laws (books 1 - 6)
Athenian Stranger. Tell me, Strangers, is a God or some man supposed
to be the author of your laws?
Cleinias. A God, Stranger; in very truth a, God: among us Cretans he
is said to have been Zeus, but in Lacedaemon, whence our friend here
comes, I believe they would say that Apollo is their lawgiver: would
they not, Megillus?
Ath. And do you, Cleinias, believe, as Homer tells, that every ninth
year Minos went to converse with his Olympian sire, and was inspired
by him to make laws for your cities?
Cle. Yes, that is our tradition; and there was Rhadamanthus, a
brother of his, with whose name you are familiar; he is reputed to
have been the justest of men, and we Cretans are of opinion that he
earned this reputation from his righteous administration of justice
when he was alive.
Ath. Yes, and a noble reputation it was, worthy of a son of Zeus. As
you and Megillus have been trained in these institutions, I dare say
that you will not be unwilling to give an account of your government
and laws; on our way we can pass the time pleasantly in about them,
for I am told that the distance from Cnosus to the cave and temple
of Zeus is considerable; and doubtless there are shady places under
the lofty trees, which will protect us from this scorching sun.
Being no longer young, we may often stop to rest beneath them, and get
over the whole journey without difficulty, beguiling the time by
Cle. Yes, Stranger, and if we proceed onward we shall come to groves
of cypresses, which are of rare height and beauty, and there are green
meadows, in which we may repose and converse.
Ath. Very good.
Cle. Very good, indeed; and still better when we see them; let us
move on cheerily.
Ath. I am willing-And first, I want to know why the law has ordained
that you shall have common meals and gymnastic exercises, and wear
Cle. I think, Stranger, that the aim of our institutions is easily
intelligible to any one. Look at the character of our country: Crete
is not like Thessaly, a large plain; and for this reason they have
horsemen in Thessaly, and we have runners-the inequality of the ground
in our country is more adapted to locomotion on foot; but then, if you
have runners you must have light arms-no one can carry a heavy
weight when running, and bows and arrows are convenient because they
are light. Now all these regulations have been made with a view to
war, and the legislator appears to me to have looked to this in all
his arrangements:-the common meals, if I am not mistaken, were
instituted by him for a similar reason, because he saw that while they
are in the field the citizens are by the nature of the case
compelled to take their meals together for the sake of mutual
protection. He seems to me to have thought the world foolish in not
understanding that all are always at war with one another; and if in
war there ought to be common meals and certain persons regularly
appointed under others to protect an army, they should be continued in
peace. For what men in general term peace would be said by him to be
only a name; in reality every city is in a natural state of war with
every other, not indeed proclaimed by heralds, but everlasting. And if
you look closely, you will find that this was the intention of the
Cretan legislator; all institutions, private as well as public, were
arranged by him with a view to war; in giving them he was under the
impression that no possessions or institutions are of any value to him
who is defeated in battle; for all the good things of the conquered
pass into the hands of the conquerors.
Ath. You appear to me, Stranger, to have been thoroughly trained
in the Cretan institutions, and to be well informed about them; will