Laws Book 6 - Plato

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Athenian Stranger. And now having made an end of the preliminaries 
we will proceed to the appointment of magistracies. 
Cleinias. Very good. 
Ath. In the ordering of a state there are two parts: first, the 
number of the magistracies, and the mode of establishing them; and, 
secondly, when they have been established, laws again will have to 
be provided for each of them, suitable in nature and number. But 
before electing the magistrates let us stop a little and say a word in 
season about the election of them. 
Cle. What have you got to say? 
Ath. This is what I have to say; every one can see, that although 
the work of legislation is a most important matter, yet if a 
well-ordered city superadd to good laws unsuitable offices, not only 
will there be no use in having the good laws-not only will they be 
ridiculous and useless, but the greatest political injury and evil 
will accrue from them. 
Cle. Of course. 
Ath. Then now, my friend, let us observe what will happen in the 
constitution of out intended state. In the first place, you will 
acknowledge that those who are duly appointed to magisterial power, 
and their families, should severally have given satisfactory proof 
of what they are, from youth upward until the time of election; in the 
next place, those who are to elect should have been trained in 
habits of law, and be well educated, that they may have a right 
judgment, and may be able to select or reject men whom they approve or 
disapprove, as they are worthy of either. But how can we imagine 
that those who are brought together for the first time, and are 
strangers to one another, and also uneducated, will avoid making 
mistakes in the choice of magistrates? 
Cle. Impossible. 
Ath. The matter is serious, and excuses will not serve the turn. I 
will tell you, then, what you and I will have to do, since you, as you 
tell me, with nine others, have offered to settle the new state on 
behalf of the people of Crete, and I am to help you by the invention 
of the present romance. I certainly should not like to leave the 
tale wandering all over the world without a head;-a headless monster 
is such a hideous thing. 
Cle. Excellent, Stranger. 
Ath. Yes; and I will be as good as my word. 
Cle. Let us by all means do as you propose. 
Ath. That we will, by the grace of God, if old age will only 
permit us. 
Cle. But God will be gracious. 
Ath. Yes; and under his guidance let us consider further point. 
Cle. What is it? 
Ath. Let us remember what a courageously mad and daring creation 
this our city is. 
Cle. What had you in your mind when you said that? 
Ath. I had in my mind the free and easy manner in which we are 
ordaining that the inexperienced colonists shall receive our laws. Now 
a man need not be very wise, Cleinias, in order to see that no one can 
easily receive laws at their first imposition. But if we could 
anyhow wait until those who have been imbued with them from childhood, 
and have been nurtured in them, and become habituated to them, take 
their part in the public elections of the state; I say, if this 
could be accomplished, and rightly accomplished by any way or 
contrivance-then, I think that there would be very little danger, at 
the end of the time, of a state thus trained not being permanent. 
Cle. A reasonable supposition. 
Ath. Then let us consider if we can find any way out of the 
difficulty; for I maintain, Cleinias, that the Cnosians, above all the 
other Cretans, should not be satisfied with barely discharging their 
duty to the colony, but they ought to take the utmost pains to 
establish the offices which are first created by them in the best 
and surest manner. Above all, this applies to the selection of the 
guardians of the law, who must be chosen first of all, and with the 
greatest care; the others are of less importance. 
Cle. What method can we devise of electing them? 
Ath. This will be the method:-Sons of the Cretans, I shall say to 
them, inasmuch as the Cnosians have precedence over the other 
states, they should, in common with those who join this settlement, 
choose a body of thirty-seven in all, nineteen of them being taken 
from the settlers, and the remainder from the citizens of Cnosus. Of 
those latter the Cnosians shall make a present to your colony, and you 
yourself shall be one of the eighteen, and shall become a citizen of 
the new state; and if you and they cannot be persuaded to go, the 
Cnosians may fairly use a little violence in order to make you. 
Cle. But why, Stranger, do not you and Megillus take a part in our 
new city? 
Ath. O, Cleinias, Athens is proud, and Sparta too; and they are both 
a long way off. But you and likewise the other colonists are 
conveniently situated as you describe. I have been speaking of the way 
in which the new citizens may be best managed under present 
circumstances; but in after-ages, if the city continues to exist, 
let the election be on this wise. All who are horse or foot 
soldiers, or have seen military service at the proper ages when they 
were severally fitted for it, shall share in the election of 
magistrates; and the election shall be held in whatever temple the 
state deems most venerable, and every one shall carry his vote to 
the altar of the God, writing down on a tablet the name of the 
person for whom he votes, and his father's name, and his tribe, and 
ward; and at the side he shall write his own name in like manner. 
Any one who pleases may take away any tablet which he does not think 
properly filled up, and exhibit it in the Agara for a period of not 
less than thirty days. The tablets which are judged to be first, to 
the number of 300, shall be shown by the magistrates to the whole 
city, and the citizens shall in like manner select from these the 
candidates whom they prefer; and this second selection, to the 
number of 100, shall be again exhibited to the citizens; in the third, 
let any one who pleases select whom pleases out of the 100, walking 
through the parts of victims, and let them choose for magistrates 
and proclaim the seven and thirty who have the greatest number of 
votes. But who, Cleinias and Megillus, will order for us in the colony 
all this matter of the magistrates, and the scrutinies of them? If 
we reflect, we shall see that cities which are in process of 
construction like ours must have some such persons, who cannot 
possibly be elected before there are any magistrates; and yet they 
must be elected in some way, and they are not to be inferior men, 
but the best possible. For as the proverb says, "a good beginning is 
half the business"; and "to have begun well" is praised by all, and in 
my opinion is a great deal more than half the business, and has 
never been praised by any one enough. 
Cle. That is very true. 
Ath. Then let us recognize the difficulty, and make clear to our own 
minds how the beginning is to be accomplished. There is only one 
proposal which I have to offer, and that is one which, under our 
circumstances, is both necessary and expedient. 
Cle. What is it? 
Ath. I maintain that this colony of ours has a father and mother, 
who are no other than the colonizing state. Well I know that many 
colonies have been, and will be, at enmity with their parents. But 
in early days the child, as in a family, loves and is beloved; even if 
there come a time later when the tie is broken, still, while he is 
in want of education, he naturally loves his parents and is beloved by 
them, and flies to his relatives for protection, and finds in them his 
only natural allies in time of need; and this parental feeling already 
exists in the Cnosians, as is shown by their care of the new city; and 
there is a similar feeling on the part of the young city towards 
Cnosus. And I repeat what I was saying-for there is no harm in 
repeating a good thing-that the Cnosians should take a common interest 
in all these matters, and choose, as far as they can, the eldest and 
best of the colonists, to the number of not less than a hundred; and 
let there be another hundred of the Cnosians themselves. These, I say, 
on their arrival, should have a joint care that the magistrates should 
be appointed according to law, and that when they are appointed they 
should undergo a scrutiny. When this has been effected, the Cnosians 
shall return home, and the new city do the best she can for her own 
preservation and happiness. I would have the seven-and-thirty now, and 
in all future time, chosen to fulfil the following duties:-Let them, 
in the first place, be the guardians of the law; and, secondly, of the 
registers in which each one registers before the magistrate the amount 
of his property, excepting four minae which are allowed to citizens of 
the first class, three allowed to the second, two to the third, and 
a single mina to the fourth. And if any one, despising the laws for 
the sake of gain, be found to possess anything more which has not been 
registered, let all that he has in excess be confiscated, and let 
him be liable to a suit which shall be the reverse of honourable or 
fortunate. And let any one who will, indict him on the charge of 
loving base gains, and proceed against him before the guardians of the 
law. And if he be cast, let him lose his share of the public 
possessions, and when there is any public distribution, let him have 
nothing but his original lot; and let him be written down a 
condemned man as long as he lives, in some place in which any one 
who pleases can read about his onces. The guardian of the law shall 
not hold office longer than twenty years, and shall not be less than 
fifty years of age when he is elected; or if he is elected when he 
is sixty years of age, he shall hold office for ten years only; and 
upon the same principle, he must not imagine that he will be permitted 
to hold such an important office as that of guardian of the laws after 
he is seventy years of age, if he live so long. 
