Welcome
   Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Authors
Works by Plato
Pages of laws (books 1 - 6)



Previous | Next
                  

laws (books 1 - 6)   


and Lacedaemonians, acting in concert, had warded off the impending
yoke, all the tribes of Hellas would have been fused in a chaos of
Hellenes mingling with one another, of barbarians mingling with
Hellenes, and Hellenes with barbarians; just as nations who are now
subject to the Persian power, owing to unnatural separations and
combinations of them, are dispersed and scattered, and live miserably.
These, Cleinias and Megillus, are the reproaches which we have to make
against statesmen and legislators, as they are called, past and
present, if we would analyse the causes of their failure, and find out
what else might have been done. We said, for instance, just now,
that there ought to be no great and unmixed powers; and this was under
the idea that a state ought to be free and wise and harmonious, and
that a legislator ought to legislate with a view to this end. Nor is
there any reason to be surprised at our continually proposing aims for
the legislator which appear not to be always the same; but we should
consider when we say that temperance is to be the aim, or wisdom is to
be the aim, or friendship is to be the aim, that all these aims are
really the same; and if so, a variety in the modes of expression ought
not to disturb us.
Cle. Let us resume the argument in that spirit. And now, speaking of
friendship and wisdom and freedom, I wish that you would tell me at
what, in your opinion, the legislator should aim.
Ath. Hear me, then: there are two mother forms of states from
which the rest may be truly said to be derived; and one of them may be
called monarchy and the other democracy: the Persians have the highest
form of the one, and we of the other; almost all the rest, as I was
saying, are variations of these. Now, if you are to have liberty and
the combination of friendship with wisdom, you must have both these
forms of government in a measure; the argument emphatically declares
that no city can be well governed which is not made up of both.
Cle. Impossible.
Ath. Neither the one, if it be exclusively and excessively
attached to monarchy, nor the other, if it be similarly attached to
freedom, observes moderation; but your states, the Laconian and
Cretan, have more of it; and the same was the case with the
Athenians and Persians of old time, but now they have less. Shall I
tell you why?
Cle. By all means, if it will tend to elucidate our subject.
Ath. Hear, then:-There was a time when the Persians had more of
the state which is a mean between slavery and freedom. In the reign of
Cyrus they were freemen and also lords of many others: the rulers gave
a share of freedom to the subjects, and being treated as equals, the
soldiers were on better terms with their generals, and showed
themselves more ready in the hour of danger. And if there was any wise
man among them, who was able to give good counsel, he imparted his
wisdom to the public; for the king was not jealous, but allowed him
full liberty of speech, and gave honour to those who could advise
him in any matter. And the nation waxed in all respects, because there
was freedom and friendship and communion of mind among them.
Cle. That certainly appears to have been the case.
Ath. How, then, was this advantage lost under Cambyses, and again
recovered under Darius? Shall I try to divine?
Cle. The enquiry, no doubt, has a bearing upon our subject.
Ath. I imagine that Cyrus, though a great and patriotic general, had
never given his mind to education, and never attended to the order
of his household.
Cle. What makes you say so?
Ath. I think that from his youth upwards he was a soldier, and
entrusted the education of his children to the women; and they brought
them up from their childhood as the favourites of fortune, who were
blessed already, and needed no more blessings. They thought that
they were happy enough, and that no one should be allowed to oppose
them in any way, and they compelled every one to praise all that
they said or did. This was how they brought them up.

Previous | Next
Site Search