laws (books 1 - 6)
Ath. Such survivors would necessarily be unacquainted with the
arts and the various devices which are suggested to the dwellers in
cities by interest or ambition, and with all the wrongs which they
contrive against one another.
Cle. Very true.
Ath. Let us suppose, then, that the cities in the plain and on the
sea-coast were utterly destroyed at that time.
Cle. Very good.
Ath. Would not all implements have then perished and every other
excellent invention of political or any other sort of wisdom have
Cle. Why, yes, my friend; and if things had always continued as they
are at present ordered, how could any discovery have ever been made
even in the least particular? For it is evident that the arts were
unknown during ten thousand times ten thousand years. And no more than
a thousand or two thousand years have elapsed since the discoveries of
Daedalus, Orpheus and Palamedes-since Marsyas and Olympus invented
music, and Amphion the lyre-not to speak of numberless other
inventions which are but of yesterday.
Ath. Have you forgotten, Cleinias, the name of a friend who is
really of yesterday?
Cle. I suppose that you mean Epimenides.
Ath. The same, my friend; he does indeed far overleap the heads of
all mankind by his invention; for he carried out in practice, as you
declare, what of old Hesiod only preached.
Cle. Yes, according to our tradition.
Ath. After the great destruction, may we not suppose that the
state of man was something of this sort:-In the beginning of things
there was a fearful illimitable desert and a vast expanse of land; a
herd or two of oxen would be the only survivors of the animal world;
and there might be a few goats, these too hardly enough to maintain
the shepherds who tended them?
Ath. And of cities or governments or legislation, about which we are
now talking, do you suppose that they could have any recollection at
Cle. None whatever.
Ath. And out of this state of things has there not sprung all that
we now are and have: cities and governments, and arts and laws, and
a great deal of vice and a great deal of virtue?
Cle. What do you mean?
Ath. Why, my good friend, how can we possibly suppose that those who
knew nothing of all the good and evil of cities could have attained
their full development, whether of virtue or of vice?
Cle. I understand your meaning, and you are quite right.
Ath. But, as time advanced and the race multiplied, the world came
to be what the world is.
Cle. Very true.
Ath. Doubtless the change was not made all in a moment, but little
by little, during a very long period of time.
Cle. A highly probable supposition.
Ath. At first, they would have a natural fear ringing in their
ears which would prevent their descending from the heights into the
Cle. Of course.
Ath. The fewness of the survivors at that time would have made
them all the more desirous of seeing one another; but then the means
of travelling either by land or sea had been almost entirely lost,
as I may say, with the loss of the arts, and there was great
difficulty in getting at one another; for iron and brass and all
metals were jumbled together and had disappeared in the chaos; nor was
there any possibility of extracting ore from them; and they had
scarcely any means of felling timber. Even if you suppose that some