These are the three first ordinances about the guardians of the law; 
as the work of legislation progresses, each law in turn will assign to 
them their further duties. And now we may proceed in order to speak of 
the election of other officers; for generals have to be elected, and 
these again must have their ministers, commanders, and colonels of 
horse, and commanders of brigades of foot, who would be more rightly 
called by their popular name of brigadiers. The guardians of the law 
shall propose as generals men who are natives of the city, and a 
selection from the candidates proposed shall be made by those who 
are or have been of the age for military service. And if one who is 
not proposed is thought by somebody to be better than one who is, 
let him name whom he prefers in the place of whom, and make oath 
that he is better, and propose him; and whichever of them is 
approved by vote shall be admitted to the final selection; and the 
three who have the greatest number of votes shall be appointed 
generals, and superintendents of military affairs, after previously 
undergoing a scrutiny, like the guardians of the law. And let the 
generals thus elected propose twelve brigadiers, one for each tribe; 
and there shall be a right of counterproposal as in the case of the 
generals, and the voting and decision shall take place in the same 
way. Until the prytanes and council are elected, the guardians of 
the law shall convene the assembly in some holy spot which is suitable 
to the purpose, placing the hoplites by themselves, and the cavalry by 
themselves, and in a third division all the rest of the army. All 
are to vote for the generals [and for the colonels of horse], but 
the brigadiers are to be voted for only by those who carry shields 
[i.e. the hoplites]. Let the body of cavalry choose phylarchs for 
the generals; but captains of light troops, or archers, or any other 
division of the army, shall be appointed by the generals for 
themselves. There only remains the appointment of officers of cavalry: 
these shall be proposed by the same persons who proposed the generals, 
and the election and the counter-proposal of other candidates shall be 
arranged in the same way as in the case of the generals, and let the 
cavalry vote and the infantry look on at the election; the two who 
have the greatest number of votes shall be the leaders of all the 
horse. Disputes about the voting may be raised once or twice; but if 
the dispute be raised a third time, the officers who preside at the 
several elections shall decide. 
The council shall consist of 30 x 12 members-360 will be a 
convenient number for sub-division. If we divide the whole number into 
four parts of ninety each, we get ninety counsellors for each class. 
First, all the citizens shall select candidates from the first 
class; they shall be compelled to vote, and, if they do not, shall 
be duly fined. When the candidates have been selected, some one 
shall mark them down; this shall be the business of the first day. And 
on the following day, candidates shall be selected from the second 
class in the same manner and under the same conditions as on the 
previous day; and on the third day a selection shall be made from 
the third class, at which every one may, if he likes, vote, and the 
three first classes shall be compelled to vote; but the fourth and 
lowest class shall be under no compulsion, and any member of this 
class who does not vote shall not be punished. On the fourth day 
candidates shall be selected from the fourth and smallest class; 
they shall be selected by all, but he who is of the fourth class shall 
suffer no penalty, nor he who is of the third, if he be not willing to 
vote; but he who is of the first or second class, if he does not 
vote shall be punished;-he who is of the second class shall pay a fine 
of triple the amount which was exacted at first, and he who is of 
the first class quadruple. On the fifth day the rulers shall bring out 
the names noted down, for all the citizens to see, and every man shall 
choose out of them, under pain, if he do not, of suffering the first 
penalty; and when they have chosen out of each of the classes, they 
shall choose one-half of them by lot, who shall undergo a 
scrutiny:-These are to form the council for the year. 
The mode of election which has been described is in a mean between 
monarchy and democracy, and such a mean the state ought always to 
observe; for servants and masters never can be friends, nor good and 
bad, merely because they are declared to have equal privileges. For to 
unequals equals become unequal, if they are not harmonized by measure; 
and both by reason of equality, and by reason of inequality, cities 
are filled with seditions. The old saying, that "equality makes 
friendship," is happy and also true; but there is obscurity and 
confusion as to what sort of equality is meant. For there are two 
equalities which are called by the same name, but are in reality in 
many ways almost the opposite of one another; one of them may be 
introduced without difficulty, by any state or any legislator in the 
distribution of honours: this is the rule of measure, weight, and 
number, which regulates and apportions them. But there is another 
equality, of a better and higher kind, which is not so easily 
recognized. This is the judgment of Zeus; among men it avails but 
little; that little, however, is the source of the greatest good to 
individuals and states. For it gives to the greater more, and to the 
inferior less and in proportion to the nature of each; and, above all, 
greater honour always to the greater virtue, and to the less less; and 
to either in proportion to their respective measure of virtue and 
education. And this is justice, and is ever the true principle of 
states, at which we ought to aim, and according to this rule order the 
new city which is now being founded, and any other city which may be 
hereafter founded. To this the legislator should look-not to the 
interests of tyrants one or more, or to the power of the people, but 
to justice always; which, as I was saying, the distribution of natural 
equality among unequals in each case. But there are times at which 
every state is compelled to use the words, "just," "equal," in a 
secondary sense, in the hope of escaping in some degree from factions. 
For equity and indulgence are infractions of the perfect and strict 
rule of justice. And this is the reason why we are obliged to use 
the equality of the lot, in order to avoid the discontent of the 
people; and so we invoke God and fortune in our prayers, and beg 
that they themselves will direct the lot with a view to supreme 
justice. And therefore, although we are compelled to use both 
equalities, we should use that into which the element of chance enters 
as seldom as possible. 
Thus, O my friends, and for the reasons given, should a state act 
which would endure and be saved. But as a ship sailing on the sea 
has to be watched night and day, in like manner a city also is sailing 
on a sea of politics, and is liable to all sorts of insidious 
assaults; and therefore from morning to night, and from night to 
morning, rulers must join hands with rulers, and watchers with 
watchers, receiving and giving up their trust in a perpetual 
succession. Now a multitude can never fulfil a duty of this sort 
with anything like energy. Moreover, the greater number of the 
senators will have to be left during the greater part of the year to 
order their concerns at their own homes. They will therefore have to 
be arranged in twelve portions, answering to the twelve months, and 
furnish guardians of the state, each portion for a single month. Their 
business is to be at hand and receive any foreigner or citizen who 
comes to them, whether to give information, or to put one of those 
questions, to which, when asked by other cities, a city should give an 
answer, and to which, if she ask them herself, she should receive an 
answer; or again, when there is a likelihood of internal commotions, 
which are always liable to happen in some form or other, they will, if 
they can, prevent their occurring; or if they have already occurred, 
will lose time in making them known to the city, and healing the evil. 
Wherefore, also, this which is the presiding body of the state ought 
always to have the control of their assemblies, and of the 
dissolutions of them, ordinary as well as extraordinary. All this is 
to be ordered by the twelfth part of the council, which is always to 
keep watch together with the other officers of the state during one 
portion of the year, and to rest during the remaining eleven portions. 
Thus will the city be fairly ordered. And now, who is to have, the 
superintendence of the country, and what shall be the arrangement? 
Seeing that the whole city and the entire country have been both of 
them divided into twelve portions, ought there not to be appointed 
superintendents of the streets of the city, and of the houses, and 
buildings, and harbours, and the agora, and fountains, and sacred 
domains, and temples, and the like? 
Cle. To be sure there ought. 
