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laws (books 1 - 6)   


states, in making words and facts coincide so that there can be no
dispute about them. As in the human body, the regimen which does
good in one way does harm in another; and we can hardly say that any
one course of treatment is adapted to a particular constitution. Now
the gymnasia and common meals do a great deal of good, and yet they
are a source of evil in civil troubles; as is shown in the case of the
Milesian, and Boeotian, and Thurian youth, among whom these
institutions seem always to have had a tendency to degrade the ancient
and natural custom of love below the level, not only of man, but of
the beasts. The charge may be fairly brought against your cities above
all others, and is true also of most other states which especially
cultivate gymnastics. Whether such matters are to be regarded
jestingly or seriously, I think that the pleasure is to be deemed
natural which arises out of the intercourse between men and women; but
that the intercourse of men with men, or of women with women, is
contrary to nature, and that the bold attempt was originally due to
unbridled lust. The Cretans are always accused of having invented
the story of Ganymede and Zeus because they wanted to justify
themselves in the enjoyment of unnatural pleasures by the practice
of the god whom they believe to have been their lawgiver. Leaving
the story, we may observe that any speculation about laws turns almost
entirely on pleasure and pain, both in states and in individuals:
these are two fountains which nature lets flow, and he who draws
from them where and when, and as much as he ought, is happy; and
this holds of men and animals-of individuals as well as states; and he
who indulges in them ignorantly and at the wrong time, is the
reverse of happy.
Meg. I admit, Stranger, that your words are well spoken, and I
hardly know what to say in answer to you; but still I think that the
Spartan lawgiver was quite right in forbidding pleasure. Of the Cretan
laws, I shall leave the defence to my Cnosian friend. But the laws
of Sparta, in as far as they relate to pleasure, appear to me to be
the best in the world; for that which leads mankind in general into
the wildest pleasure and licence, and every other folly, the law has
clean driven out; and neither in the country nor in towns which are
under the control of Sparta, will you find revelries and the many
incitements of every kind of pleasure which accompany them; and any
one who meets a drunken and disorderly person, will immediately have
him most severely punished, and will not let him off on any
pretence, not even at the time of a Dionysiac festival; although I
have remarked that this may happen at your performances "on the cart,"
as they are called; and among our Tarentine colonists I have seen
the whole city drunk at a Dionysiac festival; but nothing of the
sort happens among us.
Ath. O Lacedaemonian Stranger, these festivities are praiseworthy
where there is a spirit of endurance, but are very senseless when they
are under no regulations. In order to retaliate, an Athenian has
only to point out the licence which exists among your women. To all
such accusations, whether they are brought against the Tarentines,
or us, or you, there is one answer which exonerates the practice in
question from impropriety. When a stranger expresses wonder at the
singularity of what he sees, any inhabitant will naturally answer
him:-Wonder not, O stranger; this is our custom, and you may very
likely have some other custom about the same things. Now we are
speaking, my friends, not about men in general, but about the merits
and defects of the lawgivers themselves. Let us then discourse a
little more at length about intoxication, which is a very important
subject, and will seriously task the discrimination of the legislator.
I am not speaking of drinking, or not drinking, wine at all, but of
intoxication. Are we to follow the custom of the Scythians, and
Persians, and Carthaginians, and Celts, and Iberians, and Thracians,
who are all warlike nations, or that of your countrymen, for they,
as you say, altogether abstain? But the Scythians and Thracians,
both men and women, drink unmixed wine, which they pour on their

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