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

360 BC 

THE SEVENTH LETTER 

by Plato 

translated by J. Harward 

PLATO TO THE RELATIVES AND FRIENDS OF DION. WELFARE. 

You write to me that I must consider your views the same as those of 
Dion, and you urge me to aid your cause so far as I can in word and 
deed. My answer is that, if you have the same opinion and desire as he 
had, I consent to aid your cause; but if not, I shall think more 
than once about it. Now what his purpose and desire was, I can 
inform you from no mere conjecture but from positive knowledge. For 
when I made my first visit to Sicily, being then about forty years 
old, Dion was of the same age as Hipparinos is now, and the opinion 
which he then formed was that which he always retained, I mean the 
belief that the Syracusans ought to be free and governed by the best 
laws. So it is no matter for surprise if some God should make 
Hipparinos adopt the same opinion as Dion about forms of government. 
But it is well worth while that you should all, old as well as 
young, hear the way in which this opinion was formed, and I will 
attempt to give you an account of it from the beginning. For the 
present is a suitable opportunity. 

In my youth I went through the same experience as many other men. 
I fancied that if, early in life, I became my own master, I should 
at once embark on a political career. And I found myself confronted 
with the following occurrences in the public affairs of my own city. 
The existing constitution being generally condemned, a revolution took 
place, and fifty-one men came to the front as rulers of the 
revolutionary government, namely eleven in the city and ten in the 
Peiraeus-each of these bodies being in charge of the market and 
municipal matters-while thirty were appointed rulers with full 
powers over public affairs as a whole. Some of these were relatives 
and acquaintances of mine, and they at once invited me to share in 
their doings, as something to which I had a claim. The effect on me 
was not surprising in the case of a young man. I considered that 
they would, of course, so manage the State as to bring men out of a 
bad way of life into a good one. So I watched them very closely to see 
what they would do. 

And seeing, as I did, that in quite a short time they made the 
former government seem by comparison something precious as gold-for 
among other things they tried to send a friend of mine, the aged 
Socrates, whom I should scarcely scruple to describe as the most 
upright man of that day, with some other persons to carry off one of 
the citizens by force to execution, in order that, whether he wished 
it, or not, he might share the guilt of their conduct; but he would 
not obey them, risking all consequences in preference to becoming a 
partner in their iniquitous deeds-seeing all these things and others 
of the same kind on a considerable scale, I disapproved of their 
proceedings, and withdrew from any connection with the abuses of the 
time . 

Not long after that a revolution terminated the power of the 
thirty and the form of government as it then was. And once more, 
though with more hesitation, I began to be moved by the desire to take 
part in public and political affairs. Well, even in the new 
government, unsettled as it was, events occurred which one would 
naturally view with disapproval; and it was not surprising that in a 
period of revolution excessive penalties were inflicted by some 
persons on political opponents, though those who had returned from 
exile at that time showed very considerable forbearance. But once more 
it happened that some of those in power brought my friend Socrates, 
whom I have mentioned, to trial before a court of law, laying a most 
iniquitous charge against him and one most inappropriate in his 
case: for it was on a charge of impiety that some of them prosecuted 



and others condemned and executed the very man who would not 
participate in the iniquitous arrest of one of the friends of the 
party then in exile, at the time when they themselves were in exile 
and misfortune. 

As I observed these incidents and the men engaged in public affairs, 
the laws too and the customs, the more closely I examined them and the 
farther I advanced in life, the more difficult it seemed to me to 
handle public affairs aright. For it was not possible to be active 
in politics without friends and trustworthy supporters; and to find 
these ready to my hand was not an easy matter, since public affairs at 
Athens were not carried on in accordance with the manners and 
practices of our fathers; nor was there any ready method by which I 
could make new friends. The laws too, written and unwritten, were 
being altered for the worse, and the evil was growing with startling 
rapidity. The result was that, though at first I had been full of a 
strong impulse towards political life, as I looked at the course of 
affairs and saw them being swept in all directions by contending 
currents, my head finally began to swim; and, though I did not stop 
looking to see if there was any likelihood of improvement in these 
symptoms and in the general course of public life, I postponed 
action till a suitable opportunity should arise. Finally, it became 
clear to me, with regard to all existing communities, that they 
were one and all misgoverned. For their laws have got into a state 
that is almost incurable, except by some extraordinary reform with 
good luck to support it. And I was forced to say, when praising true 
philosophy that it is by this that men are enabled to see what justice 
in public and private life really is. Therefore, I said, there will be 
no cessation of evils for the sons of men, till either those who are 
pursuing a right and true philosophy receive sovereign power in the 
States, or those in power in the States by some dispensation of 
providence become true philosophers. 

With these thoughts in my mind I came to Italy and Sicily on my 
first visit. My first impressions on arrival were those of strong 
disapproval-disapproval of the kind of life which was there called the 
life of happiness, stuffed full as it was with the banquets of the 
Italian Greeks and Syracusans, who ate to repletion twice every day, 
and were never without a partner for the night; and disapproval of the 
habits which this manner of life produces. For with these habits 
formed early in life, no man under heaven could possibly attain to 
wisdom-human nature is not capable of such an extraordinary 
combination. Temperance also is out of the question for such a man; 
and the same applies to virtue generally. No city could remain in a 
state of tranquillity under any laws whatsoever, when men think it 
right to squander all their property in extravagant, and consider it a 
duty to be idle in everything else except eating and drinking and 
the laborious prosecution of debauchery. It follows necessarily that 
the constitutions of such cities must be constantly changing, 
tyrannies, oligarchies and democracies succeeding one another, while 
those who hold the power cannot so much as endure the name of any form 
of government which maintains justice and equality of rights. 

With a mind full of these thoughts, on the top of my previous 
convictions, I crossed over to Syracuse-led there perhaps by 
chance-but it really looks as if some higher power was even then 
planning to lay a foundation for all that has now come to pass with 
regard to Dion and Syracuse-and for further troubles too, I fear, 
unless you listen to the advice which is now for the second time 
offered by me. What do I mean by saying that my arrival in Sicily at 
that movement proved to be the foundation on which all the sequel 
rests? I was brought into close intercourse with Dion who was then a 
young man, and explained to him my views as to the ideals at which men 
should aim, advising him to carry them out in practice. In doing 
this I seem to have been unaware that I was, in a fashion, without 
knowing it, contriving the overthrow of the tyranny which; 
subsequently took place. For Dion, who rapidly assimilated my teaching 



as he did all forms of knowledge, listened to me with an eagerness 
which I had never seen equalled in any young man, and resolved to live 
for the future in a better way than the majority of Italian and 
Sicilian Greeks, having set his affection on virtue in preference to 
pleasure and self-indulgence. The result was that until the death of 
Dionysios he lived in a way which rendered him somewhat unpopular 
among those whose manner of life was that which is usual in the courts 
of despots. 

After that event he came to the conclusion that this conviction, 
which he himself had gained under the influence of good teaching, 
was not likely to be confined to himself. Indeed, he saw it being 
actually implanted in other minds-not many perhaps, but certainly in 
some; and he thought that with the aid of the Gods, Dionysios might 
perhaps become one of these, and that, if such a thing did come to 
pass, the result would be a life of unspeakable happiness both for 
himself and for the rest of the Syracusans . Further, he thought it 
essential that I should come to Syracuse by all manner of means and 
with the utmost possible speed to be his partner in these plans, 
remembering in his own case how readily intercourse with me had 
produced in him a longing for the noblest and best life. And if it 
should produce a similar effect on Dionysios, as his aim was that it 
should, he had great hope that, without bloodshed, loss of life, and 
those disastrous events which have now taken place, he would be able 
to introduce the true life of happiness throughout the whole 
territory . 

