laws (books 1 - 6)
Cle. How can they have any other?
Ath. "And whoever transgresses these laws is punished as an
evil-doer by the legislator, who calls the laws just?"
Ath. "This, then, is always the mode and fashion in which justice
Cle. Certainly, if they are correct in their view.
Ath. Why, yes, this is one of those false principles of government
to which we were referring.
Cle. Which do you mean?
Ath. Those which we were examining when we spoke of who ought to
govern whom. Did we not arrive at the conclusion that parents ought to
govern their children, and the elder the younger, and the noble the
ignoble? And there were many other principles, if you remember, and
they were not always consistent. One principle was this very principle
of might, and we said that Pindar considered violence natural and
Cle. Yes; I remember.
Ath. Consider, then, to whom our state is to be entrusted. For there
is a thing which has occurred times without number in states-
Cle. What thing?
Ath. That when there has been a contest for power, those who gain
the upper hand so entirely monopolize the government, as to refuse all
share to the defeated party and their descendants-they live watching
one another, the ruling class being in perpetual fear that some one
who has a recollection of former wrongs will come into power and
rise up against them. Now, according to our view, such governments are
not polities at all, nor are laws right which are passed for the
good of particular classes and not for the good of the whole state.
States which have such laws are not polities but parties, and their
notions of justice are simply unmeaning. I say this, because I am
going to assert that we must not entrust the government in your
state to any one because he is rich, or because he possesses any other
advantage, such as strength, or stature, or again birth: but he who is
most obedient to the laws of the state, he shall win the palm; and
to him who is victorious in the first degree shall be given the
highest office and chief ministry of the gods; and the second to him
who bears the second palm; and on a similar principle shall all the
other be assigned to those who come next in order. And when I call the
rulers servants or ministers of the law, I give them this name not for
the sake of novelty, but because I certainly believe that upon such
service or ministry depends the well- or ill-being of the state. For
that state in which the law is subject and has no authority, I
perceive to be on the highway to ruin; but I see that the state in
which the law is above the rulers, and the rulers are the inferiors of
the law, has salvation, and every blessing which the Gods can confer.
Cle. Truly, Stranger, you see with the keen vision of age.
Ath. Why, yes; every man when he is young has that sort of vision
dullest, and when he is old keenest.
Cle. Very true.
Ath. And now, what is to be the next step? May we not suppose the
colonists to have arrived, and proceed to make our speech to them?
Ath. "Friends," we say to them,-"God, as the old tradition declares,
holding in his hand the beginning, middle, and end of all that is,
travels according to his nature in a straight line towards the
accomplishment of his end. Justice always accompanies him, and is
the punisher of those who fall short of the divine law. To justice, he
who would be happy holds fast, and follows in her company with all
humility and order; but he who is lifted up with pride, or elated by
wealth or rank, or beauty, who is young and foolish, and has a soul
hot with insolence, and thinks that he has no need of any guide or
ruler, but is able himself to be the guide of others, he, I say, is
left deserted of God; and being thus deserted, he takes to him