeated he shall pay a like sum; 
but if he is not satisfied with the previous decision, and will insist 
on proceeding to a third court, then if he win he shall receive from 
the defendant the amount of the damages and, as I said before, half as 
much again, and the plaintiff, if he lose, shall pay half of the 
damages claimed, Now the assignment by lot of judges to courts and the 
completion of the number of them, and the appointment of servants to 
the different magistrates, and the times at which the several causes 
should be heard, and the votings and delays, and all the things that 
necessarily concern suits, and the order of causes, and the time in 
which answers have to be put in and parties are to appear-of these and 
other things akin to these we have indeed already spoken, but there is 
no harm in repeating what is right twice or thrice: -All lesser and 
easier matters which the elder legislator has omitted may be 
supplied by the younger one. Private courts will be sufficiently 
regulated in this way, and the public and state courts, and those 
which the magistrates must use in the administration of their 
several offices, exist in many other states. Many very respectable 
institutions of this sort have been framed by good men, and from 
them the guardians of the law may by reflection derive what is 
necessary, for the order of our new state, considering and 
correcting them, and bringing them to the test of experience, until 
every detail appears to be satisfactorily determined; and then putting 
the final seal upon them, and making them irreversible, they shall use 
them for ever afterwards. As to what relates to the silence of 
judges and the abstinence from words of evil omen and the reverse, and 
the different notions of the just and good and honourable which 
exist in our: own as compared with other states, they have been partly 
mentioned already, and another part of them will be mentioned 
hereafter as we draw near the end. To all these matters he who would 
be an equal judge, shall justly look, and he shall possess writings 
about them that he may learn them. For of all kinds of knowledge the 
knowledge of good laws has the greatest power of improving the 
learner; otherwise there would be no meaning the divine and 
admirable law possessing a name akin to mind (nous, nomos) . And of all 
other words, such as the praises and censures of individuals which 
occur in poetry and also in prose, whether written down or uttered 
in daily conversation, whether men dispute about them in the spirit of 



contention or weakly assent to them, as is often the case-of all these 
the one sure test is the writings of the legislator, which the 
righteous judge ought to have in his mind as the antidote of all other 
words, and thus make himself and the city stand upright, procuring for 
the good the continuance and increase of justice, and for the bad, 
on the other hand, a conversion from ignorance and intemperance, and 
in general from all unrighteousness, as far as their evil minds can be 
healed, but to those whose web of life is in reality finished, 
giving death, which is the only remedy for souls in their condition, 
as I may say truly again and again. And such judges and chiefs of 
judges will be worthy of receiving praise from the whole city. 

When the suits of the year are completed the following laws shall 
regulate their execution : -In the first place, the judge shall assign 
to the party who wins the suit the whole property of him who loses, 
with the exception of mere necessaries, and the assignment shall be 
made through the herald immediately after each decision in the hearing 
of the judges; and when the month arrives following the month in which 
the courts are sitting (unless the gainer of the suit has been 
previously satisfied) , the court shall follow up the case, and hand 
over to the winner the goods of the loser; but if they find that he 
has not the means of paying, and the sum deficient is not less than 
a drachma, the insolvent person shall not have any right of going to 
law with any other man until he have satisfied the debt of the winning 
party; but other persons shall still have the right of bringing 
suits against him. And if any one after he is condemned refuses to 
acknowledge the authority which condemned him, let the magistrates who 
are thus deprived of their authority bring him before the court of the 
guardians of the law, and if he be cast, let him be punished with 
death, as a subverter of the whole state and of the laws. 