Holding these sound views, Dion persuaded Dionysios to send for 
me; he also wrote himself entreating me to come by all manner of means 
and with the utmost possible speed, before certain other persons 
coming in contact with Dionysios should turn him aside into some way 
of life other than the best. What he said, though perhaps it is rather 
long to repeat, was as follows: "What opportunities," he said, 
"shall we wait for, greater than those now offered to us by 
Providence?" And he described the Syracusan empire in Italy and 
Sicily, his own influential position in it, and the youth of Dionysios 
and how strongly his desire was directed towards philosophy and 
education. His own nephews and relatives, he said, would be readily 
attracted towards the principles and manner of life described by me, 
and would be most influential in attracting Dionysios in the same 
direction, so that, now if ever, we should see the accomplishment of 
every hope that the same persons might actually become both 
philosophers and the rulers of great States. These were the appeals 
addressed to me and much more to the same effect. 

My own opinion, so far as the young men were concerned, and the 
probable line which their conduct would take, was full of 
apprehension-f or young men are quick in forming desires, which often 
take directions conflicting with one another. But I knew that the 
character of Dion's mind was naturally a stable one and had also the 
advantage of somewhat advanced years. 

Therefore, I pondered the matter and was in two minds as to 
whether I ought to listen to entreaties and go, or how I ought to act; 
and finally the scale turned in favour of the view that, if ever 
anyone was to try to carry out in practice my ideas about laws and 
constitutions, now was the time for making the attempt; for if only 
I could fully convince one man, I should have secured thereby the 
accomplishment of all good things. 

With these views and thus nerved to the task, I sailed from home, in 
the spirit which some imagined, but principally through a feeling of 
shame with regard to myself, lest I might some day appear to myself 
wholly and solely a mere man of words, one who would never of his 
own will lay his hand to any act. Also there was reason to think 
that I should be betraying first and foremost my friendship and 
comradeship with Dion, who in very truth was in a position of 
considerable danger. If therefore anything should happen to him, or if 
he were banished by Dionysios and his other enemies and coming to us 



as exile addressed this question to me: "Plato, I have come to you 
as a fugitive, not for want of hoplites, nor because I had no 
cavalry for defence against my enemies, but for want of words and 
power of persuasion, which I knew to be a special gift of yours, 
enabling you to lead young men into the path of goodness and 
justice, and to establish in every case relations of friendship and 
comradeship among them. It is for the want of this assistance on 
your part that I have left Syracuse and am here now. And the 
disgrace attaching to your treatment of me is a small matter. But 
philosophy-whose praises you are always singing, while you say she 
is held in dishonour by the rest of mankind-must we not say that 
philosophy along with me has now been betrayed, so far as your 
action was concerned? Had I been living at Megara, you would certainly 
have come to give me your aid towards the objects for which I asked 
it; or you would have thought yourself the most contemptible of 
mankind. But as it is, do you think that you will escape the 
reputation of cowardice by making excuses about the distance of the 
journey, the length of the sea voyage, and the amount of labour 
involved? Far from it." To reproaches of this kind what creditable 
reply could I have made? Surely none. 

I took my departure, therefore, acting, so far as a man can act, 
in obedience to reason and justice, and for these reasons leaving my 
own occupations, which were certainly not discreditable ones, to put 
myself under a tyranny which did not seem likely to harmonise with 
my teaching or with myself. By my departure I secured my own freedom 
from the displeasure of Zeus Xenios, and made myself clear of any 
charge on the part of philosophy, which would have been exposed to 
detraction, if any disgrace had come upon me for f aint-heartedness and 
cowardice . 

On my arrival, to cut a long story short, I found the court of 
Dionysios full of intrigues and of attempts to create in the sovereign 
ill-feeling against Dion. I combated these as far as I could, but with 
very little success; and in the fourth month or thereabouts, 
charging Dion with conspiracy to seize the throne, Dionysios put him 
on board a small boat and expelled him from Syracuse with ignominy. 
All of us who were Dion's friends were afraid that he might take 
vengeance on one or other of us as an accomplice in Dion's conspiracy. 
With regard to me, there was even a rumour current in Syracuse that 
I had been put to death by Dionysios as the cause of all that had 
occurred. Perceiving that we were all in this state of mind and 
apprehending that our fears might lead to some serious consequence, he 
now tried to win all of us over by kindness: me in particular he 
encouraged, bidding me be of good cheer and entreating me on all 
grounds to remain. For my flight from him was not likely to redound to 
his credit, but my staying might do so. Therefore, he made a great 
pretence of entreating me. And we know that the entreaties of 
sovereigns are mixed with compulsion. So to secure his object he 
proceeded to render my departure impossible, bringing me into the 
acropolis, and establishing me in quarters from which not a single 
ship's captain would have taken me away against the will of Dionysios, 
nor indeed without a special messenger sent by him to order my 
removal. Nor was there a single merchant, or a single official in 
charge of points of departure from the country, who would have allowed 
me to depart unaccompanied, and would not have promptly seized me 
and taken me back to Dionysios, especially since a statement had now 
been circulated contradicting the previous rumours and giving out that 
Dionysios was becoming extraordinarily attached to Plato. What were 
the facts about this attachment? I must tell the truth. As time went 
on, and as intercourse made him acquainted with my disposition and 
character, he did become more and more attached to me, and wished me 
to praise him more than I praised Dion, and to look upon him as more 
specially my friend than Dion, and he was extraordinarily eager 
about this sort of thing. But when confronted with the one way in 
which this might have been done, if it was to be done at all, he 



shrank from coming into close and intimate relations with me as a 
pupil and listener to my discourses on philosophy, fearing the 
danger suggested by mischief-makers, that he might be ensnared, and so 
Dion would prove to have accomplished all his object. I endured all 
this patiently, retaining the purpose with which I had come and the 
hope that he might come to desire the philosophic life. But his 
resistance prevailed against me. 

The time of my first visit to Sicily and my stay there was taken 
up with all these incidents. On a later occasion I left home and again 
came on an urgent summons from Dionysios. But before giving the 
motives and particulars of my conduct then and showing how suitable 
and right it was, I must first, in order that I may not treat as the 
main point what is only a side issue, give you my advice as to what 
your acts should be in the present position of affairs; afterwards, to 
satisfy those who put the question why I came a second time, I will 
deal fully with the facts about my second visit; what I have now to 
say is this. 

He who advises a sick man, whose manner of life is prejudicial to 
health, is clearly bound first of all to change his patient's manner 
of life, and if the patient is willing to obey him, he may go on to 
give him other advice. But if he is not willing, I shall consider 
one who declines to advise such a patient to be a man and a physician, 
and one who gives in to him to be unmanly and unprofessional. In the 
same way with regard to a State, whether it be under a single ruler or 
more than one, if, while the government is being carried on 
methodically and in a right course, it asks advice about any details 
of policy, it is the part of a wise man to advise such people. But 
when men are travelling altogether outside the path of right 
government and flatly refuse to move in the right path, and start by 
giving notice to their adviser that he must leave the government alone 
and make no change in it under penalty of death-if such men should 
order their counsellors to pander to their wishes and desires and to 
advise them in what way their object may most readily and easily be 
once for all accomplished, I should consider as unmanly one who 
accepts the duty of giving such forms of advice, and one who refuses 
it to be a true man. 

