laws (books 1 - 6)
proves that you are wise and good, and I and Megillus and Cleinias
of Cnosus do, as I believe, entirely agree with you. But we should
like to be quite sure that we are speaking of the same men; tell us,
then, do you agree with us in thinking that there are two kinds of
war; or what would you say? A far inferior man to Tyrtaeus would
have no difficulty in replying quite truly, that war is of two kinds
one which is universally called civil war, and is as we were just
now saying, of all wars the worst; the other, as we should all
admit, in which we fall out with other nations who are of a
different race, is a far milder form of warfare.
Cle. Certainly, far milder.
Ath. Well, now, when you praise and blame war in this high-flown
strain, whom are you praising or blaming, and to which kind of war are
you referring? I suppose that you must mean foreign war, if I am to
judge from expressions of yours in which you say that you abominate
Who refuse to look upon fields of blood, and will not draw near
and strike at their enemies.
And we shall naturally go on to say to him-You, Tyrtaeus, as it seems,
praise those who distinguish themselves in external and foreign war;
and he must admit this.
Ath. They are good; but we say that there are still better men whose
virtue is displayed in the greatest of all battles. And we too have
a poet whom we summon as a witness, Theognis, citizen of Megara in
Cyrnus, he who is faithful in a civil broil is worth his weight in
gold and silver.
And such an one is far better, as we affirm, than the other in a
more difficult kind of war, much in the same degree as justice and
temperance and wisdom, when united with courage, are better than
courage only; for a man cannot be faithful and good in civil strife
without having all virtue. But in the war of which Tyrtaeus speaks,
many a mercenary soldier will take his stand and be ready to die at
his post, and yet they are generally and almost without exception
insolent, unjust, violent men, and the most senseless of human beings.
You will ask what the conclusion is, and what I am seeking to prove: I
maintain that the divine legislator of Crete, like any other who is
worthy of consideration, will always and above all things in making
laws have regard to the greatest virtue; which, according to Theognis,
is loyalty in the hour of danger, and may be truly called perfect
justice. Whereas, that virtue which Tyrtaeus highly praises is well
enough, and was praised by the poet at the right time, yet in place
and dignity may be said to be only fourth rate.
Cle. Stranger, we are degrading our inspired lawgiver to a rank
which is far beneath him.
Ath. Nay, I think that we degrade not him but ourselves, if we
imagine that Lycurgus and Minos laid down laws both in Lacedaemon
and Crete mainly with a view to war.
Cle. What ought we to say then?
Ath. What truth and what justice require of us, if I am not
mistaken, when speaking in behalf of divine excellence;-at the
legislator when making his laws had in view not a part only, and
this the lowest part of virtue, but all virtue, and that he devised
classes of laws answering to the kinds of virtue; not in the way in
which modern inventors of laws make the classes, for they only
investigate and offer laws whenever a want is felt, and one man has
a class of laws about allotments and heiresses, another about
assaults; others about ten thousand other such matters. But we
maintain that the right way of examining into laws is to proceed as we