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Pages of laws (books 7 - 12)



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laws (books 7 - 12)   


dedicated to the Gods, and such as are the works of good men, which
praise of blame has been awarded and which have been deemed to
fulfil their design fairly.
The regulations about and about liberty of speech in poitry, ought
to apply equally to men and women. The legislator may be supposed to
argue the question in his own mind:-Who are my citizens for whom I
have set in order the city? Are they not competitors in the greatest
of all contests, and have they not innumerable rivals? To be sure,
will be the natural, reply. Well, but if we were training boxers, or
pancratiasts, or any other sort of athletes, would they never meet
until the hour of contest arrived; and should we do nothing to prepare
ourselves previously by daily practice? Surely, if we were boxers we
should have been learning to fight for many days before, and
exercising ourselves in imitating all those blows and wards which we
were intending to use in the hour of conflict; and in order that we
might come as near to reality as possible, instead of cestuses we
should put on boxing gloves, that the blows and the wards might be
practised by us to the utmost of our power. And if there were a lack
of competitors, the ridicule of fools would ryot deter us from hanging
up a lifeless image and practising at that. Or if we had no
adversary at all, animate or inanimate, should we not venture in the
dearth of antagonists to spar by ourselves? In what other manner could
we ever study the art of self-defence?
Cle. The way which you mention Stranger, would be the only way.
Ath. And shall the warriors of our city, who are destined when
occasion calli to enter the greatest of all contests, and to fight for
their lives, and their children, and their property, and the whole
city, be worse prepared than boxers? And will the legislator,
because he is afraid that their practising with one another may appear
to some ridiculous, abstain from commanding them to go out and
fight; will he not ordain that soldiers shall perform lesser exercises
without arms every day, making dancing and all gymnastic tend to
this end; and also will he not require that they shall practise some
gymnastic exercises, greater as well as lesser, as often as every
month; and that they shall have contests one with another in every
part of the country, seizing upon posts and lying in ambush, and
imitating in every respect the reality of war; fighting with
boxing-gloves and hurling javelins, and using weapons somewhat
dangerous, and as nearly as possible like the true ones, in order that
the sport may not be altogether without fear, but may have terrors and
to a certain degree show the man who has and who has not courage;
and that the honour and dishonour which are assigned to them
respectively, may prepare the whole city for the true conflict of
life? If any one dies in these mimic contests, the homicide is
involuntary, and we will make the slayer, when he has been purified
according to law, to be pure of blood, considering that if a few men
should die, others as good as they will be born; but that if fear is
dead then the citizens will never find a test of superior and inferior
natures, which is a far greater evil to the state than the loss of a
few.
Cle. We are quite agreed, Stranger, that we should legislate about
such things, and that the whole state should practise them supposed
Ath. And what is the reason that dances and contests of this sort
hardly ever exist in states, at least not to any extent worth speaking
of? Is this due to the ignorance of mankind and their legislators?
Cle. Perhaps.
Ath. Certainly not, sweet Cleinias; there are two causes, which
are quite enough to account for the deficiency.
Cle. What are they?
Ath. One cause is the love of wealth, which wholly absorbs men,
and never for a moment allows them to think of anything but their
own private possessions; on this the soul of every citizen hangs
suspended, and can attend to nothing but his daily gain; mankind are
ready to learn any branch of knowledge, and to follow any pursuit

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