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



Previous | Next
                  

laws (books 1 - 6)   


also to give them the power of rendering efficient aid to their
neighbours when they are wronged. After having taken a survey of
theirs and their neighbours' territory, we will determine the limits
of them in fact as well as in theory. And now, let us proceed to
legislate with a view to perfecting the form and outline of our state.
The number of our citizens shall be 5040-this will be a convenient
number; and these shall be owners of the land and protectors of the
allotment. The houses and the land will be divided in the same way, so
that every man may correspond to a lot. Let the whole number be
first divided into two parts, and then into three; and the number is
further capable of being divided into four or five parts, or any
number of parts up to ten. Every legislator ought to know so much
arithmetic as to be able to tell what number is most likely to be
useful to all cities; and we are going to take that number which
contains the greatest and most regular and unbroken series of
divisions. The whole of number has every possible division, and the
number 5040 can be divided by exactly fifty-nine divisors, and ten
of these proceed without interval from one to ten: this will furnish
numbers for war and peace, and for all contracts and dealings,
including taxes and divisions of the land. These properties of
number should be ascertained at leisure by those who are bound by
law to know them; for they are true, and should be proclaimed at the
foundation of the city, with a view to use. Whether the legislator
is establishing a new state or restoring an old and decayed one, in
respect of Gods and temples-the temples which are to be built in
each city, and the Gods or demi-gods after whom they are to be
called-if he be a man of sense, he will make no change in anything
which the oracle of Delphi, or Dodona, or the God Ammon, or any
ancient tradition has sanctioned in whatever manner, whether by
apparitions or reputed inspiration of Heaven, in obedience to which
mankind have established sacrifices in connection with mystic rites,
either originating on the spot, or derived from Tyrrhenia or Cyprus or
some other place, and on the strength of which traditions they have
consecrated oracles and images, and altars and temples, and
portioned out a sacred domain for each of them. The least part of
all these ought not to be disturbed by the legislator; but he should
assign to the several districts some God, or demi-god, or hero, and,
in the distribution of the soil, should give to these first their
chosen domain and all things fitting, that the inhabitants of the
several districts may meet at fixed times, and that they may readily
supply their various wants, and entertain one another with sacrifices,
and become friends and acquaintances; for there is no greater good
in a state than that the citizens should be known to one another. When
not light but darkness and ignorance of each other's characters
prevails among them, no one will receive the honour of which he is
deserving, or the power or the justice to which he is fairly entitled:
wherefore, in every state, above all things, every man should take
heed that he have no deceit in him, but that he be always true and
simple; and that no deceitful person take any advantage of him.
The next move in our pastime of legislation, like the withdrawal
of the stone from the holy line in the game of draughts, being an
unusual one, will probably excite wonder when mentioned for the
first time. And yet, if a man will only reflect and weigh the matter
with care, he will see that our city is ordered in a manner which,
if not the best, is the second best. Perhaps also some one may not
approve this form, because he thinks that such a constitution is ill
adapted to a legislator who has not despotic power. The truth is, that
there are three forms of government, the best, the second and the
third best, which we may just mention, and then leave the selection to
the ruler of the settlement. Following this method in the present
instance, let us speak of the states which are respectively first,
second, and third in excellence, and then we will leave the choice
to Cleinias now, or to any one else who may hereafter have to make a
similar choice among constitutions, and may desire to give to his

Previous | Next
Site Search