Holding these views, whenever anyone consults me about any of the 
weightiest matters affecting his own life, as, for instance, the 
acquisition of property or the proper treatment of body or mind, if it 
seems to me that his daily life rests on any system, or if he seems 
likely to listen to advice about the things on which he consults me, I 
advise him with readiness, and do not content myself with giving him a 
merely perfunctory answer. But if a man does not consult me at all, or 
evidently does not intend to follow my advice, I do not take the 
initiative in advising such a man, and will not use compulsion to him, 
even if he be my own son. I would advise a slave under such 
circumstances, and would use compulsion to him if he were unwilling. 
To a father or mother I do not think that piety allows one to offer 
compulsion, unless they are suffering from an attack of insanity; 
and if they are following any regular habits of life which please them 
but do not please me, I would not offend them by offering useless, 
advice, nor would I flatter them or truckle to them, providing them 
with the means of satisfying desires which I myself would sooner die 
than cherish. The wise man should go through life with the same 
attitude of mind towards his country. If she should appear to him to 
be following a policy which is not a good one, he should say so, 
provided that his words are not likely either to fall on deaf ears 
or to lead to the loss of his own life. But force against his native 
land he should not use in order to bring about a change of 
constitution, when it is not possible for the best constitution to 
be introduced without driving men into exile or putting them to death; 
he should keep quiet and offer up prayers for his own welfare and 
for that of his country. 

These are the principles in accordance with which I should advise 



you, as also, jointly with Dion, I advised Dionysios, bidding him in 
the first place to live his daily life in a way that would make him as 
far as possible master of himself and able to gain faithful friends 
and supporters, in order that he might not have the same experience as 
his father. For his father, having taken under his rule many great 
cities of Sicily which had been utterly destroyed by the barbarians, 
was not able to found them afresh and to establish in them trustworthy 
governments carried on by his own supporters, either by men who had no 
ties of blood with him, or by his brothers whom he had brought up when 
they were younger, and had raised from humble station to high office 
and from poverty to immense wealth. Not one of these was he able to 
work upon by persuasion, instruction, services and ties of kindred, so 
as to make him a partner in his rule; and he showed himself inferior 
to Darius with a sevenfold inferiority. For Darius did not put his 
trust in brothers or in men whom he had brought up, but only in his 
confederates in the overthrow of the Mede and Eunuch; and to these 
he assigned portions of his empire, seven in number, each of them 
greater than all Sicily; and they were faithful to him and did not 
attack either him or one another. Thus he showed a pattern of what the 
good lawgiver and king ought to be; for he drew up laws by which he 
has secured the Persian empire in safety down to the present time. 

Again, to give another instance, the Athenians took under their rule 
very many cities not founded by themselves, which had been hard hit by 
the barbarians but were still in existence, and maintained their 
rule over these for seventy years, because they had in each them men 
whom they could trust. But Dionysios, who had gathered the whole of 
Sicily into a single city, and was so clever that he trusted no one, 
only secured his own safety with great difficulty. For he was badly 
off for trustworthy friends; and there is no surer criterion of virtue 
and vice than this, whether a man is or is not destitute of such 
friends . 

This, then, was the advice which Dion and I gave to Dionysios, 
since, owing to bringing up which he had received from his father, 
he had had no advantages in the way of education or of suitable 
lessons, in the first place...; and, in the second place, that, 
after starting in this way, he should make friends of others among his 
connections who were of the same age and were in sympathy with his 
pursuit of virtue, but above all that he should be in harmony with 
himself; for this it was of which he was remarkably in need. This we 
did not say in plain words, for that would not have been safe; but 
in covert language we maintained that every man in this way would save 
both himself and those whom he was leading, and if he did not follow 
this path, he would do just the opposite of this. And after proceeding 
on the course which we described, and making himself a wise and 
temperate man, if he were then to found again the cities of Sicily 
which had been laid waste, and bind them together by laws and 
constitutions, so as to be loyal to him and to one another in their 
resistance to the attacks of the barbarians, he would, we told him, 
make his father's empire not merely double what it was but many 
times greater. For, if these things were done, his way would be 
clear to a more complete subjugation of the Carthaginians than that 
which befell them in Gelon's time, whereas in our own day his father 
had followed the opposite course of levying attribute for the 
barbarians. This was the language and these the exhortations given 
by us, the conspirators against Dionysios according to the charges 
circulated from various sources-charges which, prevailing as they 
did with Dionysios, caused the expulsion of Dion and reduced me to a 
state of apprehension. But when-to summarise great events which 
happened in no great time-Dion returned from the Peloponnese and 
Athens, his advice to Dionysios took the form of action. 

To proceed-when Dion had twice over delivered the city and 
restored it to the citizens, the Syracusans went through the same 
changes of feeling towards him as Dionysios had gone through, when 
Dion attempted first to educate him and train him to be a sovereign 



worthy of supreme power and, when that was done, to be his coadjutor 
in all the details of his career. Dionysios listened to those who 
circulated slanders to the effect that Dion was aiming at the 
tyranny in all the steps which he took at that time his intention 
being that Dionysios, when his mind had fallen under the spell of 
culture, should neglect the government and leave it in his hands, 
and that he should then appropriate it for himself and treacherously 
depose Dionysios. These slanders were victorious on that occasion; 
they were so once more when circulated among the Syracusans, winning a 
victory which took an extraordinary course and proved disgraceful to 
its authors. The story of what then took place is one which deserves 
careful attention on the part of those who are inviting me to deal 
with the present situation. 

I, an Athenian and friend of Dion, came as his ally to the court 
of Dionysios, in order that I might create good will in place of a 
state war; in my conflict with the authors of these slanders I was 
worsted. When Dionysios tried to persuade me by offers of honours 
and wealth to attach myself to him, and with a view to giving a decent 
colour to Dion's expulsion a witness and friend on his side, he failed 
completely in his attempt. Later on, when Dion returned from exile, he 
took with him from Athens two brothers, who had been his friends, 
not from community in philosophic study, but with the ordinary 
companionship common among most friends, which they form as the result 
of relations of hospitality and the intercourse which occurs when 
one man initiates the other in the mysteries. It was from this kind of 
intercourse and from services connected with his return that these two 
helpers in his restoration became his companions. Having come to 
Sicily, when they perceived that Dion had been misrepresented to the 
Sicilian Greeks, whom he had liberated, as one that plotted to 
become monarch, they not only betrayed their companion and friend, but 
shared personally in the guilt of his murder, standing by his 
murderers as supporters with weapons in their hands. The guilt and 
impiety of their conduct I neither excuse nor do I dwell upon it. 
For many others make it their business to harp upon it, and will 
make it their business in the future. But I do take exception to the 
statement that, because they were Athenians, they have brought shame 
upon this city. For I say that he too is an Athenian who refused to 
betray this same Dion, when he had the offer of riches and many 
other honours. For his was no common or vulgar friendship, but 
rested on community in liberal education, and this is the one thing in 
which a wise man will put his trust, far more than in ties of personal 
and bodily kinship. So the two murderers of Dion were not of 
sufficient importance to be causes of disgrace to this city, as though 
they had been men of any note. 

All this has been said with a view to counselling the friends and 
family of Dion. And in addition to this I give for the third time to 
you the same advice and counsel which I have given twice before to 
others-not to enslave Sicily or any other State to despots-this my 
counsel but-to put it under the rule of laws-for the other course is 
better neither for the enslavers nor for the enslaved, for themselves, 
their children's children and descendants; the attempt is in every way 
fraught with disaster. It is only small and mean natures that are bent 
upon seizing such gains for themselves, natures that know nothing of 
goodness and justice, divine as well as human, in this life and in the 
next . 

