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Pages of laws (books 7 - 12)



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laws (books 7 - 12)   


previous training they have acquired the habit and are strong enough
and like to take part, let them do so, girls as well as boys, and no
blame to them.
Thus the competition in gymnastic and the mode of learning it have
been described; and we have spoken also of the toils of the contest,
and of daily exercises under the superintendence of masters. Likewise,
what relates to music has been, for the most part, completed. But as
to rhapsodes and the like, and the contests of choruses which are to
perform at feasts, all this shall be arranged when the months and days
and years have been appointed for Gods and demi-gods, whether every
third year, or again every fifth year, or in whatever way or manner
the Gods may put into men's minds the distribution and order of
them. At the same time, we may expect that the musical contests will
be celebrated in their turn by the command of the judges and the
director of education and the guardians of the law meeting together
for this purpose, and themselves becoming legislators of the times and
nature and conditions of the choral contests and of dancing in
general. What they ought severally to be in language and song, and
in the admixture of harmony with rhythm and the dance, has been
often declared by the original legislator; and his successors ought to
follow him, making the games and sacrifices duly to correspond at
fitting times, and appointing public festivals. It is not difficult to
determine how these and the like matters may have a regular order;
nor, again, will the alteration of them do any great good or harm to
the state. There is, however, another matter of great importance and
difficulty, concerning which God should legislate, if there were any
possibility of obtaining from him an ordinance about it. But seeing
that divine aid is not to be had, there appears to be a need of some
bold man who specially honours plainness of speech, and will say
outright what he thinks best for the city and citizens-ordaining
what is good and convenient for the whole state amid the corruptions
of human souls, opposing the mightiest lusts, and having no man his
helper but himself standing alone and following reason only.
Cle. What is this, Stranger, that you are saying? For we do not as
yet understand your meaning.
Ath. Very likely; I will endeavour to explain myself more clearly.
When I came to the subject of education, I beheld young men and
maidens holding friendly intercourse with one another. And there
naturally arose in my mind a sort of apprehension-I could not help
thinking how one is to deal with a city in which youths and maidens
are well nurtured, and have nothing to do, and are not undergoing
the excessive and servile toils which extinguish wantonness, and whose
only cares during their whole life are sacrifices and festivals and
dances. How, in such a state as this, will they abstain from desires
which thrust many a man and woman into perdition; and from which
reason, assuming the functions of law, commands them to abstain? The
ordinances already made may possibly get the better of most of these
desires; the prohibition of excessive wealth is a very considerable
gain in the direction of temperance, and the whole education of our
youth imposes a law of moderation on them; moreover, the eye of the
rulers is required always to watch over the young, and never to lose
sight of them; and these provisions do, as far as human means can
effect anything, exercise a regulating influence upon the desires in
general. But how can we take precautions against the unnatural loves
of either sex, from which innumerable evils have come upon individuals
and cities? How shall we devise a remedy and way of escape out of so
great a danger? Truly, Cleinias, here is a difficulty. In many ways
Crete and Lacedaemon furnish a great help to those who make peculiar
laws; but in the matter of love, as we are alone, I must confess
that they are quite against us. For if any one following nature should
lay down the law which existed before the days of Laius, and
denounce these lusts as contrary to nature, adducing the animals as
a proof that such unions were monstrous, he might prove his point, but
he would be wholly at variance with the custom of your states.

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