laws (books 7 - 12)
addition to the preceding about dancing and gymnastic exercise in
general. Having said what remained to be said about the teaching of
music, let us speak in like manner about gymnastic. For boys and girls
ought to learn to dance and practise gymnastic exercises-ought they
Ath. Then the boys ought to have dancing masters, and the girls
dancing mistresses to exercise them.
Cle. Very good.
Ath. Then once more let us summon him who has the chief concern in
the business, the superintendent of youth [i.e., the director of
education]; he will have plenty to do, if he is to have the charge
of music and gymnastic.
Cle. But how will old man be able to attend to such great charges?
Ath. O my friend, there will be no difficulty, for the law has
already given and will give him permission to select as his assistants
in this charge any citizens, male or female, whom he desires; and he
will know whom he ought to choose, and will be anxious not to make a
mistake, from a due sense of responsibility, and from a
consciousness of the importance of his office, and also because he
will consider that if young men have been and are well brought up,
then all things go swimmingly, but if not, it is not meet to say,
nor do we say, what will follow, lest the regarders of omens should
take alarm about our infant state. Many things have been said by us
about dancing and about gymnastic movements in general; for we include
under gymnastics all military exercises, such as archery, and all
hurling of weapons, and the use of the light shield, and all
fighting with heavy arms, and military evolutions, and movements of
armies, and encampings, and all that relates to horsemanship. Of all
these things there ought to be public teachers, receiving pay from the
state, and their pupils should be the men and boys in the state, and
also the girls and women, who are to know all these things. While they
are yet girls they should have practised dancing in arms and the whole
art of fighting-when grown-up women, they should apply themselves to
evolutions and tactics, and the mode of grounding and taking up
arms; if for no other reason, yet in case the whole military force
should have to leave the city and carry on operations of war
outside, that those who will have to guard the young and the rest of
the city may be equal to the task; and, on the other hand, when
enemies, whether barbarian or Hellenic, come from without with
mighty force and make a violent assault upon them, and thus compel
them to fight for the possession of the city, which is far from
being an impossibility, great would be the disgrace to the state, if
the women had been so miserably trained that they could not fight
for their young, as birds will, against any creature however strong,
and die or undergo any danger, but must instantly rush to the
temples and crowd at the altars and shrines, and bring upon human
nature the reproach, that of all animals man is the most cowardly!
Cle. Such a want of education, Stranger, is certainly an unseemly
thing to happen in a state, as well as a great misfortune.
Ath. Suppose that we carry our law to the extent of saying that
women ought not to neglect military matters, but that all citizens,
male and female alike, shall attend to them?
Cle. I quite agree.
Ath. Of wrestling we have spoken in part, but of what I should
call the most important part we have not spoken, and cannot easily
speak without showing at the same time by gesture as well as in word
what we mean; when word and action combine, and not till then, we
shall explain clearly what has been said, pointing out that of all
movements wrestling is most akin to the military art, and is to be
pursued for the sake of this, and not this for the sake of wrestling.
Ath. Enough of wrestling; we will now proceed to speak of other
movements of the body. Such motion may be in general called dancing,