Laws Book 12 - Plato

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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 
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 minae; 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 
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 
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. O 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 
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 
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 
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 
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 
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:-O 
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, 
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, 
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. O 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 
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 
Cle. Very true, Megillus; and you must join with me in detaining 
Meg. I will. 

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