laws (books 1 - 6)
the name of the God who rules over wise men.
Cle. And who is this God?
Ath. May I still make use of fable to some extent, in the hope
that I may be better able to answer your question: shall I?
Cle. By all means.
Ath. In the primeval world, and a long while before the cities
came into being whose settlements we have described, there is said
to have been in the time of Cronos a blessed rule and life, of which
the best-ordered of existing states is a copy.
Cle. It will be very necessary to hear about that.
Ath. I quite agree with you; and therefore I have introduced the
Cle. Most appropriately; and since the tale is to the point, you
will do well in giving us the whole story.
Ath. I will do as you suggest. There is a tradition of the happy
life of mankind in days when all things were spontaneous and abundant.
And of this the reason is said to have been as follows:-Cronos knew
what we ourselves were declaring, that no human nature invested with
supreme power is able to order human affairs and not overflow with
insolence and wrong. Which reflection led him to appoint not men but
demigods, who are of a higher and more divine race, to be the kings
and rulers of our cities; he did as we do with flocks of sheep and
other tame animals. For we do not appoint oxen to be the lords of
oxen, or goats of goats; but we ourselves are a superior race, and
rule over them. In like manner God, in his love of mankind, placed
over us the demons, who are a superior race, and they with great
case and pleasure to themselves, and no less to us, taking care us and
giving us peace and reverence and order and justice never failing,
made the tribes of men happy and united. And this tradition, which
is true, declares that cities of which some mortal man and not God
is the ruler, have no escape from evils and toils. Still we must do
all that we can to imitate the life which is said to have existed in
the days of Cronos, and, as far as the principle of immortality dwells
in us, to that we must hearken, both in private and public life, and
regulate our cities and houses according to law, meaning by the very
term "law," the distribution of mind. But if either a single person or
an oligarchy or a democracy has a soul eager after pleasures and
desires-wanting to be filled with them, yet retaining none of them,
and perpetually afflicted with an endless and insatiable disorder; and
this evil spirit, having first trampled the laws under foot, becomes
the master either of a state or of an individual-then, as I was
saying, salvation is hopeless. And now, Cleinias, we have to
consider whether you will or will not accept this tale of mine.
Cle. Certainly we will.
Ath. You are aware-are you not?-that there are of said to be as many
forms of laws as there are of governments, and of the latter we have
already mentioned all those which are commonly recognized. Now you
must regard this as a matter of first-rate importance. For what is
to be the standard of just and unjust, is once more the point at
issue. Men say that the law ought not to regard either military
virtue, or virtue in general, but only the interests and power and
preservation of the established form of government; this is thought by
them to be the best way of expressing the natural definition of
Ath. Justice is said by them to be the interest of the stronger.
Cle. Speak plainer.
Ath. I will:-"Surely," they say, "the governing power makes whatever
laws have authority in any state?"
Ath. "Well," they would add, "and do you suppose that tyranny or
democracy, or any other conquering power, does not make the
continuance of the power which is possessed by them the first or
principal object of their laws?"