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

Previous | Next

laws (books 1 - 6)   

different standards appointed according to the amount of property:
there should be a first and a second and a third and a fourth class,
in which the citizens will be placed, and they will be called by these
or similar names: they may continue in the same rank, or pass into
another in any individual case, on becoming richer from being, poorer,
or poorer from being richer. The form of law which I should propose as
the natural sequel would be as follows:-In a state which is desirous
of being saved from the greatest of all plagues-not faction, but
rather distraction;-here should exist among the citizens neither
extreme poverty, nor, again, excess of wealth, for both are productive
of both these evils. Now the legislator should determine what is to be
the limit of poverty or wealth. Let the limit of poverty be the
value of the lot; this ought to be preserved, and no ruler, nor any
one else who aspires after a reputation for virtue, will allow the lot
to be impaired in any case. This the legislator gives as a measure,
and he will permit a man to acquire double or triple, or as much as
four times the amount of this. But if a person have yet greater
riches, whether he has found them, or they have been given to him,
or he has made them in business, or has acquired by any stroke of
fortune that which is in excess of the measure, if he give back the
surplus to the state, and to the Gods who are the patrons of the
state, he shall suffer no penalty or loss of reputation; but if he
disobeys this our law any one who likes may inform against him and
receive half the value of the excess, and the delinquent shall pay a
sum equal to the excess out of his own property, and the other half of
the excess shall belong to the Gods. And let every possession of every
man, with the exception of the lot, be publicly registered before
the magistrates whom the law appoints, so that all suits about money
may be easy and quite simple.
The next thing to be noted is, that the city should be placed as
nearly as possible in the centre of the country; we should choose a
place which possesses what is suitable for a city, and this may easily
be imagined and described. Then we will divide the city into twelve
portions, first founding temples to Hestia, to Zeus and to Athene,
in a spot which we will call the Acropolis, and surround with a
circular wall, making the division of the entire city and country
radiate from this point. The twelve portions shall be equalized by the
provision that those which are of good land shall be smaller. while
those of inferior quality shall be larger. The number of the lots
shall be 5040, and each of them shall be divided into two, and every
allotment shall be composed of two such sections; one of land near the
city, the other of land which is at a distance. This arrangement shall
be carried out in the following manner: The section which is near
the city shall be added to that which is on borders, and form one lot,
and the portion which is next nearest shall be added to the portion
which is next farthest; and so of the rest. Moreover, in the two
sections of the lots the same principle of equalization of the soil
ought to be maintained; the badness and goodness shall be
compensated by more and less. And the legislator shall divide the
citizens into twelve parts, and arrange the rest of their property, as
far as possible, so as to form twelve equal parts; and there shall
be a registration of all. After this they shall assign twelve lots
to twelve Gods, and call them by their names, and dedicate to each God
their several portions, and call the tribes after them. And they shall
distribute the twelve divisions of the city in the same way in which
they divided the country; and every man shall have two habitations,
one in the centre of the country, and the other at the extremity.
Enough of the manner of settlement.
Now we ought by all means to consider that there can never be such a
happy concurrence of circumstances as we have described; neither can
all things coincide as they are wanted. Men who will not take
offence at such a mode of living together, and will endure all their
life long to have their property fixed at a moderate limit, and to
beget children in accordance with our ordinances, and will allow

Previous | Next
Site Search