Thus a man is born and brought up, and after this manner he begets 
and brings up his own children, and has his share of dealings with 
other men, and suffers if he has done wrong to any one, and receives 
satisfaction if he has been wronged, and so at length in due time he 
grows old under the protection of the laws, and his end comes in the 
order of nature. Concerning the dead of either sex, the religious 
ceremonies which may fittingly be performed, whether appertaining to 
the Gods of the underworld or of this, shall be decided by the 
interpreters with absolute authority. Their sepulchres are not to be 
in places which are fit for cultivation, and there shall be no 
monuments in such spots, either large or small, but they shall 
occupy that part of the country which is naturally adapted for 
receiving and concealing the bodies of the dead with as little hurt as 
possible to the living. No man, living or dead, shall deprive the 
living of the sustenance which the earth, their foster-parent, is 
naturally inclined to provide for them. And let not the mound be piled 
higher than would be the work of five men completed in five days; 
nor shall the stone which is placed over the spot be larger than would 
be sufficient to receive the praises of the dead included in four 
heroic lines. Nor shall the laying out of the dead in the house 
continue for a longer time than is sufficient to distinguish between 
him who is in a trance only and him who is really dead, and speaking 
generally, the third day after death will be a fair time for 
carrying out the body to the sepulchre. Now we must believe the 
legislator when he tells us that the soul is in all respects 
superior to the body, and that even in life what makes each one us 
to be what we are is only the soul; and that the body follows us about 
in the likeness of each of us, and therefore, when we are dead, the 
bodies of the dead are quite rightly said to be our shades or 
images; for the true and immortal being of each one of us which is 
called the soul goes on her way to other Gods, before them to give 
an account-which is an inspiring hope to the good, but very terrible 
to the bad, as the laws of our fathers tell us; and they also say 
that not much can be done in the way of helping a man after he is 
dead. But the living-he should be helped by all his kindred, that 



while in life he may be the holiest and justest of men, and after 
death may have no great sins to be punished in the world below. If 
this be true, a man ought not to waste his substance under the idea 
that all this lifeless mass of flesh which is in process of burial 
is connected with him; he should consider that the son, or brother, or 
the beloved one, whoever he may be, whom he thinks he is laying in the 
earth, has gone away to complete and fulfil his own destiny, and 
that his duty is rightly to order the present, and to spend moderately 
on the lifeless altar of the Gods below. But the legislator does not 
intend moderation to be take, in the sense of meanness. Let the law, 
then, be as follows: -The expenditure on the entire funeral of him 
who is of the highest class shall not exceed five minae; and for him 
who is of the second class, three minae, and for him who is of the 
third class, two minae, and for him, who is of the fourth class, one 
mina, will be a fair limit of expense. The guardians of the law 
ought to take especial care of the different ages of life, whether 
childhood, or manhood, or any other age. And at the end of all, let 
there be some one guardian of the law presiding, who shall be chosen 
by the friends of the deceased to superintend, and let it be glory 
to him to manage with fairness and moderation what relates to the 
dead, and a discredit to him if they are not well managed. Let the 
laying out and other ceremonies be in accordance with custom, but to 
the statesman who adopts custom as his law we must give way in certain 
particulars. It would be monstrous for example that he should 
command any man to weep or abstain from weeping over the dead; but 
he may forbid cries of lamentation, and not allow the voice of the 
mourner to be heard outside the house; also, he may forbid the 
bringing of the dead body into the open streets, or the processions of 
mourners in the streets, and may require that before daybreak they 
should be outside the city. Let these, then, be our laws relating to 
such matters, and let him who obeys be free from penalty; but he who 
disobeys even a single guardian of the law shall be punished by them 
all with a fitting penalty. Other modes of burial, or again the denial 
of burial, which is to be refused in the case of robbers of temples 
and parricides and the like, have been devised and are embodied in the 
preceding laws, so that now our work of legislation is pretty nearly 
at an end; but in all cases the end does not consist in doing 
something or acquiring something or establishing something-the end 
will be attained and finally accomplished, when we have provided for 
the perfect and lasting continuance of our institutions until then our 
creation is incomplete. 

Cle. That is very good Stranger; but I wish you would tell me more 
clearly what you mean. 

Ath . Cleinias, many things of old time were well said and sung; 
and the saying about the Fates was one of them. 

Cle. What is it? 

Ath. The saying that Lachesis or the giver of the lots is the 
first of them, and that Clotho or the spinster is the second of 
them, and that Atropos or the unchanging one is the third of them; and 
that she is the preserver of the things which we have spoken, and 
which have been compared in a figure to things woven by fire, they 
both (i.e., Atropos and the fire) producing the quality of 
unchangeableness . I am speaking of the things which in a state and 
government give not only health and salvation to the body, but law, or 
rather preservation of the law, in the soul; and, if I am not 
mistaken, this seems to be still wanting in our laws: we have still to 
see how we can implant in them this irreversible nature. 

Cle. It will be no small matter if we can only discover how such a 
nature can be implanted in anything. 

Ath. But it certainly can be; so much I clearly see. 

Cle. Then let us not think of desisting until we have imparted 
this quality to our laws; for it is ridiculous, after a great deal 
of labour has been spent, to place a thing at last on an insecure 
foundation . 