These are the lessons which I tried to teach, first to Dion, 
secondly to Dionysios, and now for the third time to you. Do you 
obey me thinking of Zeus the Preserver, the patron of third 
ventures, and looking at the lot of Dionysios and Dion, of whom the 
one who disobeyed me is living in dishonour, while he who obeyed me 
has died honourably. For the one thing which is wholly right and noble 
is to strive for that which is most honourable for a man's self and 
for his country, and to face the consequences whatever they may be. 
For none of us can escape death, nor, if a man could do so, would 



it, as the vulgar suppose, make him happy. For nothing evil or good, 
which is worth mentioning at all, belongs to things soulless; but good 
or evil will be the portion of every soul, either while attached to 
the body or when separated from it. 

And we should in very truth always believe those ancient and 
sacred teachings, which declare that the soul is immortal, that it has 
judges, and suffers the greatest penalties when it has been 
separated from the body. Therefore also we should consider it a lesser 
evil to suffer great wrongs and outrages than to do them. The covetous 
man, impoverished as he is in the soul, turns a deaf ear to this 
teaching; or if he hears it, he laughs it to scorn with fancied 
superiority, and shamelessly snatches for himself from every source 
whatever his bestial fancy supposes will provide for him the means 
of eating or drinking or glutting himself with that slavish and 
gross pleasure which is falsely called after the goddess of love. He 
is blind and cannot see in those acts of plunder which are accompanied 
by impiety what heinous guilt is attached to each wrongful deed, and 
that the offender must drag with him the burden of this impiety 
while he moves about on earth, and when he has travelled beneath the 
earth on a journey which has every circumstance of shame and misery. 

It was by urging these and other like truths that I convinced 
Dion, and it is I who have the best right to be angered with his 
murderers in much the same way as I have with Dionysios. For both they 
and he have done the greatest injury to me, and I might almost say 
to all mankind, they by slaying the man that was willing to act 
righteously, and he by refusing to act righteously during the whole of 
his rule, when he held supreme power, in which rule if philosophy 
and power had really met together, it would have sent forth a light to 
all men, Greeks and barbarians, establishing fully for all the true 
belief that there can be no happiness either for the community or 
for the individual man, unless he passes his life under the rule of 
righteousness with the guidance of wisdom, either possessing these 
virtues in himself, or living under the rule of godly men and having 
received a right training and education in morals. These were the aims 
which Dionysios injured, and for me everything else is a trifling 
injury compared with this. 

The murderer of Dion has, without knowing it, done the same as 
Dionysios. For as regards Dion, I know right well, so far as it is 
possible for a man to say anything positively about other men, that, 
if he had got the supreme power, he would never have turned his mind 
to any other form of rule, but that, dealing first with Syracuse, 
his own native land, when he had made an end of her slavery, clothed 
her in bright apparel, and given her the garb of freedom, he would 
then by every means in his power have ordered aright the lives of 
his fellow-citizens by suitable and excellent laws; and the thing next 
in order, which he would have set his heart to accomplish, was to 
found again all the States of Sicily and make them free from the 
barbarians, driving out some and subduing others, an easier task for 
him than it was for Hiero. If these things had been accomplished by 
a man who was just and brave and temperate and a philosopher, the same 
belief with regard to virtue would have been established among the 
majority which, if Dionysios had been won over, would have been 
established, I might almost say, among all mankind and would have 
given them salvation. But now some higher power or avenging fiend 
has fallen upon them, inspiring them with lawlessness, godlessness and 
acts of recklessness issuing from ignorance, the seed from which all 
evils for all mankind take root and grow and will in future bear the 
bitterest harvest for those who brought them into being. This 
ignorance it was which in that second venture wrecked and ruined 
everything . 

And now, for good luck's sake, let us on this third venture 
abstain from words of ill omen. But, nevertheless, I advise you, his 
friends, to imitate in Dion his love for his country and his temperate 
habits of daily life, and to try with better auspices to carry out his 



wishes-what these were, you have heard from me in plain words. And 
whoever among you cannot live the simple Dorian life according to 
the customs of your forefathers, but follows the manner of life of 
Dion's murderers and of the Sicilians, do not invite this man to 
join you, or expect him to do any loyal or salutary act; but invite 
all others to the work of resettling all the States of Sicily and 
establishing equality under the laws, summoning them from Sicily 
itself and from the whole Peloponnese-and have no fear even of Athens; 
for there, also, are men who excel all mankind in their devotion to 
virtue and in hatred of the reckless acts of those who shed the 
blood of friends. 

But if, after all, this is work for a future time, whereas immediate 
action is called for by the disorders of all sorts and kinds which 
arise every day from your state of civil strife, every man to whom 
Providence has given even a moderate share of right intelligence ought 
to know that in times of civil strife there is no respite from trouble 
till the victors make an end of feeding their grudge by combats and 
banishments and executions, and of wreaking their vengeance on their 
enemies. They should master themselves and, enacting impartial laws, 
framed not to gratify themselves more than the conquered party, should 
compel men to obey these by two restraining forces, respect and 
fear; fear, because they are the masters and can display superior 
force; respect, because they rise superior to pleasures and are 
willing and able to be servants to the laws. There is no other way 
save this for terminating the troubles of a city that is in a state of 
civil strife; but a constant continuance of internal disorders, 
struggles, hatred and mutual distrust is the common lot of cities 
which are in that plight. 

Therefore, those who have for the time being gained the upper 
hand, when they desire to secure their position, must by their own act 
and choice select from all Hellas men whom they have ascertained to be 
the best for the purpose. These must in the first place be men of 
mature years, who have children and wives at home, and, as far as 
possible, a long line of ancestors of good repute, and all must be 
possessed of sufficient property. For a city of ten thousand 
householders their numbers should be fifty; that is enough. These they 
must induce to come from their own homes by entreaties and the promise 
of the highest honours; and having induced them to come they must 
entreat and command them to draw up laws after binding themselves by 
oath to show no partiality either to conquerors or to conquered, but 
to give equal and common rights to the whole State. 

When laws have been enacted, what everything then hinges on is this. 
If the conquerors show more obedience to the laws than the 
conquered, the whole State will be full of security and happiness, and 
there will be an escape from all your troubles. But if they do not, 
then do not summon me or any other helper to aid you against those who 
do not obey the counsel I now give you. For this course is akin to 
that which Dion and I attempted to carry out with our hearts set on 
the welfare of Syracuse. It is indeed a second best course. The 
first and best was that scheme of welfare to all mankind which we 
attempted to carry out with the co-operation of Dionysios; but some 
chance, mightier than men, brought it to nothing. Do you now, with 
good fortune attending you and with Heaven's help, try to bring your 
efforts to a happier issue. 

Let this be the end of my advice and injunction and of the narrative 
of my first visit to Dionysios. Whoever wishes may next hear of my 
second journey and voyage, and learn that it was a reasonable and 
suitable proceeding. My first period of residence in Sicily was 
occupied in the way which I related before giving my advice to the 
relatives and friends of Dion. After those events I persuaded 
Dionysios by such arguments as I could to let me go; and we made an 
agreement as to what should be done when peace was made; for at that 
time there was a state of war in Sicily. Dionysios said that, when 
he had put the affairs of his empire in a position of greater safety 



for himself, he would send for Dion and me again; and he desired 
that Dion should regard what had befallen him not as an exile, but 
as a change of residence. I agreed to come again on these conditions. 