Ath. Let us assume, then, that there ought to be servants of the 
temples, and priests and priestesses. There must also be 
superintendents of roads and buddings, who will have a care of men, 
that they may do no harm, and also of beasts, both within the 
enclosure and in the suburbs. Three kinds of officers will thus have 
to be appointed, in order that the city may be suitably provided 
according to her needs. Those who have the care of the city shall be 
called wardens of the city; and those who have the care of the agora 
shall be called wardens of the agora; and those who have the care of 
the temples shall be called priests. Those who hold hereditary offices 
as priests or priestesses, shall not be disturbed; but if there be few 
or none such, as is probable at the foundation of a new city, 
priests and priestesses shall be appointed to be servants of the 
Gods who have no servants. Some of our officers shall be elected, 
and others appointed by lot, those who are of the people and those who 
are not of the people mingling in a friendly manner in every place and 
city, that the state may be as far as possible of one mind. The 
officers of the temples shall be appointed by lot; in this way their 
election will be committed to God, that he may do what is agreeable to 
him. And he who obtains a lot shall undergo a scrutiny, first, as to 
whether he is sound of body and of legitimate birth; and in the second 
place, in order to show that he is of a perfectly pure family, not 
stained with homicide or any similar impiety in his own person, and 
also that his father and mother have led a similar unstained life. Now 
the laws about all divine things should be brought from Delphi, and 
interpreters appointed, under whose direction they should be used. The 
tenure of the priesthood should always be for a year and no longer; 
and he who will duly execute the sacred office, according to the 
laws of religion, must be not less than sixty years of age-the laws 
shall be the same about priestesses. As for the interpreters, they 
shall be appointed thus:-Let the twelve tribes be distributed into 
groups of four, and let each group select four, one out of each 
tribe within the group, three times; and let the three who have the 
greatest number of votes [out of the twelve appointed by each 
group], after undergoing a scrutiny, nine in all, be sent to Delphi, 
in order that the God may return one out of each triad; their age 
shall be the same as that of the priests, and the scrutiny of them 
shall be conducted in the same manner; let them be interpreters for 
life, and when any one dies let the four tribes select another from 
the tribe of the deceased. Moreover, besides priests and interpreters, 
there must be treasurers, who will take charge of the property of 
the several temples, and of the sacred domains, and shall have 
authority over the produce and the letting of them; and three of 
them shall be chosen from the highest classes for the greater temples, 
and two for the lesser, and one for the least of all; the manner of 
their election and the scrutiny of them shall be the same as that of 
the generals. This shall be the order of the temples. 
Let everything have a guard as far as possible. Let the defence of 
the city be commited to the generals, and taxiarchs, and hipparchs, 
and phylarchs, and prytanes, and the wardens of the city, and of the 
agora, when the election of them has been completed. The defence of 
the country shall be provided for as follows:-The entire land has been 
already distributed into twelve as nearly as possible equal parts, and 
let the tribe allotted to a division provide annually for it five 
wardens of the country and commanders of the watch; and let each 
body of five have the power of selecting twelve others out of the 
youth of their own tribe-these shall be not less than twenty-five 
years of age, and not more than thirty. And let there be allotted to 
them severally every month the various districts, in order that they 
may all acquire knowledge and experience of the whole country. The 
term of service for commanders and for watchers shall continue 
during two years. After having had their stations allotted to them, 
they will go from place to place in regular order, making their 
round from left to right as their commanders direct them; (when I 
speak of going to the right, I mean that they are to go to the 
east). And at the commencement of the second year, in order that as 
many as possible of the guards may not only get a knowledge of the 
country at any one season of the year, but may also have experience of 
the manner in which different places are affected at different seasons 
of the year, their then commanders shall lead them again towards the 
left, from place to place in succession, until they have completed the 
second year. In the third year other wardens of the country shall be 
chosen and commanders of the watch, five for each division, who are to 
be the superintendents of the bands of twelve. While on service at 
each station, their attention shall be directed to the following 
points:-In the first place, they shall see that the country is well 
protected against enemies; they shall trench and dig wherever this 
is required, and, as far as they can, they shall by fortifications 
keep off the evil-disposed, in order to prevent them from doing any 
harm to the country or the property; they shall use the beasts of 
burden and the labourers whom they find on the spot: these will be 
their instruments whom they will superintend, taking them, as far as 
possible, at the times when they are not engaged in their regular 
business. They shall make every part of the country inaccessible to 
enemies, and as accessible as possible to friends; there shall be ways 
for man and beasts of burden and for cattle, and they shall take 
care to have them always as smooth as they can; and shall provide 
against the rains doing harm instead of good to the land, when they 
come down from the mountains into the hollow dells; and shall keep 
in the overflow by the help of works and ditches, in order that the 
valleys, receiving and drinking up the rain from heaven, and providing 
fountains and streams in the fields and regions which lie 
underneath, may furnish even to the dry places plenty of good water. 
The fountains of water, whether of rivers or of springs, shall be 
ornamented with plantations and buildings for beauty; and let them 
bring together the streams in subterraneous channels, and make all 
things plenteous; and if there be a sacred grove or dedicated precinct 
in the neighbourhood, they shall conduct the water to the actual 
temples of the Gods, and so beautify them at all seasons of the 
year. Everywhere in such places the youth shall make gymnasia for 
themselves, and warm baths for the aged, placing by them abundance 
of dry wood, for the benefit of those labouring under disease-there 
the weary frame of the rustic, worn with toil, will receive a kindly 
welcome, far better than he would at the hands of a not over-wise 
The building of these and the like works will be useful and 
ornamental; they will provide a pleasing amusement, but they will be a 
serious employment too; for the sixty wardens will have to guard their 
several divisions, not only with a view to enemies, but also with an 
eye to professing friends. When a quarrel arises among neighbours or 
citizens, and any one, whether slave or freeman wrongs another, let 
the five wardens decide small matters on their own authority; but 
where the charge against another relates to greater matters, the 
seventeen composed of the fives and twelves, shall determine any 
charges which one man brings against another, not involving more 
than three minae. Every judge and magistrate shall be liable to give 
an account of his conduct in office, except those who, like kings, 
have the final decision. Moreover, as regards the aforesaid wardens of 
the country, if they do any wrong to those of whom they have the care, 
whether by imposing upon them unequal tasks, or by taking the 
produce of the soil or implements of husbandry without their 
consent; also if they receive anything in the way of a bribe, or 
decide suits unjustly, or if they yield to the influences of flattery, 
let them be publicly dishonoured; and in regard to any other wrong 
which they do to the inhabitants of the country, if the question be of 
a mina, let them submit to the decision of the villagers in the 
neighbourhood; but in suits of greater amount, or in case of lesser, 
if they refuse to submit, trusting that their monthly removal into 
another part of the country will enable them to escape-in such cases 
the injured party may bring his suit in the common court, and if he 
obtain a verdict he may exact from the defendant, who refused to 
submit, a double penalty. 
The wardens and the overseers of the country, while on their two 
years service, shall have common meals at their several stations, 
and shall all live together; and he who is absent from the common 
meal, or sleeps out, if only for one day or night, unless by order 
of his commanders, or by reason of absolute necessity, if the five 
denounce him and inscribe his name the agora as not having kept his 
guard, let him be deemed to have betrayed the city, as far as lay in 
his power, and let him be disgraced and beaten with impunity by any 
one who meets him and is willing to punish him. If any of the 
commanders is guilty of such an irregularity, the whole company of 
sixty shall see to it, and he who is cognizant of the offence, and 
does not bring the offender to trial, shall be amenable to the same 
laws as the younger offender himself, and shall pay a heavier fine, 
and be incapable of ever commanding the young. The guardians of the 
law are to be careful inspectors of these matters, and shall either 
prevent or punish offenders. Every man should remember the universal 
rule, that he who is not a good servant will not be a good master; a 
man should pride himself more upon serving well than upon commanding 
well: first upon serving the laws, which is also the service of the 
Gods; in the second place, upon having. served ancient and 
honourable men in the days of his youth. Furthermore, during the two 
years in which any one is a warden of the country, his daily food 
ought to be of a simple and humble kind. When the twelve have been 
chosen, let them and the five meet together, and determine that they 
will be their own servants, and, like servants, will not have other 
slaves and servants for their own use, neither will they use those 
of the villagers and husbandmen for their private advantage, but for 
the public service only; and in general they should make up their 
minds to live independently by themselves, servants of each other 
and of themselves. Further, at all seasons of the year, summer and 
winter alike, let them be under arms and survey minutely the whole 
country; thus they will at once keep guard, and at the same time 
acquire a perfect knowledge of every locality. There can be no more 
important kind of information than the exact knowledge of a man's 
own country; and for this as well as for more general reasons of 
pleasure and advantage, hunting with dogs and other kinds of sports 
should be pursued by the young. The service to whom this is 
committed may be called the secret police, or wardens of the 
country; the name does not much signify, but every one who has the 
safety of the state at heart will use his utmost diligence in this 
After the wardens of the country, we have to speak of the election 
of wardens of the agora and of the city. The wardens of the country 
were sixty in number, and the wardens of the city will be three, and 
will divide the twelve parts of the city into three; like the 
former, they shall have care of the ways, and of the different high 
roads which lead out of the country into the city, and of the 
buildings, that they may be all made according to law;-also of the 
waters, which the guardians of the supply preserve and convey to them, 
care being taken that they may reach the fountains pure and 
abundant, and be both an ornament and a benefit to the city. These 
also should be men of influence, and at leisure to take care of the 
public interest. Let every man propose as warden of the city any one 
whom he likes out of the highest class, and when the vote has been 
given on them, and the number is reduced to the six who have the 
greatest number of votes, let the electing officers choose by lot 
three out of the six, and when they have undergone a scrutiny let them 
hold office according to the laws laid down for them. Next, let the 
wardens of the agora be elected in like manner, out of the first and 
second class, five in number: ten are to be first elected, and out 
of the ten five are to be chosen by lot, as in the election of the 
wardens of the city:-these when they have undergone a scrutiny are 
to be declared magistrates. Every one shall vote for every one, and he 
who will not vote, if he be informed against before the magistrates, 
shall be fined fifty drachmae, and shall also be deemed a bad citizen. 
