laws (books 7 - 12)
mentioned-that it is the eldest, and most divine of all things, to
which motion attaining generation gives perpetual existence; the other
was an argument from the order of the motion of the stars, and of
all things under the dominion of the mind which ordered the
universe. If a man look upon the world not lightly or ignorantly,
there was never any one so godless who did not experience an effect
opposite to that which the many imagine. For they think that those who
handle these matters by the help of astronomy, and the accompanying
arts of demonstration, may become godless, because they see, as far as
they can see, things happening by necessity, and not by an intelligent
will accomplishing good.
Cle. But what is the fact?
Ath. Just the opposite, as I said, of the opinion which once
prevailed among men, that the sun and stars are without soul. Even
in those days men wondered about them, and that which is now
ascertained was then conjectured by some who had a more exact
knowledge of them-that if they had been things without soul, and had
no mind, they could never have moved with numerical exactness so
wonderful; and even at that time some ventured to hazard the
conjecture that mind was the orderer of the universe. But these same
persons again mistaking the nature of the soul, which they conceived
to be younger and not older than the body, once more overturned the
world, or rather, I should say, themselves; for the bodies which
they saw moving in heaven all appeared to be full of stones, and
earth, and many other lifeless substances, and to these they
assigned the causes of all things. Such studies gave rise to much
atheism and perplexity, and the poets took occasion to be
abusive-comparing the philosophers to she-dogs uttering vain howlings,
and talking other nonsense of the same sort. But now, as I said, the
case is reversed.
Cle. How so?
Ath. No man can be a true worshipper of the Gods who does not know
these two principles-that the soul is the eldest of all things which
are born, and is immortal and rules over all bodies; moreover, as I
have now said several times, he who has not contemplated the mind of
nature which is said to exist in the stars, and gone through the
previous training, and seen the connection of music with these things,
and harmonized them all with laws and institutions, is not able to
give a reason of such things as have a reason. And he who is unable to
acquire this in addition to the ordinary virtues of a citizen, can
hardly be a good ruler of a whole state; but he should be the
subordinate of other rulers. Wherefore, Cleinias and Megillus, let
us consider whether we may not add to all the other laws which we have
discussed this further one-that the nocturnal assembly of the
magistrates, which has also shared in the whole scheme of education
proposed by us, shall be a guard set according to law for the
salvation of the state. Shall we propose this?
Cle. Certainly, my good friend, we will if the thing is in any
Ath. Let us make a common effort to gain such an object; for I too
will gladly share in the attempt. Of these matters I have had much
experience, and have often considered them, and I dare say that I
shall be able to find others who will also help.
Cle. I agree, Stranger, that we should proceed along the road in
which God is guiding us; and how we can proceed rightly has now to
be investigated and explained.
Ath. O Megillus and Cleinias, about these matters we cannot
legislate further until the council is constituted; when that is done,
then we will determine what authority they shall have of their own;
but the explanation of how this is all to be ordered would only be
given rightly in a long discourse.
Cle. What do you mean, and what new thing is this?
Ath. In the first place, a list would have to be made out of those
who by their ages and studies and dispositions and habits are well