When peace had been made, he began sending for me; he requested that 
Dion should wait for another year, but begged that I should by all 
means come. Dion now kept urging and entreating me to go. For 
persistent rumours came from Sicily that Dionysios was now once more 
possessed by an extraordinary desire for philosophy. For this reason 
Dion pressed me urgently not to decline his invitation. But though I 
was well aware that as regards philosophy such symptoms were not 
uncommon in young men, still it seemed to me safer at that time to 
part company altogether with Dion and Dionysios; and I offended both 
of them by replying that I was an old man, and that the steps now 
being taken were quite at variance with the previous agreement. 

After this, it seems, Archytes came to the court of Dionysios. 
Before my departure I had brought him and his Tarentine circle into 
friendly relations with Dionysios. There were some others in 
Syracuse who had received some instruction from Dion, and others had 
learnt from these, getting their heads full of erroneous teaching on 
philosophical questions. These, it seems, were attempting to hold 
discussions with Dionysios on questions connected with such 
subjects, in the idea that he had been fully instructed in my views. 
Now is not at all devoid of natural gifts for learning, and he has a 
great craving for honour and glory. What was said probably pleased 
him, and he felt some shame when it became clear that he had not taken 
advantage of my teaching during my visit. For these reasons he 
conceived a desire for more definite instruction, and his love of 
glory was an additional incentive to him. The real reasons why he 
had learnt nothing during my previous visit have just been set forth 
in the preceding narrative. Accordingly, now that I was safe at home 
and had refused his second invitation, as I just now related, 
Dionysios seems to have felt all manner of anxiety lest certain people 
should suppose that I was unwilling to visit him again because I had 
formed a poor opinion of his natural gifts and character, and because, 
knowing as I did his manner of life, I disapproved of it. 

It is right for me to speak the truth, and make no complaint if 
anyone, after hearing the facts, forms a poor opinion of my 
philosophy, and thinks that the tyrant was in the right. Dionysios now 
invited me for the third time, sending a trireme to ensure me 
comfort on the voyage; he sent also Archedemos-one of those who had 
spent some time with Archytes, and of whom he supposed that I had a 
higher opinion than of any of the Sicilian Greeks-and, with him, other 
men of repute in Sicily. These all brought the same report, that 
Dionysios had made progress in philosophy. He also sent a very long 
letter, knowing as he did my relations with Dion and Dion's 
eagerness also that I should take ship and go to Syracuse. The 
letter was framed in its opening sentences to meet all these 
conditions, and the tenor of it was as follows: "Dionysios to 
Plato, " here followed the customary greeting and immediately after 
it he said, "If in compliance with our request you come now, in the 
first place, Dion's affairs will be dealt with in whatever way you 
yourself desire; I know that you will desire what is reasonable, and I 
shall consent to it. But if not, none of Dion's affairs will have 
results in accordance with your wishes, with regard either to Dion 
himself or to other matters." This he said in these words; the rest it 
would be tedious and inopportune to quote. Other letters arrived 
from Archytes and the Tarentines, praising the philosophical studies 
of Dionysios and saying that, if I did not now come, I should cause 
a complete rupture in their friendship with Dionysios, which had 
been brought about by me and was of no small importance to their 
political interests. 

When this invitation came to me at that time in such terms, and 
those who had come from Sicily and Italy were trying to drag me 
thither, while my friends at Athens were literally pushing me out with 



their urgent entreaties, it was the same old tale-that I must not 
betray Dion and my Tarentine friends and supporters. Also I myself had 
a lurking feeling that there was nothing surprising in the fact that a 
young man, quick to learn, hearing talk of the great truths of 
philosophy, should feel a craving for the higher life. I thought 
therefore that I must put the matter definitely to the test to see 
whether his desire was genuine or the reverse, and on no account leave 
such an impulse unaided nor make myself responsible for such a deep 
and real disgrace, if the reports brought by anyone were really 
true. So blindfolding myself with this reflection, I set out, with 
many fears and with no very favourable anticipations, as was natural 
enough. However, I went, and my action on this occasion at any rate 
was really a case of "the third to the Preserver, " for I had the 
good fortune to return safely; and for this I must, next to the God, 
thank Dionysios, because, though many wished to make an end of me, 
he prevented them and paid some proper respect to my situation. 

On my arrival, I thought that first I must put to the test the 
question whether Dionysios had really been kindled with the fire of 
philosophy, or whether all the reports which had come to Athens were 
empty rumours. Now there is a way of putting such things to the test 
which is not to be despised and is well suited to monarchs, especially 
to those who have got their heads full of erroneous teaching, which 
immediately my arrival I found to be very much the case with 
Dionysios. One should show such men what philosophy is in all its 
extent; what their range of studies is by which it is approached, 
and how much labour it involves. For the man who has heard this, if he 
has the true philosophic spirit and that godlike temperament which 
makes him a kin to philosophy and worthy of it, thinks that he has 
been told of a marvellous road lying before him, that he must 
forthwith press on with all his strength, and that life is not worth 
living if he does anything else. After this he uses to the full his 
own powers and those of his guide in the path, and relaxes not his 
efforts, till he has either reached the end of the whole course of 
study or gained such power that he is not incapable of directing his 
steps without the aid of a guide. This is the spirit and these are the 
thoughts by which such a man guides his life, carrying out his work, 
whatever his occupation may be, but throughout it all ever cleaving to 
philosophy and to such rules of diet in his daily life as will give 
him inward sobriety and therewith quickness in learning, a good 
memory, and reasoning power; the kind of life which is opposed to this 
he consistently hates. Those who have not the true philosophic temper, 
but a mere surface colouring of opinions penetrating, like sunburn, 
only skin deep, when they see how great the range of studies is, how 
much labour is involved in it, and how necessary to the pursuit it 
is to have an orderly regulation of the daily life, come to the 
conclusion that the thing is difficult and impossible for them, and 
are actually incapable of carrying out the course of study; while some 
of them persuade themselves that they have sufficiently studied the 
whole matter and have no need of any further effort. This is the 
sure test and is the safest one to apply to those who live in luxury 
and are incapable of continuous effort; it ensures that such a man 
shall not throw the blame upon his teacher but on himself, because 
he cannot bring to the pursuit all the qualities necessary to it. Thus 
it came about that I said to Dionysios what I did say on that 
occasion . 

I did not, however, give a complete exposition, nor did Dionysios 
ask for one. For he professed to know many, and those the most 
important, points, and to have a sufficient hold of them through 
instruction given by others. I hear also that he has since written 
about what he heard from me, composing what professes to be his own 
handbook, very different, so he says, from the doctrines which he 
heard from me; but of its contents I know nothing; I know indeed 
that others have written on the same subjects; but who they are, is 
more than they know themselves. Thus much at least, I can say about 



all writers, past or future, who say they know the things to which I 
devote myself, whether by hearing the teaching of me or of others, 
or by their own discoveries-that according to my view it is not 
possible for them to have any real skill in the matter. There 
neither is nor ever will be a treatise of mine on the subject. For 
it does not admit of exposition like other branches of knowledge; 
but after much converse about the matter itself and a life lived 
together, suddenly a light, as it were, is kindled in one soul by a 
flame that leaps to it from another, and thereafter sustains itself. 
Yet this much I know-that if the things were written or put into 
words, it would be done best by me, and that, if they were written 
badly, I should be the person most pained. Again, if they had appeared 
to me to admit adequately of writing and exposition, what task in life 
could I have performed nobler than this, to write what is of great 
service to mankind and to bring the nature of things into the light 
for all to see? But I do not think it a good thing for men that 
there should be a disquisition, as it is called, on this 
topic-except for some few, who are able with a little teaching to find 
it out for themselves. As for the rest, it would fill some of them 
quite illogically with a mistaken feeling of contempt, and others with 
lofty and vain-glorious expectations, as though they had learnt 
something high and mighty. 