Let any one who likes go to the assembly and to the general council; 
it shall be compulsory to go on citizens of the first and second 
class, and they shall pay a fine of ten drachmae if they be found 
not answering to their names at the assembly. the third and fourth 
class shall be under no compulsion, and shall be let off without a 
fine, unless the magistrates have commanded all to be present, in 
consequence of some urgent necessity. The wardens of the agora shall 
observe the order appointed by law for the agora, and shall have the 
charge of the temples and fountains which are in the agora; and they 
shall see that no one injures anything, and punish him who does, 
with stripes and bonds, if he be a slave or stranger; but if he be a 
citizen who misbehaves in this way, they shall have the power 
themselves of inflicting a fine upon him to the amount of a hundred 
drachmae, or with the consent of the wardens of the city up to 
double that amount. And let the wardens of the city have a similar 
power of imposing punishments and fines in their own department; and 
let them impose fines by their own department; and let them impose 
fines by their own authority, up to a mina, or up to two minae with 
the consent of the wardens of the agora. 
In the next place, it will be proper to appoint directors of music 
and gymnastic, two kinds of each-of the one kind the business will 
be education, of the other, the superintendence of contests. In 
speaking of education, the law means to speak of those who have the 
care of order and instruction in gymnasia and schools, and of the 
going to school, and of school buildings for boys and girls; and in 
speaking of contests, the law refers to the judges of gymnastics and 
of music; these again are divided into two classes, the one having 
to do with music, the other with gymnastics; and the same who judge of 
the gymnastic contests of men, shall judge of horses; but in music 
there shall be one set of judges of solo singing, and of imitation-I 
mean of rhapsodists, players on the harp, the flute and the like, 
and another who shall judge of choral song. First of all, we must 
choose directors for the choruses of boys, and men, and maidens, 
whom they shall follow in the amusement of the dance, and for our 
other musical arrangements; -one director will be enough for the 
choruses, and he should be not less than forty years of age. One 
director will also be enough to introduce the solo singers, and to 
give judgment on the competitors, and he ought not to be less than 
thirty years of age. The director and manager of the choruses shall be 
elected after the following manner:-Let any persons who commonly 
take an interest in such matters go to the meeting, and be fined if 
they do not go (the guardians of the law shall judge of their 
fault), but those who have no interest shall not be compelled. The 
elector shall propose as director some one who understands music, 
and he in the scrutiny may be challenged on the one part by those 
who say he has no skill, and defended on the other hand by those who 
say that he has. Ten are to be elected by vote, and he of the ten 
who is chosen by lot shall undergo a scrutiny, and lead the choruses 
for a year according to law. And in like manner the competitor who 
wins the lot shall be leader of the solo and concert music for that 
year; and he who is thus elected shall deliver the award to the 
judges. In the next place, we have to choose judges in the contests of 
horses and of men; these shall be selected from the third and also 
from the second class of citizens, and three first classes shall be 
compelled to go to the election, but the lowest may stay away with 
impunity; and let there be three elected by lot out of the twenty 
who have been chosen previously, and they must also have the vote 
and approval of the examiners. But if any one is rejected in the 
scrutiny at any ballot or decision, others shall be chosen in the same 
manner, and undergo a similar scrutiny. 
There remains the minister of the education of youth, male and 
female; he too will rule according to law; one such minister will be 
sufficient, and he must be fifty years old, and have children lawfully 
begotten, both boys and girls by preference, at any rate, one or the 
other. He who is elected, and he who is the elector, should consider 
that of all the great offices of state, this is the greatest; for 
the first shoot of any plant, if it makes a good start towards the 
attainment of its natural excellence, has the greatest effect on its 
maturity; and this is not only true of plants, but of animals wild and 
tame, and also of men. Man, as we say, is a tame or civilized 
animal; nevertheless, he requires proper instruction and a fortunate 
nature, and then of all animals he becomes the most divine and most 
civilized; but if he be insufficiently or ill educated he is the 
most savage of earthly creatures. Wherefore the legislator ought not 
to allow the education of children to become a secondary or accidental 
matter. In the first place, he who would be rightly provident about 
them, should begin by taking care that he is elected, who of all the 
citizens is in every way best; him the legislator shall do his 
utmost to appoint guardian and superintendent. To this end all the 
magistrates, with the exception of the council and prytanes, shall 
go to the temple of Apollo, and elect by ballot him of the guardians 
of the law whom they severally think will be the best superintendent 
of education. And he who has the greatest number of votes, after he 
has undergone a scrutiny at the hands of all the magistrates who 
have been his electors, with the exception of the guardians of the 
law-shall hold office for five years; and in the sixth year let 
another be chosen in like manner to fill his office. 
If any one dies while he is holding a public office, and more than 
thirty days before his term of office expires, let those whose 
business it is elect another to the office in the same manner as 
before. And if any one who is entrusted with orphans dies, let the 
relations both on the father's and mother's side, who are residing 
at home, including cousins, appoint another guardian within ten 
days, or be fined a drachma a day for neglect to do so. 
A city which has no regular courts of law ceases to be a city; and 
again, if a judge is silent and says no more in preliminary 
proceedings than the litigants, as is the case in arbitrations, he 
will never be able to decide justly; wherefore a multitude of judges 
will not easily judge well, nor a few if they are bad. The point in 
dispute between the parties should be made clear; and time, and 
deliberation, and repeated examination, greatly tend to clear up 
doubts. For this reason, he who goes to law with another should go 
first of all to his neighbours and friends who know best the questions 
at issue. And if he be unable to obtain from them a satisfactory 
decision, let him have recourse to another court; and if the two 
courts cannot settle the matter, let a third put an end to the suit. 
Now the establishment of courts of justice may be regarded as a 
choice of magistrates, for every magistrate must also be a judge of 
some things; and the judge, though he be not a magistrate, yet in 
certain respects is a very important magistrate on the day on which he 
is determining a suit. Regarding then the judges also as 
magistrates, let us say who are fit to be judges, and of what they are 
to be judges, and how many of them are to judge in each suit. Let that 
be the supreme tribunal which the litigants appoint in common for 
themselves, choosing certain persons by agreement. And let there be 
two other tribunals: one for private causes, when a citizen accuses 
another of wronging him and wishes to get a decision; the other for 
public causes, in which some citizen is of opinion that the public has 
been wronged by an individual, and is willing to vindicate the 
common interests. And we must not forget to mention how the judges are 
to be qualified, and who they are to be. In the first place, let there 
be a tribunal open to all private persons who are trying causes one 
against another for the third time, and let this be composed as 
follows:-All the officers of state, as well annual as those holding 
office for a longer period, when the new year is about to commence, in 
the month following after the summer solstice, on the last day but one 
of the year, shall meet in some temple, and calling God to witness, 
shall dedicate one judge from every magistracy to be their 
first-fruits, choosing in each office him who seems to them to be 
the best, and whom they deem likely to decide the causes of his 
fellow-citizens during the ensuing year in the best and holiest 
manner. And when the election is completed, a scrutiny shall be held 
in the presence of the electors themselves, and if any one be rejected 
another shall be chosen in the same manner. Those who have undergone 
the scrutiny shall judge the causes of those who have declined the 
inferior courts, and shall give their vote openly. The councillors and 
other magistrates who have elected them shall be required to be 
hearers and spectators of the causes; and any one else may be 
present who pleases. If one man charges another with having 
intentionally decided wrong, let him go to the guardians of the law 
and lay his accusation before them, and he who is found guilty in such 
a case shall pay damages to the injured party equal to half the 
injury; but if he shall appear to deserve a greater penalty, the 
judges shall determine what additional punishment he shall suffer, and 
how much more he ought to pay to the public treasury, and to the party 
who brought the suit. 
