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Pages of laws (books 1 - 6)



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laws (books 1 - 6)   


none of these alive, the betrothal by a mother shall be valid in
like manner; in cases of unexampled fatality, the next of kin and
the guardians shall have authority. What are to be the rites before
marriages, or any other sacred acts, relating either to future,
present, or past marriages, shall be referred to the interpreters; and
he who follows their advice may be satisfied. Touching the marriage
festival, they shall assemble not more than five male and five
female friends of both families; and a like number of members of the
family of either sex, and no man shall spend more than his means
will allow; he who is of the richest class may spend a mina-he who
is of the second, half a mina, and in the same proportion as the
census of each decreases: all men shall praise him who is obedient
to the law; but he who is disobedient shall be punished by the
guardians of the law as a man wanting in true taste, and
uninstructed in the laws of bridal song. Drunkenness is always
improper, except at the festivals of the God who gave wine; and
peculiarly dangerous, when a man is engaged in the business of
marriage; at such a crisis of their lives a bride and bridegroom ought
to have all their wits about them-they ought to take care that their
offspring may be born of reasonable beings; for on what day or night
Heaven will give them increase, who can say? Moreover, they ought
not to begetting children when their bodies are dissipated by
intoxication, but their offspring should be compact and solid, quiet
and compounded properly; whereas the drunkard is all abroad in all his
actions, and beside himself both in body and soul. Wherefore, also,
the drunken man is bad and unsteady in sowing the seed of increase,
and is likely to beget offspring who will be unstable and
untrustworthy, and cannot be expected to walk straight either in
body or mind. Hence during the whole year and all his life long, and
especially while he is begetting children, ought to take care and
not intentionally do what is injurious to health, or what involves
insolence and wrong; for he cannot help leaving the impression of
himself on the souls and bodies of his offspring, and he begets
children in every way inferior. And especially on the day and night of
marriage should a man abstain from such things. For the beginning,
which is also a God dwelling in man, preserves all things, if it
meet with proper respect from each individual. He who marries is
further to consider that one of the two houses in the lot is the
nest and nursery of his young, and there he is to marry and make a
home for himself and bring up his children, going away from his father
and mother. For in friendships there must be some degree of desire, in
order to cement and bind together diversities of character; but
excessive intercourse not having the desire which is created by
time, insensibly dissolves friendships from a feeling of satiety;
wherefore a man and his wife shall leave to his and her father and
mother their own dwelling-places, and themselves go as to a colony and
dwell there, and visit and be visited by their parents; and they shall
beget and bring up children, handing on the torch of life from one
generation to another, and worshipping the Gods according to law for
ever.
In the next place, we have to consider what sort of property will be
most convenient. There is no difficulty either in understanding or
acquiring most kinds of property, but there is great difficulty in
what relates to slaves. And the reason is that we speak about them
in a way which is right and which is not right; for what we say
about our slaves is consistent and also inconsistent with our practice
about them.
Megillus. I do not understand, Stranger, what you mean.
Ath. I am not surprised, Megillus, for the state of the Helots among
the Lacedaemonians is of all Hellenic forms of slavery the most
controverted and disputed about, some approving and some condemning
it; there is less dispute about the slavery which exists among the
Heracleots, who have subjugated the Mariandynians, and about the
Thessalian Penestae. Looking at these and the like examples, what

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