On this point I intend to speak a little more at length; for 
perhaps, when I have done so, things will be clearer with regard to my 
present subject. There is an argument which holds good against the man 
ventures to put anything whatever into writing on questions of this 
nature; it has often before been stated by me, and it seems suitable 
to the present occasion. 

For everything that exists there are three instruments by which 
the knowledge of it is necessarily imparted; fourth, there is the 
knowledge itself, and, as fifth, we must count the thing itself 
which is known and truly exists. The first is the name, the, second 
the definition, the third, the image, and the fourth the knowledge. If 
you wish to learn what I mean, take these in the case of one instance, 
and so understand them in the case of all. A circle is a thing 
spoken of, and its name is that very word which we have just 
uttered. The second thing belonging to it is its definition, made up 
names and verbal forms. For that which has the name "round," 
"annular," or, "circle," might be defined as that which has the 
distance from its circumference to its centre everywhere equal. Third, 
comes that which is drawn and rubbed out again, or turned on a lathe 
and broken up-none of which things can happen to the circle 
itself-to which the other things, mentioned have reference; for it 
is something of a different order from them. Fourth, comes 
knowledge, intelligence and right opinion about these things. Under 
this one head we must group everything which has its existence, not in 
words nor in bodily shapes, but in souls-from which it is dear that it 
is something different from the nature of the circle itself and from 
the three things mentioned before. Of these things intelligence 
comes closest in kinship and likeness to the fifth, and the others are 
farther distant. 

The same applies to straight as well as to circular form, to 
colours, to the good, the, beautiful, the just, to all bodies 
whether manufactured or coming into being in the course of nature, 
to fire, water, and all such things, to every living being, to 
character in souls, and to all things done and suffered. For in the 
case of all these, no one, if he has not some how or other got hold of 
the four things first mentioned, can ever be completely a partaker 
of knowledge of the fifth. Further, on account of the weakness of 
language, these (i.e., the four) attempt to show what each thing is 
like, not less than what each thing is. For this reason no man of 
intelligence will venture to express his philosophical views in 
language, especially not in language that is unchangeable, which is 
true of that which is set down in written characters. 



Again you must learn the point which comes next. Every circle, of 
those which are by the act of man drawn or even turned on a lathe, 
is full of that which is opposite to the fifth thing. For everywhere 
it has contact with the straight. But the circle itself, we say, has 
nothing in either smaller or greater, of that which is its opposite. 
We say also that the name is not a thing of permanence for any of 
them, and that nothing prevents the things now called round from being 
called straight, and the straight things round; for those who make 
changes and call things by opposite names, nothing will be less 
permanent (than a name) . Again with regard to the definition, if it is 
made up of names and verbal forms, the same remark holds that there is 
no sufficiently durable permanence in it. And there is no end to the 
instances of the ambiguity from which each of the four suffers; but 
the greatest of them is that which we mentioned a little earlier, 
that, whereas there are two things, that which has real being, and 
that which is only a quality, when the soul is seeking to know, not 
the quality, but the essence, each of the four, presenting to the soul 
by word and in act that which it is not seeking (i.e., the quality), a 
thing open to refutation by the senses, being merely the thing 
presented to the soul in each particular case whether by statement 
or the act of showing, fills, one may say, every man with puzzlement 
and perplexity. 

Now in subjects in which, by reason of our defective education, we 
have not been accustomed even to search for the truth, but are 
satisfied with whatever images are presented to us, we are not held up 
to ridicule by one another, the questioned by questioners, who can 
pull to pieces and criticise the four things. But in subjects where we 
try to compel a man to give a clear answer about the fifth, any one of 
those who are capable of overthrowing an antagonist gets the better of 
us, and makes the man, who gives an exposition in speech or writing or 
in replies to questions, appear to most of his hearers to know nothing 
of the things on which he is attempting to write or speak; for they 
are sometimes not aware that it is not the mind of the writer or 
speaker which is proved to be at fault, but the defective nature of 
each of the four instruments. The process however of dealing with 
all of these, as the mind moves up and down to each in turn, does 
after much effort give birth in a well-constituted mind to knowledge 
of that which is well constituted. But if a man is ill-constituted 
by nature (as the state of the soul is naturally in the majority 
both in its capacity for learning and in what is called moral 
character) -or it may have become so by deterioration-not even 
Lynceus could endow such men with the power of sight. 

In one word, the man who has no natural kinship with this matter 
cannot be made akin to it by quickness of learning or memory; for it 
cannot be engendered at all in natures which are foreign to it. 
Therefore, if men are not by nature kinship allied to justice and 
all other things that are honourable, though they may be good at 
learning and remembering other knowledge of various kinds-or if they 
have the kinship but are slow learners and have no memory-none of 
all these will ever learn to the full the truth about virtue and vice. 
For both must be learnt together; and together also must be learnt, by 
complete and long continued study, as I said at the beginning, the 
true and the false about all that has real being. After much effort, 
as names, definitions, sights, and other data of sense, are brought 
into contact and friction one with another, in the course of 
scrutiny and kindly testing by men who proceed by question and 
answer without ill will, with a sudden flash there shines forth 
understanding about every problem, and an intelligence whose efforts 
reach the furthest limits of human powers. Therefore every man of 
worth, when dealing with matters of worth, will be far from exposing 
them to ill feeling and misunderstanding among men by committing 
them to writing. In one word, then, it may be known from this that, if 
one sees written treatises composed by anyone, either the laws of a 
lawgiver, or in any other form whatever, these are not for that man 



the things of most worth, if he is a man of worth, but that his 
treasures are laid up in the fairest spot that he possesses. But if 
these things were worked at by him as things of real worth, and 
committed to writing, then surely, not gods, but men "have 
themselves bereft him of his wits." 

Anyone who has followed this discourse and digression will know well 
that, if Dionysios or anyone else, great or small, has written a 
treatise on the highest matters and the first principles of things, he 
has, so I say, neither heard nor learnt any sound teaching about the 
subject of his treatise; otherwise, he would have had the same 
reverence for it, which I have, and would have shrunk from putting 
it forth into a world of discord and uncomeliness . For he wrote it, 
not as an aid to memory-since there is no risk of forgetting it, if 
a man's soul has once laid hold of it; for it is expressed in the 
shortest of statements-but if he wrote it at all, it was from a mean 
craving for honour, either putting it forth as his own invention, or 
to figure as a man possessed of culture, of which he was not worthy, 
if his heart was set on the credit of possessing it. If then Dionysios 
gained this culture from the one lesson which he had from me, we may 
perhaps grant him the possession of it, though how he acquired 
it-God wot, as the Theban says; for I gave him the teaching, which I 
have described, on that one occasion and never again. 