In the judgment of offences against the state, the people ought to 
participate, for when any one wrongs the state all are wronged, and 
may reasonably complain if they are not allowed to share in the 
decision. Such causes ought to originate with the people, and the 
ought also to have the final decision of them, but the trial of them 
shall take place before three of the highest magistrates, upon whom 
the plaintiff and the defendant shall agree; and if they are not 
able to come to an agreement themselves, the council shall choose 
one of the two proposed. And in private suits, too, as far as is 
possible, all should have a share; for he who has no share in the 
administration of justice, is apt to imagine that he has no share in 
the state at all. And for this reason there shall be a court of law in 
every tribe, and the judges shall be chosen by lot;-they shall give 
their decisions at once, and shall be inaccessible to entreaties. 
The final judgment shall rest with that court which, as we maintain, 
has been established in the most incorruptible form of which human 
things admit: this shall be the court established for those who are 
unable to get rid of their suits either in the courts of neighbours or 
of the tribes. 
Thus much of the courts of law, which, as I was saying, cannot be 
precisely defined either as being or not being offices; a 
superficial sketch has been given of them, in which some things have 
been told and others omitted. For the right place of an exact 
statement of the laws respecting suits, under their several heads, 
will be at the end of the body of legislation;-let us then expect them 
at the end. Hitherto our legislation has been chiefly occupied with 
the appointment of offices. Perfect unity and exactness, extending 
to the whole and every particular of political administration, 
cannot be attained to the full, until the discussion shall have a 
beginning, middle, and end, and is complete in every part. At 
present we have reached the election of magistrates, and this may be 
regarded as a sufficient termination of what preceded. And now there 
need no longer be any delay or hesitation in beginning the work of 
Cle. I like what you have said, Stranger-and I particularly like 
your manner of tacking on the beginning of your new discourse to the 
end of the former one. 
Ath. Thus far, then, the old men's rational pastime has gone off 
Cle. You mean, I suppose, their serious and noble pursuit? 
Ath. Perhaps; but I should like to know whether you and I are agreed 
about a certain thing. 
Cle. About what thing? 
Ath. You know. the endless labour which painters expend upon their 
pictures-they are always putting in or taking out colours, or whatever 
be the term which artists employ; they seem as if they would never 
cease touching up their works, which are always being made brighter 
and more beautiful. 
Cle. I know something of these matters from report, although I 
have never had any great acquaintance with the art. 
Ath. No matter; we may make use of the illustration 
notwithstanding:-Suppose that some one had a mind to paint a figure in 
the most beautiful manner, in the hope that his work instead of losing 
would always improve as time went on-do you not see that being a 
mortal, unless he leaves some one to succeed him who will correct 
the flaws which time may introduce, and be able to add what is left 
imperfect through the defect of the artist, and who will further 
brighten up and improve the picture, all his great labour will last 
but a short time? 
Cle. True. 
Ath. And is not the aim of the legislator similar? First, he desires 
that his laws should be written down with all possible exactness; in 
the second place, as time goes on and he has made an actual trial of 
his decrees, will he not find omissions? Do you imagine that there 
ever was a legislator so foolish as not to know that many things are 
necessarily omitted, which some one coming after him must correct, 
if the constitution and the order of government is not to deteriorate, 
but to improve in the state which he has established? 
Cle. Assuredly, that is the sort of thing which every one would 
Ath. And if any one possesses any means of accomplishing this by 
word or deed, or has any way great or small by which he can teach a 
person to understand how he can maintain and amend the laws, he should 
finish what he has to say, and not leave the work incomplete. 
Cle. By all means. 
Ath. And is not this what you and I have to do at the present 
Cle. What have we to do? 
Ath. As we are about to legislate and have chosen our guardians of 
the law, and are ourselves in the evening of life, and they as 
compared with us are young men, we ought not only to legislate for 
them, but to endeavour to make them not only guardians of the law 
but legislators themselves, as far as this is possible. 
Cle. Certainly; if we can. 
Ath. At any rate, we must do our best. 
Cle. Of course. 
Ath. We will say to them-O friends and saviours of our laws, in 
laying down any law, there are many particulars which we shall omit, 
and this cannot be helped; at the same time, we will do our utmost 
to describe what is important, and will give an outline which you 
shall fill up. And I will explain on what principle you are to act. 
Megillus and Cleinias and I have often spoken to one another 
touching these matters, and we are of opinion that we have spoken 
well. And we hope that you will be of the same mind with us, and 
become our disciples, and keep in view the things which in our 
united opinion the legislator and guardian of the law ought to keep in 
view. There was one main point about which we were agreed-that a man's 
whole energies throughout life should be devoted to the acquisition of 
the virtue proper to a man, whether this was to be gained by study, or 
habit, or some mode of acquisition, or desire, or opinion, or 
knowledge-and this applies equally to men and women, old and young-the 
aim of all should always be such as I have described; anything which 
may be an impediment, the good man ought to show that he utterly 
disregards. And if at last necessity plainly compels him to be an 
outlaw from his native land, rather than bow his neck to the yoke of 
slavery and be ruled by inferiors, and he has to fly, an exile he must 
be and endure all such trials, rather than accept another form of 
government, which is likely to make men worse. These are our 
original principles; and do you now, fixing your eyes upon the 
standard of what a man and a citizen ought or ought not to be, 
praise and blame the laws-blame those which have not this power of 
making the citizen better, but embrace those which have; and with 
gladness receive and live in them; bidding a long farewell to other 
institutions which aim at goods, as they are termed, of a different 
Let us proceed to another class of laws, beginning with their 
foundation in religion. And we must first return to the number 
5040-the entire number had, and has, a great many convenient 
divisions, and the number of the tribes which was a twelfth part of 
the whole, being correctly formed by 21 X 20 [5040/(21 X 20), i.e., 
5040/420=12], also has them. And not only is the whole number 
divisible by twelve, but also the number of each tribe is divisible by 
twelve. Now every portion should be regarded by us as a sacred gift of 
Heaven, corresponding to the months and to the revolution of the 
universe. Every city has a guiding and sacred principle given by 
nature, but in some the division or distribution has been more right 
than in others, and has been more sacred and fortunate. In our 
opinion, nothing can be more right than the selection of the number 
5040, which may be divided by all numbers from one to twelve with 
the single exception of eleven, and that admits of a very easy 
correction; for if, turning to the dividend (5040), we deduct two 
families, the defect in the division is cured. And the truth of this 
may be easily proved when we have leisure. But for the present, 
trusting to the mere assertion of this principle, let us divide the 
state; and assigning to each portion some God or son of a God, let 
us give them altars and sacred rites, and at the altars let us hold 
assemblies for sacrifice twice in the month-twelve assemblies for 
the tribes, and twelve for the city, according to their divisions; the 
first in honour of the Gods and divine things, and the second to 
promote friendship and "better acquaintance," as the phrase is, and 
every sort of good fellowship with one another. For people must be 
acquainted with those into whose families and whom they marry and with 
those to whom they give in marriage; in such matters, as far as 
possible, a man should deem it all important to avoid a mistake, and 
with this serious purpose let games be instituted in which youths 
and maidens shall dance together, seeing one another and being seen 
naked, at a proper age, and on a suitable occasion, not 
transgressing the rules of modesty. 
