laws (books 1 - 6)
another and then another form of virtue, if you please. In this way we
shall have a model of the whole; and with these and similar discourses
we will beguile the way. And when we have gone through all the
virtues, we will show, by the grace of God, that the institutions of
which I was speaking look to virtue.
Meg. Very good; and suppose that you first criticize this praiser of
Zeus and the laws of Crete.
Ath. I will try to criticize you and myself, as well as him, for the
argument is a common concern. Tell me-were not first the syssitia, and
secondly the gymnasia, invented by your legislator with a view to war?
Ath. And what comes third, and what fourth? For that, I think, is
the sort of enumeration which ought to be made of the remaining
parts of virtue, no matter whether you call them parts or what their
name is, provided the meaning is clear.
Meg. Then I, or any other Lacedaemonian, would reply that hunting is
third in order.
Ath. Let us see if we can discover what comes fourth and fifth.
Meg. I think that I can get as far as the fouth head, which is the
frequent endurance of pain, exhibited among us Spartans in certain
hand-to-hand fights; also in stealing with the prospect of getting a
good beating; there is, too, the so-called Crypteia, or secret
service, in which wonderful endurance is shown-our people wander
over the whole country by day and by night, and even in winter have
not a shoe to their foot, and are without beds to lie upon, and have
to attend upon themselves. Marvellous, too, is the endurance which our
citizens show in their naked exercises, contending against the violent
summer heat; and there are many similar practices, to speak of which
in detail would be endless.
Ath. Excellent, O Lacedaemonian Stranger. But how ought we to define
courage? Is it to be regarded only as a combat against fears and
pains, or also against desires and pleasures, and against
flatteries; which exercise such a tremendous power, that they make the
hearts even of respectable citizens to melt like wax?
Meg. I should say the latter.
Ath. In what preceded, as you will remember, our Cnosian friend
was speaking of a man or a city being inferior to themselves:-Were you
Cle. I was.
Ath. Now, which is in the truest sense inferior, the man who is
overcome by pleasure or by pain?
Cle. I should say the man who is overcome by pleasure; for all men
deem him to be inferior in a more disgraceful sense, than the other
who is overcome by pain.
Ath. But surely the lawgivers of Crete and Lacedaemon have not
legislated for a courage which is lame of one leg, able only to meet
attacks which come from the left, but impotent against the insidious
flatteries which come from the right?
Cle. Able to meet both, I should say.
Ath. Then let me once more ask, what institutions have you in either
of your states which give a taste of pleasures, and do not avoid
them any more than they avoid pains; but which set a person in the
midst of them, and compel or induce him by the prospect of reward to
get the better of them? Where is an ordinance about pleasure similar
to that about pain to be found in your laws? Tell me what there is
of this nature among you:-What is there which makes your citizen
equally brave against pleasure and pain, conquering what they ought to
conquer, and superior to the enemies who are most dangerous and
Meg. I was able to tell you, Stranger, many laws which were directed
against pain; but I do not know that I can point out any great or
obvious examples of similar institutions which are concerned with
pleasure; there are some lesser provisions, however, which I might