laws (books 1 - 6)
Cle. A splendid education truly!
Ath. Such an one as women were likely to give them, and especially
princesses who had recently grown rich, and in the absence of the men,
too, who were occupied in wars and dangers, and had no time to look
Cle. What would you expect?
Ath. Their father had possessions of cattle and sheep, and many
herds of men and other animals, but he did not consider that those
to whom he was about to make them over were not trained in his own
calling, which was Persian; for the Persians are shepherds-sons of a
rugged land, which is a stern mother, and well fitted to produce
sturdy race able to live in the open air and go without sleep, and
also to fight, if fighting is required. He did not observe that his
sons were trained differently; through the so-called blessing of being
royal they were educated in the Median fashion by women and eunuchs,
which led to their becoming such as people do become when they are
brought up unreproved. And so, after the death of Cyrus, his sons,
in the fulness of luxury and licence, took the kingdom, and first
one slew the other because he could not endure a rival; and,
afterwards, the slayer himself, mad with wine and brutality, lost
his kingdom through the Medes and the Eunuch, as they called him,
who despised the folly of Cambyses.
Cle. So runs the tale, and such probably were the facts.
Ath. Yes; and the tradition says, that the empire came back to the
Persians, through Darius and the seven chiefs.
Ath. Let us note the rest of the story. Observe, that Darius was not
the son of a king, and had not received a luxurious education. When he
came to the throne, being one of the seven, he divided the country
into seven portions, and of this arrangement there are some shadowy
traces still remaining; he made laws upon the principle of introducing
universal equality in the order of the state, and he embodied in his
laws the settlement of the tribute which Cyrus promised-thus
creating a feeling of friendship and community among all the Persians,
and attaching the people to him with money and gifts. Hence his armies
cheerfully acquired for him countries as large as those which Cyrus
had left behind him. Darius was succeeded by his son Xerxes; and he
again was brought up in the royal and luxurious fashion. Might we
not most justly say: "O Darius, how came you to bring up Xerxes in the
same way in which Cyrus brought up Cambyses, and not to see his
fatal mistake?" For Xerxes, being the creation of the same
education, met with much the same fortune as Cambyses; and from that
time until now there has never been a really great king among the
Persians, although they are all called Great. And their degeneracy
is not to be attributed to chance, as I maintain; the reason is rather
the evil life which is generally led by the sons of very rich and
royal persons; for never will boy or man, young or old, excel in
virtue, who has been thus educated. And this, I say, is what the
legislator has to consider, and what at the present moment has to be
considered by us. Justly may you, O Lacedaemonians, be praised, in
that you do not give special honour or a special education to wealth
rather than to poverty, or to a royal rather than to a private
station, where the divine and inspired lawgiver has not originally
commanded them to be given. For no man ought to have pre-eminent
honour in a state because he surpasses others in wealth, any more than
because he is swift of foot or fair or strong, unless he have some
virtue in him; nor even if he have virtue, unless he have this
particular virtue of temperance.
Meg. What do you mean, Stranger?
Ath. I suppose that courage is a part of virtue?
Meg. To be sure.
Ath. Then, now hear and judge for yourself:-Would you like to have
for a fellow-lodger or neighbour a very courageous man, who had no
control over himself?