The directors of choruses will be the superintendents and regulators 
of these games, and they, together with the guardians of the law, will 
legislate in any matters which we have omitted; for, as we said, where 
there are numerous and minute details, the legislator must leave out 
something. And the annual officers who have experience, and know 
what is wanted, must make arrangements and improvements year by 
year, until such enactments and provisions are sufficiently 
determined. A ten years experience of sacrifices and dances, if 
extending to all particulars, will be quite sufficient; and if the 
legislator be alive they shall communicate with him, but if he be dead 
then the several officers shall refer the omissions which come under 
their notice to the guardians of the law, and correct them, until 
all is perfect; and from that time there shall be no more change, 
and they shall establish and use the new laws with the others which 
the legislator originally gave them, and of which they are never, if 
they can help, to change aught; or, if some necessity overtakes 
them, the magistrates must be called into counsel, and the whole 
people, and they must go to all the oracles of the Gods; and if they 
are all agreed, in that case they may make the change, but if they are 
not agreed, by no manner of means, and any one who dissents shall 
prevail, as the law ordains. 
Whenever any one over twenty-five years of age, having seen and been 
seen by others, believes himself to have found a marriage connection 
which is to his mind, and suitable for the procreation of children, 
let him marry if he be still under the age of five-and-thirty years; 
but let him first hear how he ought to seek after what is suitable and 
appropriate. For, as Cleinias says, every law should have a suitable 
Cle. You recollect at the right moment, Stranger, and do not miss 
the opportunity which the argument affords of saying a word in season. 
Ath. I thank you. We will say to him who is born of good parents-O 
my son, you ought to make such a marriage as wise men would approve. 
Now they would advise you neither to avoid a poor marriage, nor 
specially to desire a rich one; but if other things are equal, 
always to honour inferiors, and with them to form connections;-this 
will be for the benefit of the city and of the families which are 
united; for the equable and symmetrical tends infinitely more to 
virtue than the unmixed. And he who is conscious of being too 
headstrong, and carried away more than is fitting in all his 
actions, ought to desire to become the relation of orderly parents; 
and he who is of the opposite temper ought to seek the opposite 
alliance. Let there be one word concerning all marriages:-Every man 
shall follow, not after the marriage which is most pleasing to 
himself, but after that which is most beneficial to the state. For 
somehow every one is by nature prone to that which is likest to 
himself, and in this way the whole city becomes unequal in property 
and in disposition; and hence there arise in most states the very 
results which we least desire to happen. Now, to add to the law an 
express provision, not only that the rich man shall not marry into the 
rich family, nor the powerful into the family of the powerful, but 
that the slower natures shall be compelled to enter into marriage with 
the quicker, and the quicker with the slower, may awaken anger as well 
as laughter in the minds of many; for there is a difficulty in 
perceiving that the city ought to be well mingled like a cup, in which 
the maddening wine is hot and fiery, but when chastened by a soberer 
God, receives a fair associate and becomes an excellent and 
temperate drink. Yet in marriage no one is able to see that the same 
result occurs. Wherefore also the law must let alone such matters, but 
we should try to charm the spirits of men into believing the 
equability of their children's disposition to be of more importance 
than equality in excessive fortune when they marry; and him who is too 
desirous of making a rich marriage we should endeavour to turn aside 
by reproaches, not, however, by any compulsion of written law. 
Let this then be our exhortation concerning marriage, and let us 
remember what was said before-that a man should cling to 
immortality, and leave behind him children's children to be the 
servants of God in his place for ever. All this and much more may be 
truly said by way of prelude about the duty of marriage. But if a 
man will not listen and remains unsocial and alien among his 
fellow-citizens, and is still unmarried at thirty-five years of age, 
let him pay a yearly fine;-he who of the highest class shall pay a 
fine of a hundred drachmae, and he who is of the second dass a fine of 
seventy drachmae; the third class shall pay sixty drachmae, and the 
fourth thirty drachmae, and let the money be sacred to Here; he who 
does not pay the fine annually shall owe ten times the sum, which 
the treasurer of the goddess shall exact; and if he fails in doing so, 
let him be answerable and give an account of the. money at his 
audit. He who refuses to marry shall be thus punished in money, and 
also be deprived of all honour which the younger show to the elder; 
let no young man voluntarily obey him, and if he attempt to punish any 
one, let every one come to the rescue and defend the injured person, 
and he who is present and does not come to the rescue, shall be 
pronounced by the law to be a coward and a bad citizen. Of the 
marriage portion I have already spoken; and again I say for the 
instruction of poor men that he who neither gives nor receives a dowry 
on account of poverty, has a compensation; for the citizens of our 
state are provided with the necessaries of life, and wives will be 
less likely to be insolent, and husbands to be mean and subservient to 
them on account of property. And he who obeys this law will do a noble 
action; but he who will not obey, and gives or receives more than 
fifty drachmae as the price of the marriage garments if he be of the 
lowest, or more than a mina, or a mina and-a-half, if he be of the 
third or second classes, or two minae if he be of the highest class, 
shall owe to the public treasury a similar sum, and that which is 
given or received shall be sacred to Here and Zeus; and let the 
treasurers of these Gods exact the money, as was said before about the 
unmarried-that the treasurers of Here were to exact the money, or 
pay the fine themselves. 
The betrothal by a father shall be valid in the first degree, that 
by a grandfather in the second degree, and in the third degree, 
betrothal by brothers who have the same father; but if there are 
none of these alive, the betrothal by a mother shall be valid in 
like manner; in cases of unexampled fatality, the next of kin and 
the guardians shall have authority. What are to be the rites before 
marriages, or any other sacred acts, relating either to future, 
present, or past marriages, shall be referred to the interpreters; and 
he who follows their advice may be satisfied. Touching the marriage 
festival, they shall assemble not more than five male and five 
female friends of both families; and a like number of members of the 
family of either sex, and no man shall spend more than his means 
will allow; he who is of the richest class may spend a mina-he who 
is of the second, half a mina, and in the same proportion as the 
census of each decreases: all men shall praise him who is obedient 
to the law; but he who is disobedient shall be punished by the 
guardians of the law as a man wanting in true taste, and 
uninstructed in the laws of bridal song. Drunkenness is always 
improper, except at the festivals of the God who gave wine; and 
peculiarly dangerous, when a man is engaged in the business of 
marriage; at such a crisis of their lives a bride and bridegroom ought 
to have all their wits about them-they ought to take care that their 
offspring may be born of reasonable beings; for on what day or night 
Heaven will give them increase, who can say? Moreover, they ought 
not to begetting children when their bodies are dissipated by 
intoxication, but their offspring should be compact and solid, quiet 
and compounded properly; whereas the drunkard is all abroad in all his 
actions, and beside himself both in body and soul. Wherefore, also, 
the drunken man is bad and unsteady in sowing the seed of increase, 
and is likely to beget offspring who will be unstable and 
untrustworthy, and cannot be expected to walk straight either in 
body or mind. Hence during the whole year and all his life long, and 
especially while he is begetting children, ought to take care and 
not intentionally do what is injurious to health, or what involves 
insolence and wrong; for he cannot help leaving the impression of 
himself on the souls and bodies of his offspring, and he begets 
children in every way inferior. And especially on the day and night of 
marriage should a man abstain from such things. For the beginning, 
which is also a God dwelling in man, preserves all things, if it 
meet with proper respect from each individual. He who marries is 
further to consider that one of the two houses in the lot is the 
nest and nursery of his young, and there he is to marry and make a 
home for himself and bring up his children, going away from his father 
and mother. For in friendships there must be some degree of desire, in 
order to cement and bind together diversities of character; but 
excessive intercourse not having the desire which is created by 
time, insensibly dissolves friendships from a feeling of satiety; 
wherefore a man and his wife shall leave to his and her father and 
mother their own dwelling-places, and themselves go as to a colony and 
dwell there, and visit and be visited by their parents; and they shall 
beget and bring up children, handing on the torch of life from one 
generation to another, and worshipping the Gods according to law for 
In the next place, we have to consider what sort of property will be 
most convenient. There is no difficulty either in understanding or 
acquiring most kinds of property, but there is great difficulty in 
what relates to slaves. And the reason is that we speak about them 
in a way which is right and which is not right; for what we say 
about our slaves is consistent and also inconsistent with our practice 
about them. 
Megillus. I do not understand, Stranger, what you mean. 
