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Pages of laws (books 1 - 6)



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laws (books 1 - 6)   


purification is painful, like similar cures in medicine, involving
righteous punishment and inflicting death or exile in the last resort.
For in this way we commonly dispose of great sinners who are
incurable, and are the greatest injury of the whole state. But the
milder form of purification is as follows:-when men who have
nothing, and are in want of food, show a disposition to follow their
leaders in an attack on the property of the rich-these, who are the
natural plague of the state, are sent away by the legislator in a
friendly spirit as far as he is able; and this dismissal of them is
euphemistically termed a colony. And every legislator should
contrive to do this at once. Our present case, however, is peculiar.
For there is no need to devise any colony or purifying separation
under the circumstances in which we are placed. But as, when many
streams flow together from many sources, whether springs or mountain
torrents, into a single lake, we ought to attend and take care that
the confluent waters should be perfectly clear, and in order to effect
this, should pump and draw off and divert impurities, so in every
political arrangement there may be trouble and danger. But, seeing
that we are now only discoursing and not acting, let our selection
be supposed to be completed, and the desired purity attained. Touching
evil men, who want to join and be citizens of our state, after we have
tested them by every sort of persuasion and for a sufficient time,
we will prevent them from coming; but the good we will to the utmost
of our ability receive as friends with open arms.
Another piece of good fortune must not be forgotten, which, as we
were saying, the Heraclid colony had, and which is also ours-that we
have escaped division of land and the abolition of debts; for these
are always a source of dangerous contention, and a city which is
driven by necessity to legislate upon such matters can neither allow
the old ways to continue, nor yet venture to alter them. We must
have recourse to prayers, so to speak, and hope that a slight change
may be cautiously effected in a length of time. And such a change
can be accomplished by those who have abundance of land, and having
also many debtors, are willing, in a kindly spirit, to share with
those who are in want, sometimes remitting and sometimes giving,
holding fast in a path of moderation, and deeming poverty to be the
increase of a man's desires and not the diminution of his property.
For this is the great beginning of salvation to a state, and upon this
lasting basis may be erected afterwards whatever political order is
suitable under the circumstances; but if the change be based upon an
unsound principle, the future administration of the country will be
full of difficulties. That is a danger which, as I am saying, is
escaped by us, and yet we had better say how, if we had not escaped,
we might have escaped; and we may venture now to assert that no
other way of escape, whether narrow or broad, can be devised but
freedom from avarice and a sense of justice-upon this rock our city
shall be built; for there ought to be no disputes among citizens about
property. If there are quarrels of long standing among them, no
legislator of any degree of sense will proceed a step in the
arrangement of the state until they are settled. But that they to whom
God has given, as he has to us, to be the founders of a new state as
yet free from enmity-that they should create themselves enmities by
their mode of distributing lands and houses, would be superhuman folly
and wickedness.
How then can we rightly order the distribution of the land? In the
first place, the number of the citizens has to be determined, and also
the number and size of the divisions into which they will have to be
formed; and the land and the houses will then have to be apportioned
by us as fairly as we can. The number of citizens can only be
estimated satisfactorily in relation to the territory and the
neighbouring states. The territory must be sufficient to maintain a
certain number of inhabitants in a moderate way of life-more than this
is not required; and the number of citizens should be sufficient to
defend themselves against the injustice of their neighbours, and

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