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Pages of laws (books 1 - 6)



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laws (books 1 - 6)   


the end of the time, of a state thus trained not being permanent.
Cle. A reasonable supposition.
Ath. Then let us consider if we can find any way out of the
difficulty; for I maintain, Cleinias, that the Cnosians, above all the
other Cretans, should not be satisfied with barely discharging their
duty to the colony, but they ought to take the utmost pains to
establish the offices which are first created by them in the best
and surest manner. Above all, this applies to the selection of the
guardians of the law, who must be chosen first of all, and with the
greatest care; the others are of less importance.
Cle. What method can we devise of electing them?
Ath. This will be the method:-Sons of the Cretans, I shall say to
them, inasmuch as the Cnosians have precedence over the other
states, they should, in common with those who join this settlement,
choose a body of thirty-seven in all, nineteen of them being taken
from the settlers, and the remainder from the citizens of Cnosus. Of
those latter the Cnosians shall make a present to your colony, and you
yourself shall be one of the eighteen, and shall become a citizen of
the new state; and if you and they cannot be persuaded to go, the
Cnosians may fairly use a little violence in order to make you.
Cle. But why, Stranger, do not you and Megillus take a part in our
new city?
Ath. O, Cleinias, Athens is proud, and Sparta too; and they are both
a long way off. But you and likewise the other colonists are
conveniently situated as you describe. I have been speaking of the way
in which the new citizens may be best managed under present
circumstances; but in after-ages, if the city continues to exist,
let the election be on this wise. All who are horse or foot
soldiers, or have seen military service at the proper ages when they
were severally fitted for it, shall share in the election of
magistrates; and the election shall be held in whatever temple the
state deems most venerable, and every one shall carry his vote to
the altar of the God, writing down on a tablet the name of the
person for whom he votes, and his father's name, and his tribe, and
ward; and at the side he shall write his own name in like manner.
Any one who pleases may take away any tablet which he does not think
properly filled up, and exhibit it in the Agara for a period of not
less than thirty days. The tablets which are judged to be first, to
the number of 300, shall be shown by the magistrates to the whole
city, and the citizens shall in like manner select from these the
candidates whom they prefer; and this second selection, to the
number of 100, shall be again exhibited to the citizens; in the third,
let any one who pleases select whom pleases out of the 100, walking
through the parts of victims, and let them choose for magistrates
and proclaim the seven and thirty who have the greatest number of
votes. But who, Cleinias and Megillus, will order for us in the colony
all this matter of the magistrates, and the scrutinies of them? If
we reflect, we shall see that cities which are in process of
construction like ours must have some such persons, who cannot
possibly be elected before there are any magistrates; and yet they
must be elected in some way, and they are not to be inferior men,
but the best possible. For as the proverb says, "a good beginning is
half the business"; and "to have begun well" is praised by all, and in
my opinion is a great deal more than half the business, and has
never been praised by any one enough.
Cle. That is very true.
Ath. Then let us recognize the difficulty, and make clear to our own
minds how the beginning is to be accomplished. There is only one
proposal which I have to offer, and that is one which, under our
circumstances, is both necessary and expedient.
Cle. What is it?
Ath. I maintain that this colony of ours has a father and mother,
who are no other than the colonizing state. Well I know that many
colonies have been, and will be, at enmity with their parents. But

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