laws (books 1 - 6)
Cle. Neither can I show anything of that sort which is at all
equally prominent in the Cretan laws.
Ath. No wonder, my dear friends; and if, as is very likely, in our
search after the true and good, one of us may have to censure the laws
of the others, we must not be offended, but take kindly what another
Cle. You are quite right, Athenian Stranger, and we will do as you
Ath. At our time of life, Cleinias, there should be no feeling of
Cle. Certainly not.
Ath. I will not at present determine whether he who censures the
Cretan or Lacedaemonian polities is right or wrong. But I believe that
I can tell better than either of you what the many say about them. For
assuming that you have reasonably good laws, one of the best of them
will be the law forbidding any young men to enquire which of them
are right or wrong; but with one mouth and one voice they must all
agree that the laws are all good, for they came from God; and any
one who says the contrary is not to be listened to. But an old man who
remarks any defect in your laws may communicate his observation to a
ruler or to an equal in years when no young man is present.
Cle. Exactly so, Stranger; and like a diviner, although not there at
the time, you seem to me quite to have hit the meaning of the
legislator, and to say what is most true.
Ath. As there are no young men present, and the legislator has given
old men free licence, there will be no impropriety in our discussing
these very matters now that we are alone.
Cle. True. And therefore you may be as free as you like in your
censure of our laws, for there is no discredit in knowing what is
wrong; he who receives what is said in a generous and friendly
spirit will be all the better for it.
Ath. Very good; however, I am not going to say anything against your
laws until to the best of my ability I have examined them, but I am
going to raise doubts about them. For you are the only people known to
us, whether Greek or barbarian, whom the legislator commanded to
eschew all great pleasures and amusements and never to touch them;
whereas in the matter of pains or fears which we have just been
discussing, he thought that they who from infancy had always avoided
pains and fears and sorrows, when they were compelled to face them
would run away from those who were hardened in them, and would
become their subjects. Now the legislator ought to have considered
that this was equally true of pleasure; he should have said to
himself, that if our citizens are from their youth upward unacquainted
with the greatest pleasures, and unused to endure amid the temptations
of pleasure, and are not disciplined to refrain from all things
evil, the sweet feeling of pleasure will overcome them just as fear
would overcome the former class; and in another, and even a worse
manner, they will be the slaves of those who are able to endure amid
pleasures, and have had the opportunity of enjoying them, they being
often the worst of mankind. One half of their souls will be a slave,
the other half free; and they will not be worthy to be called in the
true sense men and freemen. Tell me whether you assent to my words?
Cle. On first hearing, what you say appears to be the truth; but
to be hasty in coming to a conclusion about such important matters
would be very childish and simple.
Ath. Suppose, Cleinias and Megillus, that we consider the virtue
which follows next of those which we intended to discuss (for after
courage comes temperance), what institutions shall we find relating to
temperance, either in Crete or Lacedaemon, which, like your military
institutions, differ from those of any ordinary state.
Meg. That is not an easy question to answer; still I should say that
the common meals and gymnastic exercises have been excellently devised
for the promotion both of temperance and courage.
Ath. There seems to be a difficulty, Stranger, with regard to