laws (books 1 - 6)
Dorians for distributing the land-there was nothing to hinder them;
and as for debts, they had none which were considerable or of old
Meg. Very true.
Ath. But then, my good friends, why did the settlement and
legislation of their country turn out so badly?
Meg. How do you mean; and why do you blame them?
Ath. There were three kingdoms, and of these, two quickly
corrupted their original constitution and laws, and the only one which
remained was the Spartan.
Meg. The question which you ask is not easily answered.
Ath. And yet must be answered when we are enquiring about laws, this
being our old man's sober game of play, whereby we beguile the way, as
I was saying when we first set out on our journey.
Meg. Certainly; and we must find out why this was.
Ath. What laws are more worthy of our attention than those which
have regulated such cities? or what settlements of states are
greater or more famous?
Meg. I know of none.
Ath. Can we doubt that your ancestors intended these institutions
not only for the protection of Peloponnesus, but of all the
Hellenes. in case they were attacked by the barbarian? For the
inhabitants of the region about Ilium, when they provoked by their
insolence the Trojan war, relied upon the power of the Assyrians and
the Empire of Ninus, which still existed and had a great prestige; the
people of those days fearing the united Assyrian Empire just as we now
fear the Great King. And the second capture of Troy was a serious
offence against them, because Troy was a portion of the Assyrian
Empire. To meet the danger the single army was distributed between
three cities by the royal brothers, sons of Heracles-a fair device, as
it seemed, and a far better arrangement than the expedition against
Troy. For, firstly, the people of that day had, as they thought, in
the Heraclidae better leaders than the Pelopidae; in the next place,
they considered that their army was superior in valour to that which
went against Troy; for, although the latter conquered the Trojans,
they were themselves conquered by the Heraclidae-Achaeans by
Dorians. May we not suppose that this was the intention with which the
men of those days framed the constitutions of their states?
Meg. Quite true.
Ath. And would not men who had shared with one another many dangers,
and were governed by a single race of royal brothers, and had taken
the advice of oracles, and in particular of the Delphian Apollo, be
likely to think that such states would be firmly and lastingly
Meg. Of course they would.
Ath. Yet these institutions, of which such great expectations were
entertained, seem to have all rapidly vanished away; with the
exception, as I was saying, of that small part of them which existed
in yourland.And this third part has never to this day ceased warring
against the two others; whereas, if the original idea had been carried
out, and they had agreed to be one, their power would have been
invincible in war.
Meg. No doubt.
Ath. But what was the ruin of this glorious confederacy? Here is a
subject well worthy of consideration.
Meg. Certainly, no one will ever find more striking instances of
laws or governments being the salvation or destruction of great and
noble interests, than are here presented to his view.
Ath. Then now we seem to have happily arrived at a real and
Meg. Very true.
Ath. Did you never remark, sage friend, that all men, and we
ourselves at this moment, often fancy that they see some beautiful
thing which might have effected wonders if any one had only known