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Pages of laws (books 1 - 6)



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laws (books 1 - 6)   


others who are like himself, and dances about, throwing all things
into confusion, and many think that he is a great man, but in a
short time he pays a penalty which justice cannot but approve, and
is utterly destroyed, and his family and city with him. Wherefore,
seeing that human things are thus ordered, what should a wise man do
or think, or not do or think?
Cle. Every man ought to make up his mind that he will be one of
the followers of God; there can be no doubt of that.
Ath. Then what life is agreeable to God, and becoming in his
followers? One only, expressed once for all in the old saying that
"like agrees with like, with measure measure," but things which have
no measure agree neither with themselves nor with the things which
have. Now God ought to be to us the measure of all things, and not
man, as men commonly say (Protagoras): the words are far more true
of him. And he who would be dear to God must, as far as is possible,
be like him and such as he is. Wherefore the temperate man is the
friend of God, for he is like him; and the intemperate man is unlike
him, and different from him, and unjust. And the same applies to other
things; and this is the conclusion, which is also the noblest and
truest of all sayings-that for the good man to offer sacrifice to
the Gods, and hold converse with them by means of prayers and
offerings and every kind of service, is the noblest and best of all
things, and also the most conducive to a happy life, and very fit
and meet. But with the bad man, the opposite of this is true: for
the bad man has an impure soul, whereas the good is pure; and from one
who is polluted, neither good man nor God can without impropriety
receive gifts. Wherefore the unholy do only waste their much service
upon the Gods, but when offered by any holy man, such service is
most acceptable to them. This is the mark at which we ought to aim.
But what weapons shall we use, and how shall we direct them? In the
first place, we affirm that next after the Olympian Gods and the
Gods of the State, honour should be given to the Gods below; they
should receive everything in even and of the second choice, and ill
omen, while the odd numbers, and the first choice, and the things of
lucky omen, are given to the Gods above, by him who would rightly
hit the mark of piety. Next to these Gods, a wise man will do
service to the demons or spirits, and then to the heroes, and after
them will follow the private and ancestral Gods, who are worshipped as
the law prescribes in the places which are sacred to them. Next
comes the honour of living parents, to whom, as is meet, we have to
pay the first and greatest and oldest of all debts, considering that
all which a man has belongs to those who gave him birth and brought
him up, and that he must do all that he can to minister to them,
first, in his property, secondly, in his person, and thirdly, in his
soul, in return for the endless care and travail which they bestowed
upon him of old, in the days of his infancy, and which he is now to
pay back to them when they are old and in the extremity of their need.
And all his life long he ought never to utter, or to have uttered,
an unbecoming word to them; for of light and fleeting words the
penalty is most severe; Nemesis, the messenger of justice, is
appointed to watch over all such matters. When they are angry and want
to satisfy their feelings in word or deed, he should give way to them;
for a father who thinks that he has been wronged by his son may be
reasonably expected to be very angry. At their death, the most
moderate funeral is best, neither exceeding the customary expense, nor
yet falling short of the honour which has been usually shown by the
former generation to their parents. And let a man not forget to pay
the yearly tribute of respect to the dead, honouring them chiefly by
omitting nothing that conduces to a perpetual remembrance of them, and
giving a reasonable portion of his fortune to the dead. Doing this,
and living after this manner, we shall receive our reward from the
Gods and those who are above us [i.e., the demons]; and we shall spend
our days for the most part in good hope. And how a man ought to
order what relates to his descendants and his kindred and friends

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