Ath. I am not surprised, Megillus, for the state of the Helots among 
the Lacedaemonians is of all Hellenic forms of slavery the most 
controverted and disputed about, some approving and some condemning 
it; there is less dispute about the slavery which exists among the 
Heracleots, who have subjugated the Mariandynians, and about the 
Thessalian Penestae. Looking at these and the like examples, what 
ought we to do concerning property in slaves? I made a remark, in 
passing, which naturally elicited a question about my meaning from 
you. It was this:-We know that all would agree that we should have the 
best and most attached slaves whom we can get. For many a man has 
found his slaves better in every way than brethren or sons, and many 
times they have saved the lives and property of their masters and 
their whole house-such tales are well known. 
Meg. To be sure. 
Ath. But may we not also say that the soul of the slave is utterly 
corrupt, and that no man of sense ought to trust them? And the 
wisest of our poets, speaking of Zeus, says: 
Far-seeing Zeus takes away half the understanding of men whom the 
day of slavery subdues. 
Different persons have got these two different notions of slaves in 
their minds-some of them utterly distrust their servants, and, as if 
they were wild beasts, chastise them with goads and whips, and make 
their souls three times, or rather many times, as slavish as they were 
before;-and others do just the opposite. 
Meg. True. 
Cle. Then what are we to do in our own country, Stranger, seeing 
that there are, such differences in the treatment of slaves by their 
Ath. Well, Cleinias, there can be no doubt that man is a troublesome 
animal, and therefore he is not very manageable, nor likely to 
become so, when you attempt to introduce the necessary division, 
slave, and freeman, and master. 
Cle. That is obvious. 
Ath. He is a troublesome piece of goods, as has been often shown 
by the frequent revolts of the Messenians, and the great mischiefs 
which happen in states having many slaves who speak the same language, 
and the numerous robberies and lawless life of the Italian banditti, 
as they are called. A man who considers all this is fairly at a 
loss. Two remedies alone remain to us-not to have the slaves of the 
same country, nor if possible, speaking the same language; in this way 
they will more easily be held in subjection: secondly, we should 
tend them carefully, not only out of regard to them, but yet more 
out of respect to ourselves. And the right treatment of slaves is to 
behave properly to them, and to do to them, if possible, even more 
justice than to those who are our equals; for he who naturally and 
genuinely reverences justice, and hates injustice, is discovered in 
his dealings with any class of men to whom he can easily be unjust. 
And he who in regard to the natures and actions of his slaves is 
undefiled by impiety and injustice, will best sow the seeds of 
virtue in them; and this may be truly said of every master, and 
tyrant, and of every other having authority in relation to his 
inferiors. Slaves ought to be punished as they deserve, and not 
admonished as if they were freemen, which will only make them 
conceited. The language used to a servant ought always to be that of a 
command, and we ought not to jest with them, whether they are males or 
females-this is a foolish way which many people have of setting up 
their slaves, and making the life of servitude more disagreeable 
both for them and for their masters. 
Cle. True. 
Ath. Now that each of the citizens is provided, as far as 
possible, with a sufficient number of suitable slaves who can help him 
in what he has to do, we may next proceed to describe their dwellings. 
Cle. Very good. 
Ath. The city being new and hitherto uninhabited, care ought to be 
taken of all the buildings, and the manner of building each of them, 
and also of the temples and walls. These, Cleinias, were matters which 
properly came before the marriages; but, as we are only talking, there 
is no objection to changing the order. If, however, our plan of 
legislation is ever to take effect, then the house shall precede the 
marriage if God so will, and afterwards we will come to the 
regulations about marriage; but at present we are only describing 
these matters in a general outline. 
Cle. Quite true. 
Ath. The temples are to be placed all round the agora, and the whole 
city built on the heights in a circle, for the sake of defence and for 
the sake of purity. Near the temples are to be placed buildings for 
the magistrates and the courts of law; in these plaintiff and 
defendant will receive their due, and the places will be regarded as 
most holy, partly because they have to do with the holy things: and 
partly because they are the dwelling-places of holy Gods: and in 
them will be held the courts in which cases of homicide and other 
trials of capital offenses may fitly take place. As to the walls, 
Megillus, I agree with Sparta in thinking that they should be 
allowed to sleep in the earth, and that we should not attempt to 
disinter them; there is a poetical saying, which is finely 
expressed, that "walls ought to be of steel and iron, and not of 
earth; besides, how ridiculous of us to be sending out our young men 
annually into the country to dig and to trench, and to keep off the 
enemy by fortifications, under the idea that they are not to be 
allowed to set foot in our territory, and then, that we should 
surround ourselves with a wall, which, in the first place, is by no 
means conducive to the health of cities, and is also apt to produce 
a certain effeminacy in the minds of the inhabitants, inviting men 
to run thither instead of repelling their enemies, and leading them to 
imagine that their safety is due not to their keeping guard day and 
night, but that when they are protected by walls and gates, then 
they may sleep in safety; as if they were not meant to labour, and did 
not know that true repose comes from labour, and that disgraceful 
indolence and a careless temper of mind is only the renewal of 
trouble. But if men must have walls, the private houses ought to be so 
arranged from the first that the whole city may be one wall, having 
all the houses capable of defence by reason of their uniformity and 
equality towards the streets. The form of the city being that of a 
single dwelling will have an agreeable aspect, and being easily 
guarded will be infinitely better for security. Until the original 
building is completed, these should be the principal objects of the 
inhabitants; and the wardens of the city should superintend the 
work, and should impose a fine on him who is negligent; and in all 
that relates to the city they should have a care of cleanliness, and 
not allow a private person to encroach upon any public property either 
by buildings or excavations. Further, they ought to take care that the 
rains from heaven flow off easily, and of any other matters which 
may have to be administered either within or without the city. The 
guardians of the law shall pass any further enactments which their 
experience may show to be necessary, and supply any other points in 
which the law may be deficient. And now that these matters, and the 
buildings about the agora, and the gymnasia, and places of 
instruction, and theatres, are all ready and waiting for scholars 
and spectators, let us proceed to the subjects which follow marriage 
in the order of legislation. 
Cle. By all means. 
Ath. Assuming that marriages exist already, Cleinias, the mode of 
life during the year after marriage, before children are born, will 
follow next in order. In what way bride and bridegroom ought to live 
in a city which is to be superior to other cities, is a matter not 
at all easy for us to determine. There have been many difficulties 
already, but this will be the greatest of them, and the most 
disagreeable to the many. Still I cannot but say what appears to me to 
be right and true, Cleinias. 
Cle. Certainly. 
Ath. He who imagines that he can give laws for the public conduct of 
states, while he leaves the private life of citizens wholly to take 
care of itself; who thinks that individuals may pass the day as they 
please, and that there is no necessity of order in all things; he, I 
say, who gives up the control of their private lives, and supposes 
that they will conform to law in their common and public life, is 
making a great mistake. Why have I made this remark? Why, because I am 
going to enact that the bridegrooms should live at the common 
tables, just as they did before marriage. This was a singularity 
when first enacted by the legislator in your parts of the world, 
Megillus and Cleinias, as I should suppose, on the occasion of some 
war or other similar danger, which caused the passing of the law, 
and which would be likely to occur in thinly-peopled places, and in 
times of pressure. But when men had once tried and been accustomed 
to a common table, experience showed that the institution greatly 
conduced to security; and in some such manner the custom of having 
common tables arose among you. 
Cle. Likely enough. 
Ath. I said that there may have been singularity and danger in 
imposing such a custom at first, but that now there is not the same 
difficulty. There is, however, another institution which is the 
natural sequel to this, and would be excellent, if it existed 
anywhere, but at present it does not. The institution of which I am 
about to speak is not easily described or executed; and would be 
like the legislator "combing wool into the fire," as people say, or 
performing any other impossible and useless feat. 
Cle. What is the cause, Stranger, of this extreme hesitation? 