Megillus. I approve of your suggestion, and am quite of the same 
mind with you. 

Cle. Very good: And now what, according to you, is to be the 
salvation of our government and of our laws, and how is it to be 
effected? 

Ath . Were we not saying that there must be in our city a council 
which was to be of this sort: -The ten oldest guardians of the law, and 
all those who have obtained prizes of virtue, were to meet in the same 
assembly, and the council was also to include those who had visited 
foreign countries in the hope of hearing something that might be of 
use in the preservation of the laws, and who, having come safely home, 
and having been tested in these same matters, had proved themselves to 
be worthy to take part in the assembly; -each of the members was to 
select some young man of not less than thirty years of age, he himself 
judging in the, first instance whether the young man was worthy by 
nature and education, and then suggesting him to the others, and if he 
seemed to them also to be worthy they were to adopt him; but if not, 
the decision at which they arrived was to be kept a secret from the 
citizens at large; and, more especially, from the rejected 
candidate. The meeting of the council was to be held early in the 
morning, when everybody was most at leisure from all other business, 
whether public or private-was not something of this sort said by us 
before? 

Cle. True. 

Ath. Then, returning to the council, I would say further, that if we 
let it down to be the anchor of the state, our city, having everything 
which is suitable to her, will preserve all that we wish to preserve. 

Cle. What do you mean? 

Ath. Now is the time for me to speak the truth in all earnestness. 

Cle. Well said, and I hope that you will fulfil your intention. 

Ath. Know, Cleinias, that everything, in all that it does, has a 
natural saviour, as of an animal the soul and the head are the chief 
saviours . 

Cle. Once more, what do you mean? 

Ath. The well-being of those two is obviously the preservation of 
every living thing. 

Cle. How is that? 

Ath. The soul, besides other things, contains mind, and the head, 
besides other things, contains sight and hearing; and the mind, 
mingling with the noblest of the senses, and becoming one with them, 
may be truly called the salvation of all. 

Cle. Yes, Quite so. 

Ath. Yes, indeed; but with what is that intellect concerned which, 
mingling with the senses, is the salvation of ships in storms as 
well as in fair weather? In a ship, when the pilot and the sailors 
unite their perceptions with the piloting mind, do they not save 
both themselves and their craft? 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. We do not want many illustrations about such matters : -What 
aim would the general of an army, or what aim would a physician 
propose to himself, if he were seeking to attain salvation? 

Cle. Very good. 

Ath. Does not the general aim at victory and superiority in war, and 
do not the physician and his assistants aim at producing health in the 
body? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. And a physician who is ignorant about the body, that is to say, 
who knows not that which we just now called health, or a general who 
knows not victory, or any others who are ignorant of the particulars 
of the arts which we mentioned, cannot be said to have understanding 
about any of these matters. 

Cle. They cannot. 

Ath. And what would you say of the state? If a person proves to be 
ignorant of the aim to which the statesman should look, ought he, in 



the first place, to be called a ruler at all; further, will he ever be 
able to preserve that of which he does not even know the aim? 

Cle. Impossible. 

Ath . And therefore, if our settlement of the country is to be 
perfect, we ought to have some institution, which, as I was saying, 
will tell what is the aim of the state, and will inform us how we 
are to attain this, and what law or what man will advise us to that 
end. Any state which has no such institution is likely to be devoid of 
mind and sense, and in all her actions will proceed by mere chance. 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. In which, then, of the parts or institutions of the state is 
any such guardian power to be found? Can we say? 

Cle. I am not quite certain, Stranger; but I have a suspicion that 
you are referring to the assembly which you just now said was to 
meet at night. 

Ath. You understand me perfectly, Cleinias; and we must assume, as 
the argument iniplies, that this council possesses all virtue; and the 
beginning of virtue is not to make mistakes by guessing many things, 
but to look steadily at one thing, and on this to fix all our aims. 

Cle. Quite true. 

Ath. Then now we shall see why there is nothing wonderful in 
states going astray-the reason is that their legislators have such 
different aims; nor is there anything wonderful in some laying down as 
their rule of justice, that certain individuals should bear rule in 
the state, whether they be good or bad, and others that the citizens 
should be rich, not caring whether they are the slaves of other men or 
not. The tendency of others, again, is towards freedom; and some 
legislate with a view to two things at once-they want to be at the 
same time free and the lords of other states; but the wisest men, as 
they deem themselves to be, look to all these and similar aims, and 
there is no one of them which they exclusively honour, and to which 
they would have all things look. 

