laws (books 1 - 6)
from the Gods or himself discovered; for witchcraft has no place at
our board. But is there any potion which might serve as a test of
overboldness and excessive and indiscreet boasting?
Cle. I suppose that he will say, Yes-meaning that wine is such a
Ath. Is not the effect of this quite the opposite of the effect of
the other? When a man drinks wine he begins to be better pleased
with himself, and the more he drinks the more he is filled full of
brave hopes, and conceit of his power, and at last the string of his
tongue is loosened, and fancying himself wise, he is brimming over
with lawlessness, and has no more fear or respect, and is ready to
do or say anything.
Cle. I think that every one will admit the truth of your
Ath. Now, let us remember, as we were saying, that there are two
things which should be cultivated in the soul: first, the greatest
courage; secondly, the greatest fear-
Cle. Which you said to be characteristic of reverence, if I am not
Ath. Thank you for reminding me. But now, as the habit of courage
and fearlessness is to be trained amid fears, let us consider
whether the opposite quality is not also to be trained among
Cle. That is probably the case.
Ath. There are times and seasons at which we are by nature more than
commonly valiant and bold; now we ought to train ourselves on these
occasions to be as free from impudence and shamelessness as
possible, and to be afraid to say or suffer or do anything that is
Ath. Are not the moments in which we are apt to be bold and
shameless such as these?-when we are under the influence of anger,
love, pride, ignorance, avarice, cowardice? or when wealth, beauty,
strength, and all the intoxicating workings of pleasure madden us?
What is better adapted than the festive use of wine, in the first
place to test, and in the second place to train the character of a
man, if care be taken in the use of it? What is there cheaper, or more
innocent? For do but consider which is the greater risk:-Would you
rather test a man of a morose and savage nature, which is the source
of ten thousand acts of injustice, by making bargains with him at a
risk to yourself, or by having him as a companion at the festival of
Dionysus? Or would you, if you wanted to apply a touchstone to a man
who is prone to love, entrust your wife, or your sons, or daughters to
him, perilling your dearest interests in order to have a view of the
condition of his soul? I might mention numberless cases, in which
the advantage would be manifest of getting to know a character in
sport, and without paying dearly for experience. And I do not
believe that either a Cretan, or any other man, will doubt that such a
test is a fair test, and safer, cheaper, and speedier than any other.
Cle. That is certainly true.
Ath. And this knowledge of the natures and habits of men's souls
will be of the greatest use in that art which has the management of
them; and that art, if I am not mistaken, is politics.
Cle. Exactly so.
Athenian Stranger. And now we have to consider whether the insight
into human nature is the only benefit derived from well ordered
potations, or whether there are not other advantages great and much to
be desired. The argument seems to imply that there are. But how and in
what way these are to be attained, will have to be considered
attentively, or we may be entangled in error.