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Pages of laws (books 1 - 6)



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laws (books 1 - 6)   


but even God is said not to be able to fight against necessity.
Wherefore let us suppose this "high argument" of ours to address
us in the following terms:-Best of men, cease not to honour
according to nature similarity and equality and sameness and
agreement, as regards number and every good and noble quality. And,
above all, observe the aforesaid number 5040 throughout life; in the
second place, do not disparage the small and modest proportions of the
inheritances which you received in the distribution, by buying and
selling them to one another. For then neither will the God who gave
you the lot be your friend, nor will the legislator; and indeed the
law declares to the disobedient that these are the terms upon which he
may or may not take the lot. In the first place, the earth as he is
informed is sacred to the Gods; and in the next place, priests and
priestesses will offer up prayers over a first, and second, and even a
third sacrifice, that he who buys or sells the houses or lands which
he has received, may suffer the punishment which he deserves; and
these their prayers they shall write down in the temples, on tablets
of cypress-wood, for the instruction of posterity. Moreover they
will set a watch over all these things, that they may be observed;-the
magistracy which has the sharpest eyes shall keep watch that any
infringement of these commands may be discovered and punished as
offences both against the law and the God. How great is the benefit of
such an ordinance to all those cities, which obey and are administered
accordingly, no bad man can ever know, as the old proverb says; but
only a man of experience and good habits. For in such an order of
things there will not be much opportunity for making money; no man
either ought, or indeed will be allowed, to exercise any ignoble
occupation, of which the vulgarity is a matter of reproach to a
freeman, and should never want to acquire riches by any such means.
Further, the law enjoins that no private man shall be allowed to
possess gold and silver, but only coin for daily use, which is
almost necessary in dealing with artisans, and for payment of
hirelings, whether slaves or immigrants, by all those persons who
require the use of them. Wherefore our citizens, as we say, should
have a coin passing current among themselves, but not accepted among
the rest of mankind; with a view, however, to expeditions and journeys
to other lands-for embassies, or for any other occasion which may
arise of sending out a herald, the state must also possess a common
Hellenic currency. If a private person is ever obliged to go abroad,
let him have the consent of the magistrates and go; and if when he
returns he has any foreign money remaining, let him give the surplus
back to the treasury, and receive a corresponding sum in the local
currency. And if he is discovered to appropriate it, let it be
confiscated, and let him who knows and does not inform be subject to
curse and dishonour equally him who brought the money, and also to a
fine not less in amount than the foreign money which has been
brought back. In marrying and giving in marriage, no one shall give or
receive any dowry at all; and no one shall deposit money with
another whom he does not trust as a friend, nor shall he lend money
upon interest; and the borrower should be under no obligation to repay
either capital or interest. That these principles are best, any one
may see who compares them with the first principle and intention of
a state. The intention, as we affirm, of a reasonable statesman, is
not what the many declare to be the object of a good legislator,
namely, that the state for the true interests of which he is
advising should be as great and as rich as possible, and should
possess gold and silver, and have the greatest empire by sea and
land;-this they imagine to be the real object of legislation, at the
same time adding, inconsistently, that the true legislator desires
to have the city the best and happiest possible. But they do not see
that some of these things are possible, and some of them are
impossible; and he who orders the state will desire what is
possible, and will not indulge in vain wishes or attempts to
accomplish that which is impossible. The citizen must indeed be

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