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

Previous | Next

laws (books 1 - 6)   

for them to have lost many times over the seven youths, than that
heavy-armed and stationary troops should have been turned into
sailors, and accustomed to be often leaping on shore, and again to
come running back to their ships; or should have fancied that there
was no disgrace in not awaiting the attack of an enemy and dying
boldly; and that there were good reasons, and plenty of them, for a
man throwing away his arms, and betaking himself to flight-which is
not dishonourable, as people say, at certain times. This is the
language of naval warfare, and is anything but worthy of extraordinary
praise. For we should not teach bad habits, least of all to the best
part of the citizens. You may learn the evil of such a practice from
Homer, by whom Odysseus is introduced, rebuking Agamemnon because he
desires to draw down the ships to the sea at a time when the
Achaeans are hard pressed by the Trojans-he gets angry with him, and

Who, at a time when the battle is in full cry, biddest to drag the
well-benched ships into the sea, that the prayers of the Trojans may
be accomplished yet more, and high ruin falls upon us. For the
Achaeans will not maintain the battle, when the ships are drawn into
the sea, but they will look behind and will cease from strife; in that
the counsel which you give will prove injurious.

You see that he quite knew triremes on the sea, in the neighbourhood
of fighting men, to be an evil;-lions might be trained in that way
to fly from a herd of deer. Moreover, naval powers which owe their
safety to ships, do not give honour to that sort of warlike excellence
which is most deserving of it. For he who owes his safety to the pilot
and the captain, and the oarsman, and all sorts of rather inferior
persons cannot rightly give honour to whom honour is due. But how
can a state be in a right condition which cannot justly award honour?
Cle. It is hardly possible, I admit; and yet, Stranger, we Cretans
are in the habit of saying that the battle of Salamis was the
salvation of Hellas.
Ath. Why, yes; and that is an opinion which is widely spread both
among Hellenes and barbarians. But Megillus and I say rather, that the
battle of Marathon was the beginning, and the battle of Plataea the
completion, of the great deliverance, and that these battles by land
made the Hellenes better; whereas the sea-fights of Salamis and
Artemisium-for I may as well put them both together-made them no
better, if I may say so without offence about the battles which helped
to save us. And in estimating the goodness of a state, we regard
both the situation of the country and the order of the laws,
considering that the mere preservation and continuance of life is
not the most honourable thing for men, as the vulgar think, but the
continuance of the best life, while we live; and that again, if I am
jot mistaken, is remark which has been made already.
Cle. Yes.
Ath. Then we have only to ask whether we are taking the course which
we acknowledge to be the best for the settlement and legislation of
Cle. The best by far.
Ath. And now let me proceed to another question: Who are to be the
colonists? May any one come out of all Crete; and is the idea that the
population in the several states is too numerous for the means of
subsistence? For I suppose that you are not going to send out a
general invitation to any Hellene who likes to come. And yet I observe
that to your country settlers have come from Argos and Aegina and
other parts of Hellas. Tell me, then, whence do you draw your recruits
in the present enterprise?
Cle. They will come from all Crete; and of other Hellenes,
Peloponnesians will be most acceptable. For, as you truly observe,
there are Cretans of Argive descent; and the race of Cretans which has
the highest character at the present day is the Gortynian, and this

Previous | Next
Site Search