laws (books 1 - 6)
as this-and we are now approaching the longest day of the year-was too
short for the discussion.
Ath. Then I suppose that we must consider this subject?
Ath. Let us place ourselves in thought at the moment when Lacedaemon
and Argos and Messene and the rest of the Peloponnesus were all in
complete subjection, Megillus, to your ancestors; for afterwards, as
the legend informs us, they divided their army into three portions,
and settled three cities, Argos, Messene, Lacedaemon.
Ath. Temenus was the king of Argos, Cresphontes of Messene,
Procles and Eurysthenes of Lacedaemon.
Ath. To these kings all the men of that day made oath that they
would assist them, if any one subverted their kingdom.
Ath. But can a kingship be destroyed, or was any other form of
government ever destroyed, by any but the rulers themselves? No
indeed, by Zeus. Have we already forgotten what was said a little
Ath. And may we not now further confirm what was then mentioned? For
we have come upon facts which have brought us back again to the same
principle; so that, in resuming the discussion, we shall not be
enquiring about an empty theory, but about events which actually
happened. The case was as follows:-Three royal heroes made oath to
three cities which were under a kingly government, and the cities to
the kings, that both rulers and subjects should govern and be governed
according to the laws which were common to all of them: the rulers
promised that as time and the race went forward they would not make
their rule more arbitrary; and the subjects said that, if the rulers
observed these conditions, they would never subvert or permit others
to subvert those kingdoms; the kings were to assist kings and
peoples when injured, and the peoples were to assist peoples and kings
in like manner. Is not this the fact?
Ath. And the three states to whom these laws were given, whether
their kings or any others were the authors of them, had therefore
the greatest security for the maintenance of their constitutions?
Meg. What security?
Ath. That the other two states were always to come to the rescue
against a rebellious third.
Ath. Many persons say that legislators ought to impose such laws
as the mass of the people will be ready to receive; but this is just
as if one were to command gymnastic masters or physicians to treat
or cure their pupils or patients in an agreeable manner.
Ath. Whereas the physician may often be too happy if he can
restore health, and make the body whole, without any very great
infliction of pain.
Ath. There was also another advantage possessed by the men of that
day, which greatly lightened the task of passing laws.
Meg. What advantage?
Ath. The legislators of that day, when they equalized property,
escaped the great accusation which generally arises in legislation, if
a person attempts to disturb the possession of land, or to abolish
debts, because he sees that without this reform there can never be any
real equality. Now, in general, when the legislator attempts to make a
new settlement of such matters, every one meets him with the cry, that
"he is not to disturb vested interests"-declaring with imprecations
that he is introducing agrarian laws and cancelling of debts, until
a man is at his wits end; whereas no one could quarrel with the