laws (books 1 - 6)
ought we to do concerning property in slaves? I made a remark, in
passing, which naturally elicited a question about my meaning from
you. It was this:-We know that all would agree that we should have the
best and most attached slaves whom we can get. For many a man has
found his slaves better in every way than brethren or sons, and many
times they have saved the lives and property of their masters and
their whole house-such tales are well known.
Meg. To be sure.
Ath. But may we not also say that the soul of the slave is utterly
corrupt, and that no man of sense ought to trust them? And the
wisest of our poets, speaking of Zeus, says:
Far-seeing Zeus takes away half the understanding of men whom the
day of slavery subdues.
Different persons have got these two different notions of slaves in
their minds-some of them utterly distrust their servants, and, as if
they were wild beasts, chastise them with goads and whips, and make
their souls three times, or rather many times, as slavish as they were
before;-and others do just the opposite.
Cle. Then what are we to do in our own country, Stranger, seeing
that there are, such differences in the treatment of slaves by their
Ath. Well, Cleinias, there can be no doubt that man is a troublesome
animal, and therefore he is not very manageable, nor likely to
become so, when you attempt to introduce the necessary division,
slave, and freeman, and master.
Cle. That is obvious.
Ath. He is a troublesome piece of goods, as has been often shown
by the frequent revolts of the Messenians, and the great mischiefs
which happen in states having many slaves who speak the same language,
and the numerous robberies and lawless life of the Italian banditti,
as they are called. A man who considers all this is fairly at a
loss. Two remedies alone remain to us-not to have the slaves of the
same country, nor if possible, speaking the same language; in this way
they will more easily be held in subjection: secondly, we should
tend them carefully, not only out of regard to them, but yet more
out of respect to ourselves. And the right treatment of slaves is to
behave properly to them, and to do to them, if possible, even more
justice than to those who are our equals; for he who naturally and
genuinely reverences justice, and hates injustice, is discovered in
his dealings with any class of men to whom he can easily be unjust.
And he who in regard to the natures and actions of his slaves is
undefiled by impiety and injustice, will best sow the seeds of
virtue in them; and this may be truly said of every master, and
tyrant, and of every other having authority in relation to his
inferiors. Slaves ought to be punished as they deserve, and not
admonished as if they were freemen, which will only make them
conceited. The language used to a servant ought always to be that of a
command, and we ought not to jest with them, whether they are males or
females-this is a foolish way which many people have of setting up
their slaves, and making the life of servitude more disagreeable
both for them and for their masters.
Ath. Now that each of the citizens is provided, as far as
possible, with a sufficient number of suitable slaves who can help him
in what he has to do, we may next proceed to describe their dwellings.
Cle. Very good.
Ath. The city being new and hitherto uninhabited, care ought to be
taken of all the buildings, and the manner of building each of them,
and also of the temples and walls. These, Cleinias, were matters which
properly came before the marriages; but, as we are only talking, there
is no objection to changing the order. If, however, our plan of