Cle. Then, Stranger, our former assertion will hold, for we were 
saying that laws generally should look to one thing only; and this, as 
we admitted, was rightly said to be virtue. 

Ath. Yes. 

Cle. And we said that virtue was of four kinds? 

Ath. Quite true. 

Cle. And that mind was the leader of the four, and that to her the 
three other virtues and all other things ought to have regard? 

Ath. You follow me capitally, Cleinias, and I would ask you to 
follow me to the end, for we have already said that the mind of the 
pilot, the mind of the physician and of the general look to that one 
thing to which they ought to look; and now we may turn to mind 
political, of which, as of a human creature, we will ask a question : -0 
wonderful being, and to what are you looking? The physician is able to 
tell his single aim in life, but you, the superior, as you declare 
yourself to be, of all intelligent beings, when you are asked are 
not able to tell. Can you, Megillus, and you, Cleinias, say distinctly 
what is the aim of mind political, in return for the many explanations 
of things which I have given you? 

Cle. We cannot, Stranger. 

Ath. Well, but ought we not to desire to see it, and to see where 
it is to be found? 

Cle. For example, where? 

Ath. For example, we were saying that there are four kinds of 
virtue, and as there are four of them, each of them must be one. 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. And further, all four of them we call one; for we say that 
courage is virtue, and that prudence is virtue, and the same of the 
two others, as if they were in reality not many but one, that is, 
virtue . 

Cle. Quite so. 

Ath. There is no difficulty in seeing in what way the two differ 



from one another, and have received two names, and so of the rest. But 
there is more difficulty in explaining why we call these two and the 
rest of them by the single name of virtue. 

Cle. How do you mean? 

Ath . I have no difficulty in explaining what I mean. Let us 
distribute the subject questions and answers. 

Cle. Once more, what do you mean? 

Ath. Ask me what is that one thing which call virtue, and then again 
speak of as two, one part being courage and the other wisdom. I will 
tell you how that occurs: -One of them has to do with fear; in this the 
beasts also participate, and quite young children-I mean courage; 
for a courageous temper is a gift of nature and not of reason. But 
without reason there never has been, or is, or will be a wise and 
understanding soul; it is of a different nature. 

Cle. That is true. 

Ath. I have now told you in what way the two are different, and do 
you in return tell me in what way they are one and the same. Suppose 
that I ask you in what way the four are one, and when you have 
answered me, you will have a right to ask of me in return in what 
way they are four; and then let us proceed to enquire whether in the 
case of things which have a name and also a definition to them, true 
knowledge consists in knowing the name only and not the definition. 
Can he who is good for anything be ignorant of all this without 
discredit where great and glorious truths are concerned? 

Cle. I suppose not. 

Ath. And is there anything greater to the legislator and the 
guardian of the law, and to him who thinks that he excels all other 
men in virtue, and has won the palm of excellence, that these very 
qualities of which we are now speaking-courage, temperance, wisdom, 
justice? 

Cle. How can there be anything greater? 

Ath. And ought not the interpreters, the teachers the lawgivers, the 
guardians of the other citizens, to excel the rest of mankind, and 
perfectly to show him who desires to learn and know or whose evil 
actions require to be punished and reproved, what is the nature of 
virtue and vice? Or shall some poet who has found his way into the 
city, or some chance person who pretends to be an instructor of youth, 
show himself to be better than him who has won the prize for every 
virtue? And can we wonder that when the guardians are not adequate 
in speech or action, and have no adequate knowledge of virtue, the 
city being unguarded should experience the common fate of cities in 
our day? 

Cle. Wonder! no. 

Ath. Well, then, must we do as we said? Or can we give our guardians 
a more precise knowledge of virtue in speech and action than the 
many have? or is there any way in which our city can be made to 
resemble the head and senses of rational beings because possessing 
such a guardian power? 

Cle. What, Stranger, is the drift of your comparison? 

Ath. Do we not see that the city is the trunk, and are not the 
younger guardians, who are chosen for their natural gifts, placed in 
the head of the state, having their souls all full of eyes, with which 
they look about the whole city? They keep watch and hand over their 
perceptions to the memory, and inform the elders of all that happens 
in the city; and those whom we compared to the mind, because they have 
many wise thoughts-that is to say, the old men-take counsel and making 
use of the younger men as their ministers, and advising with them-in 
this way both together truly preserve the whole state: -Shall this or 
some other be the order of our state? Are all our citizens to be equal 
in acquirements, or shall there be special persons among them who have 
received a more careful training and education? 

