laws (books 1 - 6)
one:-when observers of this class praise or blame such meetings, are
we to suppose that what they say is of any value?
Meg. Certainly not, if they have never seen or been present at
such a meeting when rightly ordered.
Ath. Reflect; may not banqueters and banquets be said to
constitute a kind of meeting?
Meg. Of course.
Ath. And did any one ever see this sort of convivial meeting rightly
ordered? Of course you two will answer that you have never seen them
at all, because they are not customary or lawful in your country;
but I have come across many of them in many different places, and
moreover I have made enquiries about them wherever I went, as I may
say, and never did I see or hear of anything of the kind which was
carried on altogether rightly; in some few particulars they might be
right, but in general they were utterly wrong.
Cle. What do you mean, Stranger, by this remark? Explain; For we, as
you say, from our inexperience in such matters, might very likely
not know, even if they came in our way, what was right or wrong in
Ath. Likely enough; then let me try to be your instructor: You would
acknowledge, would you not, that in all gatherings of man, kind, of
whatever sort, there ought to be a leader?
Cle. Certainly I should.
Ath. And we were saying just now, that when men are at war the
leader ought to be a brave man?
Cle. We were.
Ath. The brave man is less likely than the coward to be disturbed by
Cle. That again is true.
Ath. And if there were a possibility of having a general of an
army who was absolutely fearless and imperturbable, should we not by
all means appoint him?
Ath. Now, however, we are speaking not of a general who is to
command an army, when foe meets foe in time of war, but of one who
is to regulate meetings of another sort, when friend meets friend in
time of peace.
Ath. And that sort of meeting, if attended with drunkenness, is
apt to be unquiet.
Cle. Certainly; the reverse of quiet.
Ath. In the first place, then, the revellers as well as the soldiers
will require a ruler?
Cle. To be sure; no men more so.
Ath. And we ought, if possible, to provide them with a quiet ruler?
Cle. Of course.
Ath. And he should be a man who understands society; for his duty is
to preserve the friendly feelings which exist among the company at the
time, and to increase them for the future by his use of the occasion.
Cle. Very true.
Ath. Must we not appoint a sober man and a wise to be our master
of the revels? For if the ruler of drinkers be himself young and
drunken, and not over-wise, only by some special good fortune will
he be saved from doing some great evil.
Cle. It will be by a singular good fortune that he is saved.
Ath. Now suppose such associations to be framed in the best way
possible in states, and that some one blames the very fact of their
existence-he may very likely be right. But if he blames a practice
which he only sees very much mismanaged, he shows in the first place
that he is not aware of the mismanagement, and also not aware that
everything done in this way will turn out to be wrong, because done
without the superintendence of a sober ruler. Do you not see that a
drunken pilot or a drunken ruler of any sort will ruin ship,
chariot, army-anything, in short, of which he has the direction?