The next point which requires to be made clear to anyone who 
wishes to discover how things really happened, is the reason why it 
came about that I did not continue my teaching in a second and third 
lesson and yet oftener. Does Dionysios, after a single lesson, believe 
himself to know the matter, and has he an adequate knowledge of it, 
either as having discovered it for himself or learnt it before from 
others, or does he believe my teaching to be worthless, or, thirdly, 
to be beyond his range and too great for him, and himself to be really 
unable to live as one who gives his mind to wisdom and virtue? For 
if he thinks it worthless, he will have to contend with many who say 
the opposite, and who would be held in far higher repute as judges 
than Dionysios, if on the other hand, he thinks he has discovered or 
learnt the things and that they are worth having as part of a 
liberal education, how could he, unless he is an extraordinary person, 
have so recklessly dishonoured the master who has led the way in these 
subjects? How he dishonoured him, I will now state. 

Up to this time he had allowed Dion to remain in possession of his 
property and to receive the income from it. But not long after the 
foregoing events, as if he had entirely forgotten his letter to that 
effect, he no longer allowed Dion's trustees to send him remittances 
to the Peloponnese, on the pretence that the owner of the property was 
not Dion but Dion's son, his own nephew, of whom he himself was 
legally the trustee. These were the actual facts which occurred up 
to the point which we have reached. They had opened my eyes as to 
the value of Dionysios' desire for philosophy, and I had every right 
to complain, whether I wished to do so or not. Now by this time it was 
summer and the season for sea voyages; therefore I decided that I must 
not be vexed with Dionysios rather than with myself and those who 
had forced me to come for the third time into the strait of Scylla, 

that once again I might 
To fell Charybdis measure back my course, 

but must tell Dionysios that it was impossible for me to remain 
after this outrage had been put upon Dion. He tried to soothe me and 
begged me to remain, not thinking it desirable for himself that I 
should arrive post haste in person as the bearer of such tidings. When 
his entreaties produced no effect, he promised that he himself would 
provide me with transport. For my intention was to embark on one of 
the trading ships and sail away, being indignant and thinking it my 
duty to face all dangers, in case I was prevented from going-since 
plainly and obviously I was doing no wrong, but was the party wronged. 



Seeing me not at all inclined to stay, he devised the following 
scheme to make me stay during that sading season. On the next day he 
came to me and made a plausible proposal: "Let us put an end," he 
said, "to these constant quarrels between you and me about Dion and 
his affairs. For your sake I will do this for Dion. I require him to 
take his own property and reside in the Peloponnese, not as an 
exile, but on the understanding that it is open for him to migrate 
here, when this step has the joint approval of himself, me, and you 
his friends; and this shall be open to him on the understanding that 
he does not plot against me. You and your friends and Dion's friends 
here must be sureties for him in this, and he must give you 
security. Let the funds which he receives be deposited in the 
Peloponnese and at Athens, with persons approved by you, and let 
Dion enjoy the income from them but have no power to take them out 
of deposit without the approval of you and your friends. For I have no 
great confidence in him, that, if he has this property at his 
disposal, he will act justly towards me, for it will be no small 
amount; but I have more confidence in you and your friends. See if 
this satisfies you; and on these conditions remain for the present 
year, and at the next season you shall depart taking the property with 
you. I am quite sure that Dion will be grateful to you, if you 
accomplish so much on his behalf." 

When I heard this proposal I was vexed, but after reflection said 
I would let him know my view of it on the following day. We agreed 
to that effect for the moment, and afterwards when I was by myself I 
pondered the matter in much distress. The first reflection that came 
up, leading the way in my self-communing, was this: "Come suppose that 
Dionysios intends to do none of the things which he has mentioned, but 
that, after my departure, he writes a plausible letter to Dion, and 
orders several of his creatures to write to the same effect, telling 
him of the proposal which he has now made to me, making out that he 
was willing to do what he proposed, but that I refused and 
completely neglected Dion's interests. Further, suppose that he is not 
willing to allow my departure, and without giving personal orders to 
any of the merchants, makes it clear, as he easily can, to all that he 
not wish me to sail, will anyone consent to take me as a passenger, 
when I leave the house: of Dionysios?" 

For in addition to my other troubles, I was lodging at that time 
in the garden which surround his house, from which even the gatekeeper 
would have refused to let me go, unless an order had been sent to 
him from Dionysios. "Suppose however that I wait for the year, I shall 
be able to write word of these things to Dion, stating the position in 
which I am, and the steps which I am trying to take. And if 
Dionysios does any of the things which he says, I shall have 
accomplished something that is not altogether to be sneered at; for 
Dion's property is, at a fair estimate, perhaps not less than a 
hundred talents. If however the prospect which I see looming in the 
future takes the course which may reasonably be expected, I know not 
what I shall do with myself. Still it is perhaps necessary to go on 
working for a year, and to attempt to prove by actual fact the 
machinations of Dionysios." 

Having come to this decision, on the following day I said to 
Dionysios, "I have decided to remain. But," I continued, "I must ask 
that you will not regard me as empowered to act for Dion, but will 
along with me write a letter to him, stating what has now been 
decided, and enquire whether this course satisfies him. If it does 
not, and if he has other wishes and demands, he must write particulars 
of them as soon as possible, and you must not as yet take any hasty 
step with regard to his interests." 

This was what was said and this was the agreement which was made, 
almost in these words. Well, after this the trading-ships took their 
departure, and it was no longer possible for me to take mine, when 
Dionysios, if you please, addressed me with the remark that half the 
property must be regarded as belonging to Dion and half to his son. 



Therefore, he said, he would sell it, and when it was sold would 
give half to me to take away, and would leave half on the spot for the 
son. This course, he said, was the most just. This proposal was a blow 
to me, and I thought it absurd to argue any longer with him; 
however, I said that we must wait for Dion's letter, and then once 
more write to tell him of this new proposal. His next step was the 
brilliant one of selling the whole of Dion's property, using his own 
discretion with regard to the manner and terms of the sale and of 
the purchasers . He spoke not a word to me about the matter from 
beginning to end, and I followed his example and never talked to him 
again about Dion's affairs; for I did not think that I could do any 
good by doing so. This is the history so far of my efforts to come 
to the rescue of philosophy and of my friends. 

After this Dionysios and I went on with our daily life, I with my 
eyes turned abroad like a bird yearning to fly from its perch, and 
he always devising some new way of scaring me back and of keeping a 
tight hold on Dion's property. However, we gave out to all Sicily that 
we were friends. Dionysios, now deserting the policy of his father, 
attempted to lower the pay of the older members of his body guard. The 
soldiers were furious, and, assembling in great numbers, declared that 
they would not submit. He attempted to use force to them, shutting the 
gates of the acropolis; but they charged straight for the walls, 
yelling out an unintelligible and ferocious war cry. Dionysios took 
fright and conceded all their demands and more to the peltasts then 
assembled. 

A rumour soon spread that Heracleides had been the cause of all 
the trouble. Hearing this, Heracleides kept out of the way. 
Dionysios was trying to get hold of him, and being unable to do so, 
sent for Theodotes to come to him in his garden. It happened that I 
was walking in the garden at the same time. I neither know nor did I 
hear the rest of what passed between them, but what Theodotes said 
to Dionysios in my presence I know and remember. "Plato," he said, 
"I am trying to convince our friend Dionysios that, if I am able to 
bring Heracleides before us to defend himself on the charges which 
have been made against him, and if he decides that Heracleides must no 
longer live in Sicily, he should be allowed (this is my point) to take 
his son and wife and sail to the Peloponnese and reside there, 
taking no action there against Dionysios and enjoying the income of 
his property. I have already sent for him and will send for him again; 
and if he comes in obedience either to my former message or to this 
one-well and good. But I beg and entreat Dionysios that, if anyone 
finds Heracleides either in the country or here, no harm shall come to 
him, but that he may retire from the country till Dionysios comes to 
some other decision. Do you agree to this?" he added, addressing 
Dionysios. "I agree," he replied, "that even if he is found at your 
house, no harm shall be done to him beyond what has now been said." 