Cle. That they should be equal, my; good, sir, is impossible. 

Ath. Then we ought to proceed to some more exact training than any 
which has preceded. 



Cle. Certainly. 

Ath . And must not that of which we are in need be the one to which 
we were just now alluding? 

Cle. Very true. 

Ath. Did we not say that the workman or guardian, if he be perfect 
in every respect, ought not only to be able to see the many aims, 
but he should press onward to the one? this he should know, and 
knowing, order all things with a view to it. 

Cle. True. 

Ath. And can any one have a more exact way of considering or 
contemplating, anything, than the being able to look at one idea 
gathered from many different things? 

Cle. Perhaps not. 

Ath. Not "Perhaps not," but "Certainly not," my good sir, is the 
right answer. There never has been a truer method than this discovered 
by any man. 

Cle. I bow to your authority, Stranger; let us proceed in the way 
which you propose. 

Ath. Then, as would appear, we must compel the guardians of our 
divine state to perceive, in the first place, what that principle is 
which is the same in all the four-the same, as we affirm, in courage 
and in temperance, and in justice and in prudence, and which, being 
one, we call as we ought, by the single name of virtue. To this, my 
friends, we will, if you please, hold fast, and not let go until we 
have sufficiently explained what that is to which we are to look, 
whether to be regarded as one, or as a whole, or as both, or in 
whatever way. Are we likely ever to be in a virtuous condition, if 
we cannot tell whether virtue is many, or four, or one? Certainly, 
if we take counsel among ourselves, we shall in some way contrive that 
this principle has a place amongst us; but if you have made up your 
mind that we should let the matter alone, we will. 

Cle. We must not, Stranger, by the God of strangers I swear that 
we must not, for in our opinion you speak most truly; but we should 
like to know how you will accomplish your purpose. 

Ath. Wait a little before you ask; and let us, first of all, be 
quite agreed with one another that the purpose has to be accomplished. 

Cle. Certainly, it ought to be, if it can be. 

Ast. Well, and about the good and the honourable, are we to take the 
same view? Are our guardians only to know that each of them is many, 
or, also how and in what way they are one? 

Cle. They must consider also in what sense they are one. 

Ath. And are they to consider only, and to be unable to set forth 
what they think? 

Cle. Certainly not; that would be the state of a slave. 

Ath. And may not the same be said of all good things-that the true 
guardians of the laws ought to know the truth about them, and to be 
able to interpret them in words, and carry them out in action, judging 
of what is and what is not well, according to nature? 

Cle. Certainly. 

Ath. Is not the knowledge of the Gods which we have set forth with 
so much zeal one of the noblest sorts of knowledge; -to know that 
they are, and know how great is their power, as far as in man lies? do 
indeed excuse the mass of the citizens, who only follow the voice of 
the laws, but we refuse to admit as guardians any who do not labour to 
obtain every possible evidence that there is respecting the Gods; 
our city is forbidden and not allowed to choose as a guardian of the 
law, or to place in the select order of virtue, him who is not an 
inspired man, and has not laboured at these things. 

Cle. It is certainly just, as you say, that he who is indolent about 
such matters or incapable should be rejected, and that things 
honourable should be put away from him. 

Ath. Are we assured that there are two things which lead men to 
believe in the Gods, as we have already stated? 

Cle. What are they? 



Ath . One is the argument about the soul, which has been already 
mentioned-that it is the eldest, and most divine of all things, to 
which motion attaining generation gives perpetual existence; the other 
was an argument from the order of the motion of the stars, and of 
all things under the dominion of the mind which ordered the 
universe. If a man look upon the world not lightly or ignorantly, 
there was never any one so godless who did not experience an effect 
opposite to that which the many imagine. For they think that those who 
handle these matters by the help of astronomy, and the accompanying 
arts of demonstration, may become godless, because they see, as far as 
they can see, things happening by necessity, and not by an intelligent 
will accomplishing good. 

Cle. But what is the fact? 

