laws (books 1 - 6)
considering in every point of view the subject of law.
Ath. Then let us return once more to what we were saying at first.
Every man should understand that the human race either had no
beginning at all, and will never have an end, but always will be and
has been; or that it began an immense while ago.
Ath. Well, and have there not been constitutions and destructions of
states, and all sorts of pursuits both orderly and disorderly, and
diverse desires of meats and drinks always, and in all the world,
and all sorts of changes of the seasons in which animals may be
expected to have undergone innumerable transformations of themselves?
Cle. No doubt.
Ath. And may we not suppose that vines appeared, which had
previously no existence, and also olives, and the gifts of Demeter and
her daughter, of which one Triptolemus was the minister, and that,
before these existed, animals took to devouring each other as they
Ath. Again, the practice of men sacrificing one another still exists
among many nations; while, on the other hand, we hear of other human
beings who did not even venture to taste the flesh of a cow and had no
animal sacrifices, but only cakes and fruits dipped in honey, and
similar pure offerings, but no flesh of animals; from these they
abstained under the idea that they ought not to eat them, and might
not stain the altars of the Gods with blood. For in those days men are
said to have lived a sort of Orphic life, having the use of all
lifeless things, but abstaining from all living things.
Cle. Such has been the constant tradition, and is very likely true.
Ath. Some one might say to us, What is the drift of all this?
Cle. A very pertinent question, Stranger.
Ath. And therefore I will endeavour, Cleinias, if I can, to draw the
Ath. I see that among men all things depend upon three wants and
desires, of which the end is virtue, if they are rightly led by
them, or the opposite if wrongly. Now these are eating and drinking,
which begin at birth-every animal has a natural desire for them, and
is violently excited, and rebels against him who says that he must not
satisfy all his pleasures and appetites, and get rid of all the
corresponding pains-and the third and greatest and sharpest want and
desire breaks out last, and is the fire of sexual lust, which
kindles in men every species of wantonness and madness. And these
three disorders we must endeavour to master by the three great
principles of fear and law and right reason; turning them away from
that which is called pleasantest to the best, using the Muses and
the Gods who preside over contests to extinguish their increase and
But to return:-After marriage let us speak of the birth of children,
and after their birth of their nurture and education. In the course of
discussion the several laws will be perfected, and we shall at last
arrive at the common tables. Whether such associations are to be
confined to men, or extended to women also, we shall see better when
we approach and take a nearer view of them; and we may then
determine what previous institutions are required and will have to
precede them. As I said before we shall see them more in detail, and
shall be better able to lay down the laws which are proper or suited
Cle. Very true.
Ath. Let us keep in mind the words which have now been spoken; for
hereafter there may be need of them.
Cle. What do you bid us keep in mind?
Ath. That which we comprehended under the three words-first, eating,
secondly, drinking, thirdly, the excitement of love.