On the following day Eurybios and Theodotes came to me in the 
evening, both greatly disturbed. Theodotes said, "Plato, you were 
present yesterday during the promises made by Dionysios to me and to 
you about Heracleides?" "Certainly," I replied. "Well," he 
continued, "at this moment peltasts are scouring the country seeking 
to arrest Heracleides; and he must be somewhere in this neighbourhood. 
For Heaven's sake come with us to Dionysios." So we went and stood 
in the presence of Dionysios; and those two stood shedding silent 
tears, while I said: "These men are afraid that you may take strong 
measures with regard to Heracleides contrary to what was agreed 
yesterday. For it seems that he has returned and has been seen 
somewhere about here." On hearing this he blazed up and turned all 
colours, as a man would in a rage. Theodotes, falling before him in 
tears, took his hand and entreated him to do nothing of the sort. 
But I broke in and tried to encourage him, saying: "Be of good 
cheer, Theodotes; Dionysios will not have the heart to take any 
fresh step contrary to his promises of yesterday." Fixing his eye on 
me, and assuming his most autocratic air he said, "To you I promised 



nothing small or great." "By the gods," I said, "you did promise 
that forbearance for which our friend here now appeals." With these 
words I turned away and went out. After this he continued the hunt for 
Heracleides, and Theodotes, sending messages, urged Heracleides to 
take flight. Dionysios sent out Teisias and some peltasts with 
orders to pursue him. But Heracleides, as it was said, was just in 
time, by a small fraction of a day, in making his escape into 
Carthaginian territory. 

After this Dionysios thought that his long cherished scheme not to 
restore Dion's property would give him a plausible excuse for 
hostility towards me; and first of all he sent me out of the 
acropolis, finding a pretext that the women were obliged to hold a 
sacrificial service for ten days in the garden in which I had my 
lodging. He therefore ordered me to stay outside in the house of 
Archedemos during this period. While I was there, Theodotes sent for 
me and made a great outpouring of indignation at these occurrences, 
throwing the blame on Dionysios. Hearing that I had been to see 
Theodotes he regarded this, as another excuse, sister to the 
previous one, for quarrelling with me. Sending a messenger he enquired 
if I had really been conferring with Theodotes on his invitation 
"Certainly," I replied, "Well," continued the messenger, "he ordered 
me to tell you that you are not acting at all well in preferring 
always Dion and Dion's friends to him." And he did not send for me 
to return to his house, as though it were now clear that Theodotes and 
Heracleides were my friends, and he my enemy. He also thought that I 
had no kind feelings towards him because the property of Dion was 
now entirely done for. 

After this I resided outside the acropolis among the mercenaries. 
Various people then came to me, among them those of the ships' crews 
who came from Athens, my own fellow citizens, and reported that I 
was evil spoken of among the peltasts, and that some of them were 
threatening to make an end of me, if they could ket hold of me 
Accordingly I devised the following plan for my safety. 

I sent to Archytes and my other friends in Taras, telling them the 
plight I was in. Finding some excuse for an embassy from their city, 
they sent a thirty-oared galley with Lamiscos, one of themselves, 
who came and entreated Dionysios about me, saying that I wanted to go, 
and that he should on no account stand in my way. He consented and 
allowed me to go, giving me money for the journey. But for Dion's 
property I made no further request, nor was any of it restored. 

I made my way to the Peloponnese to Olympia, where I found Dion a 
spectator at the Games, and told him what had occurred. Calling Zeus 
to be his witness, he at once urged me with my relatives and friends 
to make preparations for taking vengeance on Dionysios-our ground 
for action being the breach of faith to a guest-so he put it and 
regarded it, while his own was his unjust expulsion and banishment. 
Hearing this, I told him that he might call my friends to his aid, 
if they wished to go; "But for myself," I continued, "you and others 
in a way forced me to be the sharer of Dionysios' table and hearth and 
his associate in the acts of religion. He probably believed the 
current slanders, that I was plotting with you against him and his 
despotic rule; yet feelings of scruple prevailed with him, and he 
spared my life. Again, I am hardly of the age for being comrade in 
arms to anyone; also I stand as a neutral between you, if ever you 
desire friendship and wish to benefit one another; so long as you 
aim at injuring one another, call others to your aid." This I said, 
because I was disgusted with my misguided journeyings to Sicily and my 
ill-fortune there. But they disobeyed me and would not listen to my 
attempts at reconciliation, and so brought on their own heads all 
the evils which have since taken place. For if Dionysios had 
restored to Dion his property or been reconciled with him on any 
terms, none of these things would have happened, so far as human 
foresight can foretell. Dion would have easily been kept in check by 
my wishes and influence. But now, rushing upon one another, they 



have caused universal disaster. 

Dion's aspiration however was the same that I should say my own or 
that of any other right-minded man ought to be. With regard to his own 
power, his friends and his country the ideal of such a man would be to 
win the greatest power and honour by rendering the greatest 
services. And this end is not attained if a man gets riches for 
himself, his supporters and his country, by forming plots and 
getting together conspirators, being all the while a poor creature, 
not master of himself, overcome by the cowardice which fears to 
fight against pleasures; nor is it attained if he goes on to kill 
the men of substance, whom he speaks of as the enemy, and to plunder 
their possessions, and invites his confederates and supporters to do 
the same, with the object that no one shall say that it is his 
fault, if he complains of being poor. The same is true if anyone 
renders services of this kind to the State and receives honours from 
her for distributing by decrees the property of the few among the 
many-or if, being in charge the affairs of a great State which rules 
over many small ones, he unjustly appropriates to his own State the 
possessions of the small ones. For neither a Dion nor any other man 
will, with his eyes open, make his way by steps like these to a 
power which will be fraught with destruction to himself and his 
descendants for all time; but he will advance towards constitutional 
government and the framing of the justest and best laws, reaching 
these ends without executions and murders even on the smallest scale. 

This course Dion actually followed, thinking it preferable to suffer 
iniquitous deeds rather than to do them; but, while taking precautions 
against them, he nevertheless, when he had reached the climax of 
victory over his enemies, took a false step and fell, a catastrophe 
not at all surprising. For a man of piety, temperance and wisdom, when 
dealing with the impious, would not be entirely blind to the character 
of such men, but it would perhaps not be surprising if he suffered the 
catastrophe that might befall a good ship's captain, who would not 
be entirely unaware of the approach of a storm, but might be unaware 
of its extraordinary and startling violence, and might therefore be 
overwhelmed by its force. The same thing caused Dion's downfall. For 
he was not unaware that his assailants were thoroughly bad men, but he 
was unaware how high a pitch of infatuation and of general 
wickedness and greed they had reached. This was the cause of his 
downfall, which has involved Sicily in countless sorrows. 

As to the steps which should be taken after the events which I 
have now related, my advice has been given pretty fully and may be 
regarded as finished; and if you ask my reasons for recounting the 
story of my second journey to Sicily, it seemed to me essential that 
an account of it must be given because of the strange and 
paradoxical character of the incidents. If in this present account 
of them they appear to anyone more intelligible, and seem to anyone to 
show sufficient grounds in view of the circumstances, the present 
statement is adequate and not too lengthy. 



-THE END-