Ath. You shall hear without any fruitless loss of time. That which 
has law and order in a state is the cause of every good, but that 
which is disordered or ill-ordered is often the ruin of that which 
is well-ordered; and at this point the argument is now waiting. For 
with you, Cleinias and Megillus, the common tables of men are, as I 
said, a heaven-born and admirable institution, but you are mistaken in 
leaving the women unregulated by law. They have no similar institution 
of public tables in the light of day, and just that part of the 
human race which is by nature prone to secrecy and stealth on 
account of their weakness-I mean the female sex-has been left 
without regulation by the legislator, which is a great mistake. And, 
in consequence of this neglect, many things have grown lax among 
you, which might have been far better, if they had been only regulated 
by law; for the neglect of regulations about women may not only be 
regarded as a neglect of half the entire matter, but in proportion 
as woman's nature is inferior to that of men in capacity for virtue, 
in that degree the consequence of such neglect is more than twice as 
important. The careful consideration of this matter, and the arranging 
and ordering on a common principle of all our institutions relating 
both to men and women, greatly conduces to the happiness of the state. 
But at present, such is the unfortunate condition of mankind, that 
no man of sense will even venture to speak of common tables in 
places and cities in which they have never been established at all; 
and how can any one avoid being utterly ridiculous, who attempts to 
compel women to show in public how much they eat and drink? There is 
nothing at which the sex is more likely to take offence. For women are 
accustomed to creep into dark places, and when dragged out into the 
light they will exert their utmost powers of resistance, and be far 
too much for the legislator. And therefore, as I said before, in 
most places they will not endure to have the truth spoken without 
raising a tremendous outcry, but in this state perhaps they may. And 
if we may assume that our whole discussion about the state has not 
been mere idle talk, I should like to prove to you, if you will 
consent to listen, that this institution is good and proper; but if 
you had rather not, I will refrain. 
Cle. There is nothing which we should both of us like better, 
Stranger, than to hear what you have to say. 
Ath. Very good; and you must not be surprised if I go back a little, 
for we have plenty of leisure, and there is nothing to prevent us from 
considering in every point of view the subject of law. 
Cle. True. 
Ath. Then let us return once more to what we were saying at first. 
Every man should understand that the human race either had no 
beginning at all, and will never have an end, but always will be and 
has been; or that it began an immense while ago. 
Cle. Certainly. 
Ath. Well, and have there not been constitutions and destructions of 
states, and all sorts of pursuits both orderly and disorderly, and 
diverse desires of meats and drinks always, and in all the world, 
and all sorts of changes of the seasons in which animals may be 
expected to have undergone innumerable transformations of themselves? 
Cle. No doubt. 
Ath. And may we not suppose that vines appeared, which had 
previously no existence, and also olives, and the gifts of Demeter and 
her daughter, of which one Triptolemus was the minister, and that, 
before these existed, animals took to devouring each other as they 
do still? 
Cle. True. 
Ath. Again, the practice of men sacrificing one another still exists 
among many nations; while, on the other hand, we hear of other human 
beings who did not even venture to taste the flesh of a cow and had no 
animal sacrifices, but only cakes and fruits dipped in honey, and 
similar pure offerings, but no flesh of animals; from these they 
abstained under the idea that they ought not to eat them, and might 
not stain the altars of the Gods with blood. For in those days men are 
said to have lived a sort of Orphic life, having the use of all 
lifeless things, but abstaining from all living things. 
Cle. Such has been the constant tradition, and is very likely true. 
Ath. Some one might say to us, What is the drift of all this? 
Cle. A very pertinent question, Stranger. 
Ath. And therefore I will endeavour, Cleinias, if I can, to draw the 
natural inference. 
Cle. Proceed. 
Ath. I see that among men all things depend upon three wants and 
desires, of which the end is virtue, if they are rightly led by 
them, or the opposite if wrongly. Now these are eating and drinking, 
which begin at birth-every animal has a natural desire for them, and 
is violently excited, and rebels against him who says that he must not 
satisfy all his pleasures and appetites, and get rid of all the 
corresponding pains-and the third and greatest and sharpest want and 
desire breaks out last, and is the fire of sexual lust, which 
kindles in men every species of wantonness and madness. And these 
three disorders we must endeavour to master by the three great 
principles of fear and law and right reason; turning them away from 
that which is called pleasantest to the best, using the Muses and 
the Gods who preside over contests to extinguish their increase and 
But to return:-After marriage let us speak of the birth of children, 
and after their birth of their nurture and education. In the course of 
discussion the several laws will be perfected, and we shall at last 
arrive at the common tables. Whether such associations are to be 
confined to men, or extended to women also, we shall see better when 
we approach and take a nearer view of them; and we may then 
determine what previous institutions are required and will have to 
precede them. As I said before we shall see them more in detail, and 
shall be better able to lay down the laws which are proper or suited 
to them. 
Cle. Very true. 
Ath. Let us keep in mind the words which have now been spoken; for 
hereafter there may be need of them. 
Cle. What do you bid us keep in mind? 
Ath. That which we comprehended under the three words-first, eating, 
secondly, drinking, thirdly, the excitement of love. 
Cle. We shall be sure to remember, Stranger. 
Ath. Very good. Then let us now proceed to marriage, and teach 
persons in what way they shall beget children, threatening them, if 
they disobey, with the terrors of the law. 
Cle. What do you mean? 
Ath. The bride and bridegroom should consider that they are to 
produce for the state the best and fairest specimens of children which 
they can. Now all men who are associated any action always succeed 
when they attend and give their mind to what they are doing, but 
when they do not give their mind or have no mind, they fail; wherefore 
let the bridegroom give his mind to the bride and to the begetting 
of children, and the bride in like manner give her mind to the 
bridegroom, and particularly at the time when their children are not 
yet born. And let the women whom we have chosen be the overseers of 
such matters, and let them in whatever number, large or small, and 
at whatever time the magistrates may command, assemble every day in 
the temple of Eileithyia during a third part of the day, and being 
there assembled, let them inform one another of any one whom they see, 
whether man or woman, of those who are begetting children, 
disregarding the ordinances given at the time when the nuptial 
sacrifices and ceremonies were performed. Let the begetting of 
children and the supervision of those who are begetting them 
continue ten years and no longer, during the time when marriage is 
fruitful. But if any continue without children up to this time, let 
them take counsel with their kindred and with the women holding the 
office of overseer and be divorced for their mutual benefit. If, 
however, any dispute arises about what is proper and for the 
interest of either party, they shall choose ten of the guardians of 
the law and abide by their permission and appointment. The women who 
preside over these matters shall enter into the houses of the young, 
and partly by admonitions and partly by threats make them give over 
their folly and error: if they persist, let the women go and tell 
the guardians of the law, and the guardians shall prevent them. But if 
they too cannot prevent them, they shall bring the matter before the 
people; and let them write up their names and make oath that they 
cannot reform such and such an one; and let him who is thus written 
up, if he cannot in a court of law convict those who have inscribed 
his name, be deprived of the privileges of a citizen in the 
following respects:-let him not go to weddings nor to the 
thanksgivings after the birth of children; and if he go, let any one 
who pleases strike him with impunity; and let the same regulations 
hold about women: let not a woman be allowed to appear abroad, or 
receive honour, or go to nuptial and birthday festivals, if she in 
like manner be written up as acting disorderly and cannot obtain a 
verdict. And if, when they themselves have done begetting children 
according to the law, a man or woman have connection with another 
man or woman who are still begetting children, let the same 
penalties be inflicted upon them as upon those who are still having 
a family; and when the time for procreation has passed let the man 
or woman who refrains in such matters be held in esteem, and let those 
who do not refrain be held in the contrary of esteem-that is to say, 
disesteem. Now, if the greater part of mankind behave modestly, the 
enactments of law may be left to slumber; but, if they are disorderly, 
the enactments having been passed, let them be carried into execution. 
To every man the first year is the beginning of life, and the time 
of birth ought to be written down in the temples of their fathers as 
the beginning of existence to every child, whether boy or girl. Let 
every phratria have inscribed on a whited wall the names of the 
successive archons by whom the years are reckoned. And near to them 
let the living members of the phratria be inscribed, and when they 
depart life let them be erased. The limit of marriageable ages for a 
woman shall be from sixteen to twenty years at the longest-for a 
man, from thirty to thirty-five years; and let a woman hold office 
at forty, and a man at thirty years. Let a man go out to war from 
twenty to sixty years, and for a woman, if there appear any need to 
make use of her in military service, let the time of service be 
after she shall have brought forth children up to fifty years of 
age; and let regard be had to what is possible and suitable to each. 

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