laws (books 1 - 6)
newly-appointed choristers, whom we hereby invite and, although they
are their own masters, compel to sing, must be educated to such an
extent as to be able to follow the steps of the rhythm and the notes
of the song, that they may know the harmonies and rhythms, and be able
to select what are suitable for men of their age and character to
sing; and may sing them, and have innocent pleasure from their own
performance, and also lead younger men to welcome with dutiful delight
good dispositions. Having such training, they will attain a more
accurate knowledge than falls to the lot of the common people, or even
of the poets themselves. For the poet need not know the third point,
viz., whether the imitation is good or not, though he can hardly
help knowing the laws of melody and rhythm. But the aged chorus must
know all the three, that they may choose the best, and that which is
nearest to the best; for otherwise they will never be able to charm
the souls of young men in the way of virtue. And now the original
design of the argument which was intended to bring eloquent aid to the
Chorus of Dionysus, has been accomplished to the best of our
ability, and let us see whether we were right:-I should imagine that a
drinking assembly is likely to become more and more tumultuous as
the drinking goes on: this, as we were saying at first, will certainly
be the case.
Ath. Every man has a more than natural elevation; his heart is
glad within him, and he will say anything and will be restrained by
nobody at such a time; he fancies that he is able to rule over himself
and all mankind.
Cle. Quite true.
Ath. Were we not saying that on such occasions the souls of the
drinkers become like iron heated in the fire, and grow softer and
younger, and are easily moulded by him who knows how to educate and
fashion them, just as when they were young, and that this fashioner of
them is the same who prescribed for them in the days of their youth,
viz., the good legislator; and that he ought to enact laws of the
banquet, which, when a man is confident, bold, and impudent, and
unwilling to wait his turn and have his share of silence and speech,
and drinking and music, will change his character into the
opposite-such laws as will infuse into him a just and noble fear,
which will take up arms at the approach of insolence, being that
divine fear which we have called reverence and shame?
Ath. And the guardians of these laws and fellow-workers with them
are the calm and sober generals of the drinkers; and without their
help there is greater difficulty in fighting against drink than in
fighting against enemies when the commander of an army is not
himself calm; and he who is unwilling to obey them and the
commanders of Dionysiac feasts who are more than sixty years of age,
shall suffer a disgrace as great as he who disobeys military
leaders, or even greater.
Ath. If, then, drinking and amusement were regulated in this way,
would not the companions of our revels be improved? they would part
better friends than they were, and not, as now enemies. Their whole
intercourse would be regulated by law and observant of it, and the
sober would be the leaders of the drunken.
Cle. I think so too, if drinking were regulated as you propose.
Ath. Let us not then simply censure the gift of Dionysus as bad
and unfit to be received into the State. For wine has many
excellences, and one pre-eminent one, about which there is a
difficulty in speaking to the many, from a fear of their misconceiving
and misunderstanding what is said.
Cle. To what do you refer?
Ath. There is a tradition or story, which has somehow crept about
the world, that Dionysus was robbed of his wits by his stepmother
Here, and that out of revenge he inspires Bacchic furies and dancing