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Pages of laws (books 1 - 6)



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laws (books 1 - 6)   


Cle. The last remark is very true, Stranger; and I see quite clearly
the advantage of an army having a good leader-he will give victory
in war to his followers, which is a very great advantage; and so of
other things. But I do not see any similar advantage which either
individuals or states gain from the good management of a feast; and
I want you to tell me what great good will be effected, supposing that
this drinking ordinance is duly established.
Ath. If you mean to ask what great good accrues to the state from
the right training of a single youth, or of a single chorus-when the
question is put in that form, we cannot deny that the good is not very
great in any particular instance. But if you ask what is the good of
education in general, the answer is easy-that education makes good
men, and that good men act nobly, and conquer their enemies in battle,
because they are good. Education certainly gives victory, although
victory sometimes produces forgetfulness of education; for many have
grown insolent from victory in war, and this insolence has
engendered in them innumerable evils; and many a victory has been
and will be suicidal to the victors; but education is never suicidal.
Cle. You seem to imply, my friend, that convivial meetings, when
rightly ordered, are an important element of education.
Ath. Certainly I do.
Cle. And can you show that what you have been saying is true?
Ath. To be absolutely sure of the truth of matters concerning
which there are many opinions, is an attribute of the Gods not given
to man, Stranger; but I shall be very happy to tell you what I
think, especially as we are now proposing to enter on a discussion
concerning laws and constitutions.
Cle. Your opinion, Stranger, about the questions which are now being
raised, is precisely what we want to hear.
Ath. Very good; I will try to find a way of explaining my meaning,
and you shall try to have the gift of understanding me. But first
let me make an apology. The Athenian citizen is reputed among all
the Hellenes to be a great talker, whereas Sparta is renowned for
brevity, and the Cretans have more wit than words. Now I am afraid
of appearing to elicit a very long discourse out of very small
materials. For drinking indeed may appear to be a slight matter, and
yet is one which cannot be rightly ordered according to nature,
without correct principles of music; these are necessary to any
clear or satisfactory treatment of the subject, and music again runs
up into education generally, and there is much to be said about all
this. What would you say then to leaving these matters for the
present, and passing on to some other question of law?
Meg. O Athenian Stranger, let me tell you what perhaps you do not
know, that our family is the proxenus of your state. I imagine that
from their earliest youth all boys, when they are told that they are
the proxeni of a particular state, feel kindly towards their second
and this has certainly been my own feeling. I can well remember from
the days of my boyhood, how, when any Lacedaemonians praised or blamed
the Athenians, they used to say to me-"See, Megillus, how ill or how
well," as the case might be, "has your state treated us"; and having
always had to fight your battles against detractors when I heard you
assailed, I became warmly attached to you. And I always like to hear
the Athenian tongue spoken; the common saying is quite true, that a
good Athenian is more than ordinarily good, for he is the only man who
is freely and genuinely good by the divine inspiration of his own
nature, and is not manufactured. Therefore be assured that I shall
like to hear you say whatever you have to say.
Cle. Yes, Stranger; and when you have heard me speak, say boldly
what is in your thoughts. Let me remind you of a tie which unites
you to Crete. You must have heard here the story of the prophet
Epimenides, who was of my family, and came to Athens ten years
before the Persian war, in accordance with the response of the Oracle,
and offered certain sacrifices which the God commanded. The
Athenians were at that time in dread of the Persian invasion; and he

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