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

Previous | Next

laws (books 1 - 6)   

themselves to be deprived of gold and other things which the
legislator, as is evident from these enactments, will certainly forbid
them; and will endure, further, the situation of the land with the
city in the middle and dwellings round about;-all this is as if the
legislator were telling his dreams, or making a city and citizens of
wax. There is truth in these objections, and therefore every one
should take to heart what I am going to say. Once more, then, the
legislator shall appear and address us:-"O my friends," he will say to
us, "do not suppose me ignorant that there is a certain degree of
truth in your words; but I am of opinion that, in matters which are
not present but future, he who exhibits a pattern of that at which
he aims, should in nothing fall short of the fairest and truest; and
that if he finds any part of this work impossible of execution he
should avoid and not execute it, but he should contrive to carry out
that which is nearest and most akin to it; you must allow the
legislator to perfect his design, and when it is perfected, you should
join with him in considering what part of his legislation is expedient
and what will arouse opposition; for surely the artist who is to be
deemed worthy of any regard at all, ought always to make his work
Having determined that there is to be a distribution into twelve
parts, let us now see in what way this may be accomplished. There is
no difficulty in perceiving that the twelve parts admit of the
greatest number of divisions of that which they include, or in
seeing the other numbers which are consequent upon them, and are
produced out of them up to 5040; wherefore the law ought to order
phratries and demes and villages, and also military ranks and
movements, as well as coins and measures, dry and liquid, and weights,
so as to be commensurable and agreeable to one another. Nor should
we fear the appearance of minuteness, if the law commands that all the
vessels which a man possesses should have a common measure, when we
consider generally that the divisions and variations of numbers have a
use in respect of all the variations of which they are susceptible,
both in themselves and as measures of height and depth, and in all
sounds, and in motions, as well those which proceed in a straight
direction, upwards or downwards, as in those which go round and round.
The legislator is to consider all these things and to bid the
citizens, as far as possible, not to lose sight of numerical order;
for no single instrument of youthful education has such mighty
power, both as regards domestic economy and politics, and in the arts,
as the study of arithmetic. Above all, arithmetic stirs up him who
is by nature sleepy and dull, and makes him quick to learn, retentive,
shrewd, and aided by art divine he makes progress quite beyond his
natural powers. All such things, if only the legislator, by other laws
and institutions, can banish meanness and covetousness from the
souls of men, so that they can use them properly and to their own
good, will be excellent and suitable instruments of education. But
if he cannot, he will unintentionally create in them, instead of
wisdom, the habit of craft, which evil tendency may be observed in the
Egyptians and Phoenicians, and many other races, through the general
vulgarity of their pursuits and acquisitions, whether some unworthy
legislator theirs has been the cause, or some impediment of chance
or nature. For we must not fail to observe, O Megillus and Cleinias,
that there is a difference in places, and that some beget better men
and others worse; and we must legislate accordingly. Some places are
subject to strange and fatal influences by reason of diverse winds and
violent heats, some by reason of waters; or, again, from the character
of the food given by the earth, which not only affects the bodies of
men for good or evil, but produces similar results in their souls. And
in all such qualities those spots excel in which there is a divine
inspiration, and in which the demi-gods have their appointed lots, and
are propitious, not adverse, to the settlers in them. To all these
matters the legislator, if he have any sense in him, will attend as
far as man can, and frame his laws accordingly. And this is what

Previous | Next
Site Search