laws (books 1 - 6)
productive, or in need of importations?
Cle. Hardly in need of anything.
Ath. And is there any neighbouring State?
Cle. None whatever, and that is the reason for selecting the
place; in days of old, there was a migration of the inhabitants, and
the region has been deserted from time immemorial.
Ath. And has the place a fair proportion of hill, and plain, and
Cle. Like the rest of Crete in that.
Ath. You mean to say that there is more rock than plain?
Ath. Then there is some hope that your citizens may be virtuous: had
you been on the sea, and well provided with harbours, and an importing
rather than a producing country, some mighty saviour would have been
needed, and lawgivers more than mortal, if you were ever to have a
chance of preserving your state from degeneracy and discordance of
manners. But there is comfort in the eighty stadia; although the sea
is too near, especially if, as you say, the harbours are so good.
Still we may be content. The sea is pleasant enough as a daily
companion, but has indeed also a bitter and brackish quality;
filling the streets with merchants and shopkeepers, and begetting in
the souls of men uncertain and unfaithful ways-making the state
unfriendly and unfaithful both to her own citizens, and also to
other nations. There is a consolation, therefore, in the country
producing all things at home; and yet, owing to the ruggedness of
the soil, not providing anything in great abundance. Had there been
abundance, there might have been a great export trade, and a great
return of gold and silver; which, as we may safely affirm, has the
most fatal results on a State whose aim is the attainment of just
and noble sentiments: this was said by us, if you remember, in the
Cle. I remember, and am of opinion that we both were and are in
Ath. Well, but let me ask, how is the country supplied with timber
Cle. There is no fir of any consequence, nor pine, and not much
cypress; and you will find very little stone-pine or plane-wood, which
shipwrights always require for the interior of ships.
Ath. These are also natural advantages.
Cle. Why so?
Ath. Because no city ought to be easily able to imitate its
enemies in what is mischievous.
Cle. How does that bear upon any of the matters of which we have
Ath. Remember, my good friend, what I said at first about the Cretan
laws, that they look to one thing only, and this, as you both
agreed, was war; and I replied that such laws, in so far as they
tended to promote virtue, were good; but in that they regarded a
part only, and not the whole of virtue, I disapproved of them. And now
I hope that you in your turn will follow and watch me if I legislate
with a view to anything but virtue, or with a view to a part of virtue
only. For I consider that the true lawgiver, like an archer, aims only
at that on which some eternal beauty is always attending, and
dismisses everything else, whether wealth or any other benefit, when
separated from virtue. I was saying that the imitation of enemies
was a bad thing; and I was thinking of a case in which a maritime
people are harassed by enemies, as the Athenians were by Minos (I do
not speak from any desire to recall past grievances); but he, as we
know, was a great naval potentate, who compelled the inhabitants of
Attica to pay him a cruel tribute; and in those days they had no ships
of war as they now have, nor was the country filled with
ship-timber, and therefore they could not readily build them. Hence
they could not learn how to imitate their enemy at sea, and in this
way, becoming sailors themselves, directly repel their enemies. Better