Ath. Just the opposite, as I said, of the opinion which once 
prevailed among men, that the sun and stars are without soul. Even 
in those days men wondered about them, and that which is now 
ascertained was then conjectured by some who had a more exact 
knowledge of them-that if they had been things without soul, and had 
no mind, they could never have moved with numerical exactness so 
wonderful; and even at that time some ventured to hazard the 
conjecture that mind was the orderer of the universe. But these same 
persons again mistaking the nature of the soul, which they conceived 
to be younger and not older than the body, once more overturned the 
world, or rather, I should say, themselves; for the bodies which 
they saw moving in heaven all appeared to be full of stones, and 
earth, and many other lifeless substances, and to these they 
assigned the causes of all things. Such studies gave rise to much 
atheism and perplexity, and the poets took occasion to be 
abusive-comparing the philosophers to she-dogs uttering vain howlings, 
and talking other nonsense of the same sort. But now, as I said, the 
case is reversed. 

Cle. How so? 

Ath. No man can be a true worshipper of the Gods who does not know 
these two principles-that the soul is the eldest of all things which 
are born, and is immortal and rules over all bodies; moreover, as I 
have now said several times, he who has not contemplated the mind of 
nature which is said to exist in the stars, and gone through the 
previous training, and seen the connection of music with these things, 
and harmonized them all with laws and institutions, is not able to 
give a reason of such things as have a reason. And he who is unable to 
acquire this in addition to the ordinary virtues of a citizen, can 
hardly be a good ruler of a whole state; but he should be the 
subordinate of other rulers. Wherefore, Cleinias and Megillus, let 
us consider whether we may not add to all the other laws which we have 
discussed this further one-that the nocturnal assembly of the 
magistrates, which has also shared in the whole scheme of education 
proposed by us, shall be a guard set according to law for the 
salvation of the state. Shall we propose this? 

Cle. Certainly, my good friend, we will if the thing is in any 
degree possible. 

Ath. Let us make a common effort to gain such an object; for I too 
will gladly share in the attempt. Of these matters I have had much 
experience, and have often considered them, and I dare say that I 
shall be able to find others who will also help. 

Cle. I agree, Stranger, that we should proceed along the road in 
which God is guiding us; and how we can proceed rightly has now to 
be investigated and explained. 

Ath. Megillus and Cleinias, about these matters we cannot 
legislate further until the council is constituted; when that is done, 
then we will determine what authority they shall have of their own; 
but the explanation of how this is all to be ordered would only be 
given rightly in a long discourse. 

Cle. What do you mean, and what new thing is this? 

Ath. In the first place, a list would have to be made out of those 



who by their ages and studies and dispositions and habits are well 
fitted for the duty of a guardian. In the next place, it will not be 
easy for them to discover themselves what they ought to learn, or 
become the disciple of one who has already made the discovery. 
Furthermore, to write down the times at which, and during which, 
they ought to receive the several kinds of instruction, would be a 
vain thing; for the learners themselves do not know what is learned to 
advantage until the knowledge which is the result of learning has 
found a place in the soul of each. And so these details, although they 
could not be truly said to be secret, might be said to be incapable of 
being stated beforehand, because when stated they would have no 
meaning . 

Cle. What then are we to do, Stranger, under these circumstances? 

Ath . As the proverb says, the answer is no secret, but open to all 
of us: -We must risk the whole on the chance of throwing, as they 
say, thrice six or thrice ace, and I am willing to share with you 
the danger by stating and explaining to you my views about education 
and nurture, which is the question coming to the surface again. The 
danger is not a slight or ordinary one, and I would advise you, 
Cleinias, in particular, to see to the matter; for if you order 
rightly the city of the Magnetes, or whatever name God may give it, 
you will obtain the greatest glory; or at any rate you will be thought 
the most courageous of men in the estimation of posterity. Dear 
companions, if this our divine assembly can only be established, to 
them we will hand over the city; none of the present company of 
legislators, as I may call them, would hesitate about that. And the 
state will be perfected and become a waking reality, which a little 
while ago we attempted to create as a dream and in idea only, mingling 
together reason and mind in one image, in the hope that our citizens 
might be duly mingled and rightly educated; and being educated, and 
dwelling in the citadel of the land, might become perfect guardians, 
such as we have never seen in all our previous life, by reason of 
the saving virtue which is in them. 

Meg. Dear Cleinias, after all that has been said, either we must 
detain the Stranger, and by supplications and in all manner of ways 
make him share in the foundation of the city, or we must give up the 
undertaking . 

Cle. Very true, Megillus; and you must join with me in detaining 
him . 

Meg. I will. 



-THE END-