laws (books 1 - 6)
Cle. What you say, Stranger, is most true.
Meg. Quite excellent, in my opinion, as far as we have gone.
Ath. Again; might there not be a judge over these brethren, of
whom we were speaking?
Ath. Now, which would be the better judge-one who destroyed the
bad and appointed the good to govern themselves; or one who, while
allowing the good to govern, let the bad live, and made them
voluntarily submit? Or third, I suppose, in the scale of excellence
might be placed a judge, who, finding the family distracted, not
only did not destroy any one, but reconciled them to one another for
ever after, and gave them laws which they mutually observed, and was
able to keep them friends.
Cle. The last would be by far the best sort of judge and legislator.
Ath. And yet the aim of all the laws which he gave would be the
reverse of war.
Cle. Very true.
Ath. And will he who constitutes the state and orders the life of
man have in view external war, or that kind of intestine war called
civil, which no one, if he could prevent, would like to have occurring
in his own state; and when occurring, every one would wish to be
quit of as soon as possible?
Cle. He would have the latter chiefly in view.
Ath. And would he prefer that this civil war should be terminated by
the destruction of one of the parties, and by the victory of the
other, or that peace and friendship should be re-established, and
that, being reconciled, they should give their attention to foreign
Cle. Every one would desire the latter in the case of his own state.
Ath. And would not that also be the desire of the legislator?
Ath. And would not every one always make laws for the sake of the
Cle. To be sure.
Ath. But war, whether external or civil, is not the best, and the
need of either is to be deprecated; but peace with one another, and
good will, are best. Nor is the victory of the state over itself to be
regarded as a really good thing, but as a necessity; a man might as
well say that the body was in the best state when sick and purged by
medicine, forgetting that there is also a state of the body which
needs no purge. And in like manner no one can be a true statesman,
whether he aims at the happiness of the individual or state, who looks
only, or first of all, to external warfare; nor will he ever be a
sound legislator who orders peace for the sake of war, and not war for
the sake of peace.
Cle. I suppose that there is truth, Stranger, in that remark of
yours; and yet I am greatly mistaken if war is not the entire aim
and object of our own institutions, and also of the Lacedaemonian.
Ath. I dare say; but there is no reason why we should rudely quarrel
with one another about your legislators, instead of gently questioning
them, seeing that both we and they are equally in earnest. Please
follow me and the argument closely:-And first I will put forward
Tyrtaeus, an Athenian by birth, but also a Spartan citizen, who of all
men was most eager about war: Well, he says, "I sing not, I care
not, about any man, even if he were the richest of men, and
possessed every good (and then he gives a whole list of them), if he
be not at all times a brave warrior." I imagine that you, too, must
have heard his poems; our Lacedaemonian friend has probably heard more
than enough of them.
Meg. Very true.
Cle. And they have found their way from Lacedaemon to Crete.
Ath. Come now and let us all join in asking this question of
Tyrtaeus: O most divine poet, we will say to him, the excellent praise
which you have bestowed on those who excel in war sufficiently